Why Paris Saint-Germain's deadly frontline has not clicked into gear

PSG are top of Ligue 1 but Lionel Messi is struggling to gel with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, while the Frenchman has clashed with his Brazilian team-mate amid his links to Real Madrid… so how can Mauricio Pochettino’s front three clink into gear?

  • Paris Saint-Germain’s world-class front three haven’t found their stride so far
  • They have scored two goals between them in the four they’ve started together 
  • Lionel Messi doesn’t look at home yet since his emotional exit from Barcelona
  • Neymar has struggled scoring just one goal and has been criticised in France 
  • Despite Kylian Mbappe’s remarks, stats prove Neymar does pass to him
  • Mauricio Pochettino has a lot of work to do to get his front three fully firing 

Paris Saint-Germain’s acquisition of Lionel Messi made many believe the French giants would be unstoppable this season.

With their new front three also consisting of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, PSG are expected to blow the competition apart in Ligue 1 and the Champions League.

But that hasn’t proved to be the case so far as they struggle to get their frontline clicking this season.  

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe’s haven’t fully gelled up front for PSG so far

Their 2-0 victory over Manchester City appeared to be the game changing performance as we got the first glimpse of Lionel Messi’s Barcelona brilliance with him scoring for the first time for his new club.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side though were given a reality check with a shocking 2-0 away defeat to Rennes, where their prolific attacking trident couldn’t muster a shot on target between them.

Sportsmail’s Kieran Lynch has taken a look stats to see how it has gone wrong so far.

The trio had no shots on target between them during a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Rennes

Slow starts for Messi AND Neymar 

With nine Ligue 1 games and two Champions League matches down so far, PSG have three top scorers this season with four goals apiece.

Mbappe is expected but Ander Herrera, who hasn’t scored four goals in a season in five years, and Idrissa Gueye who has already matched his career high for a campaign, would surprise many.


What’s just as surprising is that Neymar and Messi have just one goal each from seven and five games so far respectively. 

Official Ligue 1 stats shows Mbappe has 12 shots on target this season from their opening nine games which compares to Neymar and Messi who both have just two from their respective five and three games so far.

In the Champions League, Messi has made the most impact with two shots on target and one goal. Mbappe has just one shot on target with Neymar none. 

That puts Mbappe third out of any player for shots on target in the league so far this season, and he is top of the overall chances list with 35 total shots.

Lionel Messi hasn’t looked fully comfortable since his emotional exit from Barcelona

He showed the first glimpse of his Barcelona days with a great goal against Manchester City

Mbappe has created 17 chances in nine games this season compared to Neymar’s ten and Messi’s five, though the Frenchman has played in every Ligue 1 game unlike his teammates.  

Messi has looked sluggish and doesn’t fully at home yet in the colours of PSG despite his stunning goal against Man City.

His game against Rennes was just his third league match for the club however and just the first he completed 90 minutes. 

Pochettino admitted after the game with Man City:  ‘He needs to create links within the team after 20 years in Barcelona. He’s feeling different things, there’s a lot of new feelings for him.’

Neymar has also struggled and he was the target of French press after their defeat to Rennes.

L’Equipe, as reported by Marca, said the Brazilian is ‘far from the player he was with Barcelona five or six years ago’ or ‘even with PSG during the summer of 2020’. 

Le Parisien also reportedly said he was being ‘technically wasteful’ and was ‘lacking precision’. 

Neymar has scored just two of his last 41 shots on goal and to get PSG’s frontline clicking they need to get both him and Messi fully firing.

Neymar has also struggled to hit the ground running this season with just one goal to date

Neymar and Mbappe DO pass to each other

With three world superstars at his disposal, Pochettino also has a big job in managing his players off the pitch, as he does on it.

He got his first experience of that with Messi who was left frustrated after he was hauled off in the second-half at Lyon.

Mbappe and Neymar meanwhile both joined PSG in 2017 and have enjoyed success together at the club but their relationship looks to have become strained this season.

Mbappe was said to have voiced his frustrations over Neymar ‘not passing’ to the Frenchman

The Frenchman voiced his frustrations with Neymar despite their victory over Montpellier last month.

He was caught on camera complaining to Gueye, claiming that Neymar doesn’t give him the type of pass that led to Draxler’s goal two minutes from time.    

Mbappe was said to have told his team-mate: ‘He (Neymar) does not give me that pass.’  

Neymar and Mbappe have exchanged more passes than any other forward duo in the league

The trio showed a united front as they posed for a picture after their win over Manchester City

Despite his claims though, numbers from Stats Perform show that Neymar has passed to the Frenchman more than any other two forwards combined in the entire division on 50 occasions.

Second on the list is the same two players the other way around, with Mbappe making 31 passes to Neymar.  

Despite Messi playing just three league games, his passes to Neymar come tenth in the league between forwards with 19 while the Brazilian has made 20 to his team-mate.  

So where do the problems lie? 

All three players have not yet hit their expected standards for PSG this season.

Mbappe has been the best of the trio with four goals and five assists in 11 games so far, but at his current rate he would be some way off his goal numbers from last season where he scored 42 goals in 47 games.

The numbers for Messi and Neymar show they haven’t hit the ground running and this will be something Pochettino must resolve quickly with the high potential PSG have with the trio on form. 

At Tottenham, Pochettino liked his team to play as a unit, defending and pressing as one. But in Neymar, Mbappe and Messi, there have been times so far where you will not see them do much of that all. 

Messi looked frustrated after he was substituted in PSG’s match against Lyon last month

Mauricio Pochettino has a big task at hand to manage the trio both on and off the field

Despite their victory over Manchester City, there were times when the trio didn’t track back, defend and with the exception of Neymar, didn’t press. It helped Manchester City dominate the ball although Pep Guardiola’s side failed to take their chances.   

There will be times where Pochettino will need to get one of his star players to sacrifice themselves at times for the greater good. 

With Mbappe likely in his final year at the club due to his expiring contract and his desire to play for Real Madrid, Pochettino will hope he can get his trio fully firing to match the success Neymar and Messi achieved with Luis Suarez.

The ‘MSN’ scored 98 goals between them in the LaLiga and Champions League in their last season together so Messi, Mbappe and Neymar have some way to improve to get anywhere near those scoring levels.  

It is hoped Messi and Neymar can replicate their Barcelona numbers together with Mbappe

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