Lionel Messi: PSG ‘cannot be a counter-attacking team’ with him in the line-up, scolds Anelka  

Including Lionel Messi in the line-up means Paris Saint-Germain are unable to be an elite counter-attacking side, according to Nicholas Anelka. 

The former Arsenal and Chelsea striker has been less than impressed with Messi since he swapped Barcelona for Paris in the summer and his ire showed itself again on French television after a 2-1 defeat to Man City in the Champions League.

PSG started with their famed front three of Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at the Etihad Stadium and Anelka feels boss Mauricio Pochettino has his hands tied in trying to mould a team in his counter-attacking image.

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PSG can’t be a counter-attacking side if they continue to play Lionel Messi, says Nicolas Anelka

Former PSG striker Anelka believes his old side are limited in their approach with Messi playing

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‘With Messi, PSG cannot be a counter team,’ Anelka told RMC.

‘You cannot base the whole team on Kylian Mbappe.’

Messi inadvertently teed up Mbappe for PSG’s goal when his cross was deflected into the young Frenchman’s path but a lack of willingness from two thirds of the front three to defend is problematic. 

On CBS Sports, Thierry Henry echoed similar sentiments to Anelka in that Pochettino’s current set-up, while dictated by the talent at his disposal, won’t bring success in Europe.

Messi is seen conserving his energy and has shown little willingness to do his defensive work

Henry said: ‘If you want to win the Champions League, you cannot defend with seven players.

‘It is impossible, I don’t care who you are. The full backs are exposed, so it’s virtually a three vs one, three vs two on the pitch.

L’Equipe’s full ratings for the game saw them dish out six 4/10 ratings, including to Messi and manager Mauricio Pochettino

‘Team that win titles – and the Champions League even more so – have their front-three facing the ball.

‘That way the full backs will feel more comfortable with what’s going on behind them. But right now they’re too exposed. Teams in France cannot expose them, but Man City can. 

Anelka has previously shown he will not mince his words when it comes to Messi, having said last month he believes the Argentine has looked ‘not so extraordinary’. 

He said: ‘Today we demand from Neymar, but we can do the same with Messi.

‘Since the beginning of the season it is not extraordinary either. There is a player who has six Ballons d’Or and finally is not so extraordinary.’ 

Messi incurred the wrath of famously savage French paper L’Equipe on Thursday after his off-colour display against Man City on Wednesday night – calling the Argentine ‘hit and miss’ in the 2-1 defeat. 

For all of PSG’s attacking talents, they offered little to threaten Pep Guardiola’s men after going ahead – registering just two shots on target – with Messi singled out for a nearly anonymous performance as he was handed a four out of ten by L’Equipe. 

Anelka feels counter-attacking football suits Kylian Mbappe (left) but with Neymar and Messi in the side Pochettino (right) has no ability to adopt the approach with PSG

The French outlet are notoriously tough with their ratings and were left unimpressed by the star, claiming he was ‘overwhelmed by defenders’ at the Etihad.

‘Yes, he delivers the almost decisive pass to Mbappe [for the goal], yes, he initiates some situations by his work as a pivot between the lines, but we are entitled to expect more [from] a six-time Ballon d’Or [winner],’ the paper said. ‘In the [build up] of the game, he must [do] more. 

‘Some of his [final third] choices were hit and miss. More worrying, sometimes, he [looked] overwhelmed against defenders.’

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  • PSG : "Avec Messi, le PSG ne peut pas être une équipe de contre" souligne Anelka