Neymar kicked off the season at PSG. The Brazilian scored 16 goals in 11 matches of the championship and from match to match increased his influence on the team’s game. Goal360 analyzes the striker’s progress and explains what made him possible.
Versatility and creativity
This season, PSG mostly uses a 3-4-3 (or 3-4-2-1) formation. The new head coach of the Parisians, Christophe Galtier, is betting on a block of three central defenders, one of whom keeps a low position, while his other two partners, of necessity, move higher towards the support zone. Thanks to this, the midfield line can rise higher and create comfortable conditions for the attacking trio to develop an attack. In this case, the roles of PSG forwards are distributed as follows: Mbappe focuses on work at the end, Messi becomes a deep playmaker, and Neymar takes the place of the top ten. That is, the Brazilian is responsible for creating chances across the entire width of the attack, finding opening partners in the final third of the field, and delivering the ball to them, launching multi-way combinations that lead to creating sharpness at the opponent’s goal.
However, Neymar is not limited to only passing work. In some matches, the striker pairs up with Mbappe and acts as a false nine. He famously opens between the lines and lulls the vigilance of the center backs – the defenders, trying to cover the attacks of the Parisians with a second place, simply do not keep up with Neymar’s movement and his unexpected jerks and feints. Sometimes the striker changes positions with Messi and then already leads the attacks from his own half of the field, while regularly combining with the Argentinean with the help of “walls” or quick short passes in certain areas of the field. Not surprisingly, Neymar is now one of the best in PSG in terms of organization of the game: the first place in the team in key passes, second in underhand passes (among those who played at least 90 minutes in the championship), xGBuildup and xGChain. Plus, the striker began to work more actively in defense: on average, he makes 15.72 pressing actions per Ligue 1 match (for comparison: Messi has only 8.86, Mbappe has 8.20).
Coach Trust and Growing Up
In fact, there are only two reasons for Neymar’s progress. And both of them are connected primarily not with tactical nuances or the team’s playing style, but with psychology. Firstly, Christophe Galtier, who headed PSG before this season, liberated the Brazilian – he was actively praised in the media and showed in every possible way that he was counting on the striker.
“I have always considered him one of the best players on the planet, but now, based on the information I have, I can see even more precisely how much he contributes every day. This happens before, during, and after training. Neymar gives all the best in the classroom for himself and for the team. He is a great professional and a great player. Every day I am happy to discover it for myself more and more,” said the coach.
Secondly, Neymar himself began to lead much more disciplined and professionally. Many note the good physical shape of the Brazilian and his desire to give all the best in training and in matches. Here is how Galtier explained it: “Compared to the previous season when Neymar took to the field less often and was not as effective, he became more aware. Neymar has very big goals. He arrived on time for pre-season, and he was in very good shape. Neymar was ready. I think he did a good job on vacation. The staff and I quickly decided to create better conditions for Neymar so that he showed the maximum. Neymar creates chances. He distributes passes and scores. This is an artist. When he is doing well with psychology and physics, he gives it to the team. Therefore, Neymar shows such a game. To emphasize an important point that I discovered for myself as a coach of PSG: Neymar is a player who works hard for the team. This applies not only to the attack but also to his desire to return the ball after a loss”.
A good example of Neymar really changing is the match against Nantes, in which the striker was left on the bench. Oddly enough, he did not become indignant about this but simply agreed with the position of the coach.
There is always a risk if a player does not accept the coach’s decision. I talked to him about this on Friday. In the last match, he also came on as a substitute amid fatigue and bruises. I made the decision to leave him on the bench and he took it well,” said Galtier.
Another reason is the World Cup, which will be played this autumn. The Brazilian is obsessed with the dream of winning the World Cup and standing in the same ranks as the legendary Brazilians who conquered this peak. That’s why Neymar is so focused on football this season. This has not happened before.
By the age of 30, Neymar finally came to an awareness. The striker has turned from an infantile child into an adult man and the leader of his club – this season the Brazilian has a great responsibility for the result and development of the team. And he can handle it.