Speaking to CanalPlusFoot ahead of the big Champions League clash on Tuesday, Paris Saint-Germain head coach Christophe Galtier said he’s considering using a back three against Bayern Munich this week. Rather than a reaction to tactical changes by Julian Nagelsmann after the Mainz game, Galtier seems to feel that the back three benefits PSG tactically on the pitch, and it may make a difference against Bayern.
You can listen to the interview here:
Le retour de la défense à 3 au PSG ❓— CANAL+ Foot (@CanalplusFoot) February 12, 2023
Christophe Galtier n'exclut pas l'option face au Bayern mardi pic.twitter.com/luBnh4cF4c
Translation, courtesy of @iMiaSanMia:
PSG coach Christophe Galtier says he’s considering a back 3 system against Bayern: “Yes, indeed there’s reflection. It’s a system in which we performed very well in the first part of the season.”
“I changed my system after the draw against Benfica, I wanted to have more compactness in midfield, more possession, with more technical quality. We had that in some matches. I don’t rule out fielding a team with three centre-backs when everyone comes back to form”
Would it work?
Depends on who you ask. Football is played on the pitch after all — we can’t just assign wins or losses based on what numbered formation a coach fields at the beginning of the game.
That being said, the question of a back three or a back four was a major topic of discussion in the latest episode of our podcast, where we did a DEEP (very deep) dive into how Bayern Munich should line up versus PSG. Main conclusion? The back three has its flaws. You can listen to the whole thing below or on Spotify. It’ll give you more context for the next section.
If PSG were to mirror Bayern formation-wise, their XI would come with some significant changes. Nagelsmann’s back three is offensive oriented, Galtier’s is more defensive. Galtier has more true midfielders, while Nagelsmann has more attackers. Given that the midfield battle, especially the duel between Joshua Kimmich and Marco Verratti, could be key to this game, a back three might help PSG gain the edge.
Alternatively, the weaknesses inherent to the system might hurt PSG by limiting their attacking game versus Bayern’s center backs. While Mbappe, Messi, and Neymar are all super-elite attackers, they’ll need support from the wingbacks to make things happen. It’s a game of fine margins, so this is theoretically too close to call.
Do we believe him?
Galtier has already engaged in mind games this season, most notably with the injury to Kylian Mbappe. He claimed Mbappe was definitely out and admonished Nagelsmann for suggesting otherwise, only for PSG to suddenly roll out a squad with the Frenchman in it on the eve of the game.
This back three comment, however, doesn’t seem like a case of gamesmanship. PSG have already played several games this season with 3ATB and the coach may legitimately feel it’s their best shot at beating Bayern Munich on Tuesday. Therefore, we may well see the Parisians play a form of 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 tomorrow. After that, it’s just a matter of who performs better on the night.