With all the talented attackers PSG has up front, there need to be players who maintain the balance. One of those players is Idrissa Gueye. The Senegalese has impressed in his first season at PSG, playing 31 games so far at a good level. He has been an important factor in their Ligue 1 and Champions League success. In this tactical analysis, we will delve into how Gueye helps PSG become a more structured team.
Gueye has moulded perfectly into Ligue 1 after his transfer from Everton. In this scout report, we will analyse the pivotal characteristics that make him suited for PSG’s playing style. He was thought of as being the last resort in central midfield with Leandro Paredes, Marco Veratti, Ander Herrera or Marquinhos but has overcome this initial prejudice to get into the starting 11.
One of Gueye’s greatest assets is his defensive skills. His main position is being a defensive midfielder but in PSG he has been moved up to centre midfield. Concerning defensive ability, one of his main skills is the ability to steal balls cleanly from the opponent.
In fact, he makes 9.73 defensive duels per game with a 68.95% success rate, both very good numbers.
An example of a successful defensive duel is against Monaco, where Golovin was running straight at goal. As we can see in Figure one, Gueye comes from behind and effectively takes the ball off him. Even in a dangerous situation due to the position Golovin was in and Gueye coming from behind, he manages a clean tackle.
Moving on, he is also an intelligent player who can read the play well. This means that he visualises what the opponent will do and allows him to intercept the ball. Intercepting is a great ability for a centre midfielder because Gueye dismantles the opponent’s play and can then immediately start an attack.
For example, in Figure two, Gueye is already moving to attack the ball while the pass is still in action. This shows that he anticipated the Dijon player making that pass inside. He then goes to get in front of the Dijon player who is receiving the pass and starts a dangerous attack.
Gueye is very aggressive in defence and uses his body well, making him perfect for PSG’s counter-pressing tactics. This means that when PSG lose the ball, they immediately press the opponent to try and win it back. Gueye has adapted well to this as he makes 5.02 counter-pressing recoveries per game, which is an impressive statistic.
Apart from counter-pressing, PSG also like to press high up the pitch in a man-marking strategy. Here, Gueye marks the opposition’s centre midfielder as seen in Figure three. The reason why Gueye is a key part of this high pressure is that he makes 2.46 recoveries in the final third.
Additionally, he makes 0.87 dangerous recoveries per game. This shows that Gueye presses well up front which disables the opponents from building up from the back and potentially helps generate a dangerous situation for PSG.
Both of these statistics also indicate that Gueye reads the game well to foresee the opponent’s actions and that he knows when to tackle at the right time. Thomas Tuchel is probably aware of these stats and is one of the reasons Gueye has settled himself into the starting team.
Another main role of Gueye and PSG’s centre midfielders is their need to cover behind the full-backs when they attack. This is crucial because if the space left by the full-back is not covered, the opponent would have it easier to counter-attack. Knowing Gueye’s intelligence and defensive abilities, that area left is usually well covered.
This normally happens against weaker teams where the full-backs are allowed to attack more freely. This is done to stretch out the opponent to make passes through the middle easier, benefiting Gueye’s style of play when on the ball, which will be seen in the next section.
On the ball
While Gueye may be seen as a tough, defensive midfielder, he is actually quite technical on the ball. Thanks to this, he is also involved in the team’s build-up. In this analysis we will see Gueye takes two positions in the build-up.
One of them is him staying up with the other centre midfielder so that the centre-back can advance with the ball. In doing so, the centre back creates a superiority in the midfield which increases the passing options. This is seen in Figure four in a Ligue 1 game.
The other option Gueye has is to drop back to get the ball closer to the centre backs and generate play from there as seen in Figure five below.
He does well in the build-up as he has a 0.74 in xGBuildup per game which is one of the highest. xGBuildup is “xGChain not counting the xG value of the actual shot and the xA value of the shot assist. This metric is most useful to evaluate player contribution in deeper-lying playmaking or buildup play” (Wyscout).
This shows that he provides value and makes good decisions in the build-up, helping PSG start the play from deep.
One of the reasons why he helps so much in his build-up is because PSG seek to be direct in this aspect. Doing so, they get the ball to their talented attack force early in the play.
This tactic is proven by Gueye making 22.33 forward passes per game and 11.12 of those being passes to the final third. This amount of passes to the final third make Gueye be in the top three in this category. As a result, these forward passes break the opponent’s lines and disrupt their structure.
More in-depth, PSG do this to get the ball to their marquee players such as Neymar, Kylian Mbappé or Ángel Di Maria as these players are the ones who create danger the most. This also allows them to attack the opponent through the middle, which is more threatening than attacking through the wings.
For example, in Figure six, we see Gueye breaking Monaco’s lines with his forward pass to Neymar. These moments happen especially when Gueye drops down to get the ball meaning that Tuchel should bear this in mind for the future.
Throughout the season, Gueye has demonstrated that he is secure on the ball. With PSG being superior in Ligue 1, they tend to dominate possession. Gueye is well suited for this with him being the 3rd best passer in Ligue 1 as he makes 79.7 passes with a 93.19% success rate.
The fact that only Marco Veratti and Leandro Paredes are in front of him in this factor goes to prove PSG’s aim to maintain possession in games. As well as being secure on the ball, he is composed with it. He does not struggle when pressured.
An example of this is shown in Figure seven where he was being closed down by three Monaco players. Despite this, he managed to pick out a good pass to a player not shown in the image which started the counterattack. This composure benefits him as he is playing in centre midfield, where you have less time with the ball than in other positions.
Even though Gueye is great at what he does, there are still weaknesses to be improved. One of them is his aerial duels. He does 1.84 aerial duels per game with a 41.67% success rate. For a centre midfielder who has to provide balance for the team, this is not a good statistic and needs to be stronger in the air. Additionally, PSG’s system is playing to his strengths but if asked to contribute to the attack more in the final third, he would probably struggle.
Overall, Gueye has adapted perfectly to PSG’s system and to the Ligue 1. Despite being perceived as a defensive midfielder with good interceptions and recovery skills, he also excels with the ball at his feet. It is no wonder that Gueye has settled himself into the starting eleven as he is being solid both on and off the ball. Thomas Tuchel will surely take this into consideration for the next season.