Lionel Messi is one of the greatest players to ever kick a ball and if he is on your team then you will make sure that you do everything in your power to get the best out of the magic man. This is the job that Mauricio Pochettino has right now. Mauricio is not a manager who plays a tried and tested formation week in week out, he adapts to his opponents and with his current roster, he has several kinds of players who can adapt to different situation. But the €35 million question is: Where does the 6 time Ballon d’or winner fit into this.
4-2-3-1: The Coach’s Favourite
Pochettino has played this formation for most of his career and can suit the team quite well. He played this formation last year in several games and enjoyed great success and with Lionel Messi he could have his masterpiece. In the defence, PSG have 2 world class goalkeepers in Keylor Navas and Gianluigi Donnarumma and 3 very good defenders in Sergio Ramos, Presnel Kimpembe and Marquinhos. However, this will not allow Wjinaldum and Verratti both to start because this formation needs a proper defensive mid.
In the attack is where things get juicy, Lionel Messi will unquestionably take the number 10 role and command the attack, Neymar will dominate the left flank, Di Maria will rain fire from the right and Mbappe will give defenders nightmares in a front of these maestros. This will perhaps be the most lethal attack the world has ever seen. Though the problem with this formation will be that Lionel Messi’s work rate is not the highest, especially defensively, which is natural given his age and stature. This will leave the defense exposed and leave the midfield with more defensive duties.
4-3-3: Back to Basics
The most used formation in modern football, 4-3-3 is one of the formations which we can definitely see being used by Mauricio Pochettino. The defense will be similar to a 4 at the back, with maybe more attacking freedom to the full backs. In the midfield, Paredes/Gueye can play as the down mid with Verratti and Wjinaldum as box to box midfielders.
In the attack, Messi can operate on the right wing cutting into the centre of the field to his left and create magic. This will be familiar territory to Messi as he has played at this position for the majority of his career. Combine this with Neymar off the left and Mbappe through the middle, this can again be a dangerous trio. With Hakimi behind Messi we might see glimpses of the partnership he had with Dani Alves.
3-4-1-2: Death to Defenders
With the new signings, this formation can be dangerously swift moving forward. Sergio Ramos, Kimpembe and Marquinhos will be playing in the centre of defence. Wjinaldum and Verratti operating in the middle of the park with Achraf Hakimi and Neymar on each side bombing forward with less defensive duties. Messi dictating the play as CAM with Mbappe and Neymar making runs in behind the opposition all throughout the game.
This formation is highly attack minded and if Pochettino ever lines up like this, the pastors in the region can start reciting the last rites for the defenders. This team can and will cut through teams like a hot knife through butter.
4-3-3(False-9): An ode to Cruyff
Mauricio Pochettino is a follower of Johann Cruyff and this is a formation that the illustrious Dutchman used several times throughout his managerial career. The defensive line will be a typical back 4. In the midfield, Paredes/Gueye will be playing as the defensive mid behind Verratti and Wjinaldum and in front of them as a false 9 will be Lionel Messi. These 4 will be creating a diamond in the midfield and they will be assisting Mbappe and Neymar up front.
This false 9 role is something that Messi knows quite well as he played in this position under Pep Guardiola and in his last season in this position scored 91 goals in a calendar year. Mbappe and Neymar echo Villa and Pedro and we can expect that this trio to be just as successful as the old boys of 2011.