Pochettino's departure from PSG is understandable: Get to know why

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The Qatar-backed club boasts one of the most illustrious forward lines in history, but none of them puts in the necessary effort for the team.

This is not Mauricio Pochettino's squad. They don't have any of the hallmarks of his tactical philosophy, nor do they have any of the traits – technical or psychological – that indicate the players are paying attention to his instructions.

To play his Bielsa-inspired game of intense pressing and vertical lines, the Argentine requires collectivism and hard labor.

PSG, on the other hand, are the polar opposite: three carefree forwards strolling aimlessly over the pitch, seemingly uninterested in assisting their teammates and, as a result, undercutting Pochettino at every turn.

We all know that those superstars have absolute authority; that Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, and Neymar are allowed to do whatever they want.

However, being inside the stadium on Wednesday and keeping an eye on the front three at all times, not just when the camera is pointed their way, provides a whole new perspective on PSG's remarkable predicament.

Pochettino has abandoned his customary tactics in favor of the kind of conservative counterattacking game he would never have tolerated at Tottenham Hotspur or Espanyol.

It's a practical and sensible approach to dealing with the unusual predicament of being a manager with complete board backing but less authority than the players.

PSG must hunch in a low block and defend solely their own third, as Pochettino wants a collective high press.

Where he wants razor-sharp midfield interchanges, he must accept longer passes to ambling forwards, who slow down the game.

Their Champions League plan – eight guys cowering low and doing all the dirty work, while the forwards lounge around and hope to score on the break – is perfectly depicted in their pressing data.

PSG is seventh in the Champions League in terms of pressures applied in their own third (330), but they are among the lowest three in terms of pressures applied in the middle and attacking third (255 and 114).

At both extremes, they shouldn't be such severe outliers. Only Malmo and Sheriff have the same unbalanced distribution.

All of this, every tactical obstacle that prevents PSG from competing for the Champions League this season, boils down to Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe's presence.

Because the TV camera must follow the ball, the forwards are often not visible while PSG is defending in two lines of four and three.

It's safe to believe they're keeping a close eye on things, shifting across the field in a certain pattern designed to pin back some of the opposition's defenders as they wait for counterattacking opportunities.

That isn't what's going on.

Messi, Neymar, and Mbappe are nine times out of ten walking, staring in the incorrect direction, or standing totally still with their hands on their hips.

They're usually clumped together on the same side of the pitch, a good 20 yards offside and out of position to receive the pass if a transition occurs.

Pochettino's forwards struggled to do even the most basic things during the encounter at the Etihad, which Man City dominated with an exquisitely orchestrated collective performance that showed everything PSG was missing.

They weren't even making the appropriate runs, let alone defending (obviously, none of them will ever block a passing channel or press the ball).

Ander Herrera, for example, would take possession down the left channel and would need Messi to open up the pitch with a simple 10-yard dash down the line. It was not going to happen.

That happened repeatedly, with Messi being the greatest offender but far from the only one.

Neymar and Mbappe were attempting something fun and frivolous at every opportunity, playing futsal. When forced to make a short or backwards pass, all three forwards looked obviously agitated.

A contemporary football club should not operate in this manner. It's a parable about the power of money, the result of Qatar Sports Investments bringing such wealth to Paris.

The lesson is clear: tactical expertise and collective sacrifice are still the foundations of the sport – which is a huge relief for us all and explains our schadenfreude at PSG's woes.

PSG has now won their league Match 3-1 , as one of their star player Lionel Messi manager to clinch a hatrick of assists.



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