After nearly a month of intense speculation surrounding the future of the world’s third-best player, Neymar has finally put pen to paper on a £200 million move to Paris Saint-Germain, making him the world’s most expensive player, a record likely to hold for a very long time.
The 25-year-old leaves behind Barcelona and the attacking trident ‘MSN’ –Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez- that terrorised both Spanish and European defences since 2013.
He joins the wealth of attacking talent PSG’s Qatari owners have brought to the French capital, including Edinson Cavani, Angel di Maria, Julian Draxler and Lucas Moura amongst others.
The idea behind the audacious ploy for the Brazilian is that Unai Emery will look to build an attack with Neymar as the focal point, the crowning jewel of what the owners are hoping will become Europe’s most dangerous attack.
With several players to choose from in a variety of systems, here are four ways Unai Emery can utilise his new £200 million man.
Continuity from Barcelona: 4-3-3
Perhaps Emery wants to create the environment in which Neymar thrived at Barcelona. Ligue 1 and La Liga are comparable and PSG will dominate teams in the same way his former club did, so the settling in process shouldn’t be too great.
To ease that transition, however, a 4-3-3 with Neymar working the left flank could be Emery’s best option.
Making way on the flanks would be Angel di Maria, with the Argentine potentially dropping back into midfield, a position in which he played some of his best football at Real Madrid.
Supported defensively by the tenacious Marco Verratti and the Thiago Motta safety net, Angel di Maria could thrive creatively, underpinning a front three that revolves around Neymar on the left.
Copying Monaco: 4-2-4
It would almost go down as an embarrassment copying the formation of the team that stole the Ligue 1 title from them in 2016/17, but you know what they say: If you can’t beat them, join them.
Leonardo Jardim deployed a 4-2-4 to great effect at Monaco last season and the result was that they were the highest scoring side in Europe. Emery could take a page out of his rival’s book and do the same with a Neymar-Cavani striking tandem.
For this formation to work, however, PSG would need two wide players adept at performing two different roles, as per Monaco. Lucky for them, they boast di Maria and Draxler in their squad. Both can stay wide as the orthodox winger, a la Thomas Lemar, and cutting inside as the wide playmaker in the same vein as Bernardo Silva.
Neymar, therefore, could play off the shoulder of Cavani, the big target man in the box, feeding off every knockdown the Uruguayan can provide. With Dani Alves and Layvin Kurzawa bombing down the flanks and Verratti and Motta/Adrien Rabiot securing the midfield, moreover, this formation could prove highly effective.
The main man: 4-2-3-1
The argument goes that money wasn’t the sole motivation in Neymar’s move to PSG. Whilst it certainly went some way to convincing him to swap Barcelona for Paris, the Brazilian wanted to be the main man, the central figure, to enhance his chances of winning a Ballon d’Or.
Perhaps the best way for Neymar to achieve this goal is to play in the centre of a three-man attacking midfield in a 4-2-3-1. As per the case for the Brazilian national team, the 25-year-old would be given a free role as the PSG’s chief playmaker.
Everything would flow through him and he’d be the player they look to get the ball to at all times. Therefore, Neymar would be on centre stage. He’s get the headlines he wanted as well as the creative responsibility.
The new trend: 3-4-3
The 3-4-3 isn’t a particularly new formation, a historical staple of Italian football, but it’s made its way to England and the Premier League by virtue of Antonio Conte’s Chelsea. Perhaps the next stop is France.
Emery could deploy Neymar on the left side of the front three in a 3-4-3, essentially giving him the free role Eden Hazard has for Chelsea. If that’s any evidence at all, then the Brazilian would absolutely thrive.
From the left forward position, it puts Neymar close to the central striker to affect the game in key areas of the pitch. Using his unpredictability, he could push forward and act as a second striker, drop deeper and make plays, cut inside and go for goal or stay wide and exploit space on the flanks.
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