Saint-Etienne – Match Report vs PSG 24/07/20

This is a guest piece by Charlie Webster.

PSG triumphed in the 2020 Coupe de France final but were pushed all the way by a spirited Saint-Etienne side who had ten men for over an hour. Both sides lined up in 4-4-2 formations, but PSG were more fluid and often looked more like a 4-2-4 given their wealth of attacking players. However, Saint-Etienne were forced to change when their captain Loic Perrin was dismissed for a reckless challenge. Consequently, Saint-Etienne played a 4-4-1 for much of the game before changing to a 3-4-2 in search of a late equaliser. 

The red card did not affect Saint-Etienne all too much and were solid with their two banks of four, while continuing to remain threatening on the counter. At times it was easy to forget they had been reduced to ten men. In the end PSG left with the trophy but were not particularly convincing and on another day, Saint-Etienne could have been celebrating.

Ratings

  • A1 – Very good, could play higher
  • A2 – Strong potential to play higher
  • B1 – Good, strong player at level
  • B2 – Potential to be strong player at level
  • C – Average for the level, rewatch
  • D – Below average in this match

Wesley Fofana

Player Profile

  • Nationality: French 
  • Age: 19
  • Date of Birth: 17th December 2000
  • Current Club: Saint-Etienne
  • Career: Saint-Etienne  
  • Position: Centre Back 
  • Preferred foot: Right 

Despite being tasked with limiting PSG’s star-studded attack Fofana put in a top defensive display. His positioning throughout the game was consistently excellent allowing him to make six interceptions, four more than any other player. He covered his fellow defenders well, while being reliable at cutting out any crosses. Apart from being caught too high up by one long ball in the first half PSG struggled to get the better of him.

At 6’2 Fofana is a physically strong player who utilises this well when tackling or challenging for aerial balls, although today he had little aerial action. Fofana used his body to good effect when shielding the ball while also standing up well to make some key blocks. Though, he did overuse his arms slightly resulting in cheap free kicks being given away, but this was not an overbearing issue. To compliment his size Fofana has great pace, more than matching PSG’s forwards in this department. His pace enabled him to get back into position and save his side with some crucial defending on a couple occasions.

He proved difficult to beat in 1v1 situations and was not dribbled past during the game, an impressive feat against players such as Neymar and Di Maria. He jockeyed his opponents well and displayed good timing in the tackle to dispossess them.

In possession Fofana was equally as impressive. He proved an influential figure from centre back, having the second most touches and passes for Saint-Etienne. Moreover, his passes were of high quality with good technique and fine weight of pass to find his teammates consistently. In addition, his passes were generally progressive as he regularly looked to play the ball forward into the midfield or out wide to an onrushing fullback.

On a few occasions he carried the ball out himself looking confident and well in control of the ball. Once Saint-Etienne switched to a 3-4-2 Fofana had more license to roam and connected well with his teammates in the attack. He provided some late impetus for his side and towards the very end almost won a penalty. He demonstrated a remarkable level of leadership, confidence, and maturity for such a young player.

 With the ball he looked assured beyond his years, remaining composed even in high pressure situations. For a 19-year-old against a side as good as PSG Fofana looked impressive in all aspects of his game and was arguably Saint-Etienne’s best player this game.

Rating – A1

Denis Bouanga

Player Profile 

  • Nationality: Gabonese
  • Age: 25
  • Date of Birth: 11th November 1994
  • Current Club: Saint-Etienne
  • Career: Lorient, Strasbourg (L), Tours (L), Nimes, Saint-Etienne
  • Position: Left Winger
  • Secondary positions: Attacking Midfield, Right Winger 
  • Preferred foot: Right 

Bouanga played on the left of Saint-Etienne’s midfield and was arguably their most effective attacker. Most of what Saint-Etienne did well offensively involved Bouanga which is evident as he had 5 of Saint-Etienne’s 11 shots. 

He was the player that got Saint-Etienne closest to a goal, striking the post on 5 minutes. It was not the cleanest strike, with his weaker foot, but it had power and he was unlucky for it not to creep inside the post. He failed to significantly trouble Navas again with his other attempts which lacked accuracy.

Bouanga’s dribbling ability was evident throughout the game and is probably his strongest attribute. He has excellent technique with tight control. His ability to retain the ball in tight situations and run past payers with pace and agility made him dangerous. He was threat in 1v1 situation coming in from the left to run at Dagba and Marquinhos, who he caused plenty of problems for.

Out of possession Bouanga was less effective. He is not a proficient tackler but positionally he was sound when forming part of a solid midfield block. He tucked in well to restrict space centrally for PSG, which was required more following Perrin’s red card. Although, he did not really get involved in defensive actions, with no tackles, clearances, interceptions, or blocks. This is not his favoured side of the game and so, unsurprisingly, he won only 35% of ground and aerial duels combined. 

Clearly, Bouanga has high technical ability and all the key abilities needed for an effective winger. For Saint-Etienne he provided a threatening option down the left on the counterattack and on another day he may have scored. He would likely thrive in a team or system where he has as minimal defensive duties as possible and so is free to use his energy more offensively. 

Rating – A2

Harold Moukoudi

Player Profile

  • Nationality: Cameroon
  • Age: 22
  • Date of Birth: 27th November 1997
  • Current Club: Saint-Etienne
  • Career: Le Havre, Middlesbrough (L), Saint-Etienne
  • Position: Centre Back
  • Preferred foot: Right

Moukoudi came on as a substitute in a difficult situation following Perrin’s dismissal, slotting into his position as the left centre back. For the rest of the first half he had little to do as Saint-Etienne sat back and navigated their way to the break. In general, Fofana seemed to be much busier but nonetheless Moukuodi provided a solid enough replacement for Perrin. 

Moukoudi made great use of his sizable frame, standing at 6’2 and being well built, he exhibited good strength when holding off opponents or when going into duels. His height and size make him an imposing figure in the air but, as mentioned, there was little aerial action. Aggressive in the press, he was not afraid to step up and follow his man which led to mixed results. At times he was able to force PSG backwards or get a foot in and win the ball. However, in other situations he was dragged out of position before being beaten, leaving the defence exposed. Other than these moments he effectively held the line alongside Fofana.

On the ball Moukoudi appeared confident but generally stuck to more safe and simple passes. The simplicity of his passes is reflected in the 94% accuracy he attained which again shows that Fofana was relied upon to attempt the more impactful passes. Nevertheless, he kept the ball moving with his passes remaining crisp and accurate. 

Moukoudi came into a tough situation against a talented side and put in a solid performance. Yet, he must have been grateful to come on at a time when Mbappe was leaving the field who would have no doubt caused more issues than the albeit talented but less direct and pacey Sarabia.  

Rating – B1

Mahdi Camara

Player Profile

  • Nationality: French 
  • Age: 22
  • Date of Birth: 30th June 1998
  • Current Club: Saint-Etienne
  • Career: Stade Levallois (L), Saint Etienne
  • Position: Centre Midfield
  • Preferred foot: Right

Mahdi Camara played in central midfield alongside Yann M’Vila for the first half before being substituted. Out of the two he was the more attacking and made a few runs into the box, but the cross did not meet him. He was active in pressing and marking Paredes throughout the half, performing this duty to decent effect. In possession he clearly has solid technique and was secure with his touches. But none of his touches or passes gave PSG anything to worry about and his impact was limited at best.

Camara struggled to impose himself on the game. Disappointingly, he made little attempt to get on the ball, preferring instead to make runs off it. Although not necessarily a bad thing, his runs rarely caused any danger and they scarcely got him into a position to receive the ball. Camara only managed 19 touches while he completed only 7 passes, which for a central midfielder is clearly poor and so it is no surprise he was substituted. He also failed to showcase his dribbling ability; on only one occasion did he drive forward with the ball. Despite showing good strength here he lost possession when he probably should have released it earlier. 

Similarly, Camara failed to have much impact defensively. He did not back out of challenge but could be accused of being a little reckless at times. He tracked back occasionally, providing some cover, but he was rarely seen getting into a full sprint and generally looked slow . His overall lack of involvement reduced his role in the first half to more of a passenger. It is possible Camara might show more in a game against a lesser side as he clearly does possess decent technical ability.

Rating – C

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