3 Academy prospects Paris Saint-Germain didn’t capitalize03 April 2020 / Miguel Coelho
Paris Saint-Germain has an history of wasting their youth talent. Who are they?
"Maybe these days I’m retracting my position a little more, I try to get a little more into play. I try to be in contact with the ball and create superiority in the midfield so we can control the possession." These are words of Leo Messi in a recent interview with the Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo, revealing details of Setién’s tactics that are being translated into relevant data of the Argentine, more a ‘passer’ than a finalizer in La Liga during last month.
6 - Lionel Messi has failed to score with any of his last 33 shots for Barcelona in LaLiga, but he is the player with the most assists in the top five European leagues in 2020 (six). Dichotomy. pic.twitter.com/t6SyQ30ozA— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 18, 2020
The action maps of Barcelona’s captain show he has taken a step back, more in contact with the ball in the three-quarter zone, even in the midfield, accentuated especially in the match against Getafe, which exerted such high pressure over the culé team that Messi was forced to receive many times in his own field. Since the arrival of Setién, seven games, Leo is being more a number 10 than a false '9', with freedom to find his own spaces but with the need to help in the construction of the game in the midfield, thus freeing spaces in attack for Griezmann or for the arrivals of De Jong or Arturo Vidal.
There is even an evolution in the retraction of his position from Setién’s first game against Granada to the last three, Athletic in the Copa del Rey, Betis, and Getafe in La Liga, getting even closer to the central circle, more prominent in the San Mamés game, much more tenuous against Getafe in the Camp Nou, where he barely appeared in the opposite area.
This circumstance has its consequence in the number of goals and assists Messi accumulates since then. He is not scoring but he is assisting. Six key passes in the last three matchdays, no goals in the last four. Messi himself didn’t give this circumstance much importance in the aforementioned interview: "I've had clear chances in these matches and I haven't been able to score, but hey, it's something that doesn't worry me." Because the goals will return, but it remains to be seen if in the volume to which he is accustomed.
The scoreless streak goes for 31 shots without finding the net, 15 of them at goal, eight away from his worst record, on the 2013/14 campaign, a season to forget after the big failure of that Tata Martino’s Barça. Right now, 14 goals and top scorer of La Liga ahead of Benzema (13), Messi has been more league games without scoring (10) than scoring (9). Against Eibar, he can make up by balancing them.
The key will be, therefore, that this Saturday Messi reconciled with the goal before a week with two big games, against Napoli in San Paolo on Tuesday 25 and against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu on Sunday, March 1. Two meetings that motivate Leo as few others, knowing the pending account they have with the Champions League and that the ‘Clasico’, without being decisive, can facilitate or complicate the title for La Liga too much. In those cases, it won’t matter if Messi decides to play closer or further from the opposite box.
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