There was chaos on the streets of Paris back in August. Paris Saint-Germain had just lost their first ever Champions League final to serial winners Bayern Munich. Former PSG winger and French international Kingsley Coman delivered the fatal blow to Thomas Tuchel’s side with the only goal of the game and, as a result, violence had erupted on the streets of the French capital.
There was also chaos on the pitch for PSG when this delayed season got underway. They narrowly progressed from their Champions League group and had fallen behind Lille and Lyon in the league, and manager Tuchel has since paid the price.
The man now tasked with ensuring the Ligue 1 title remains at Le Parc des Princes – where it has called home for the last three years on the trot – and bringing the Champions League title to the French capital is Mauricio Pochettino.
In similar circumstances to Tuchel, Pochettino was ousted from Tottenham Hotspur just months after he guided them to their first UCL final. That agonising defeat to Liverpool led to a poor period of results at the start of the following season, and the Argentine was subsequently replaced by José Mourinho.
That was some 14 months ago, and after being approached by several clubs, Benfica, Monaco, Real Madrid and Barcelona included, Poch is now back at work. When he got the call from PSG’s billionaire owners, it probably didn’t take a lot to persuade him to sign the dotted line. After all, he will be fairly familiar with the club having spent two and a half years there as a player.
For Pochettino, resuscitating life back into PSG should be an easy feat. Their squad is leaps and bounds ahead of any other team in Ligue 1, and (at the time of writing) they are just one point behind leaders Lille and Lyon. They aren’t exactly a side in crisis.
Tuchel’s main problem was keeping his side motivated this season and trying to get that fighting spirit back that saw them put on two great comebacks to even reach the Champions League final last term. But he wasn’t able to do that, and in a dressing room full of superstars, like Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, a manager’s days are always numbered when things aren’t going to plan.
Pochettino is a hands-on manager, one who likes to be heavily involved in training sessions, and recently social media has been littered with pictures of him and his players having a laugh and a joke on the training pitch, always a good way to win over your players when you take over at a new club. But when it comes to game time, PSG need to rediscover that fighting spirit and their relentless attacking style of play – something which Pochettino knows is very important to the culture of the club.
“You need to win, of course, but by playing well,” the Argentine said. The players here are some of the best here – they are stars, and it is really important that they love what they do on the pitch.”
Les Parisiens are currently outsiders in the UEFA Champions League odds, and next month they will face the tough task of Barcelona in the Round of 16. If Poch and his men can find a way past Ronald Koeman’s side and progress to the quarter-finals, then we’re sure those odds will certainly shorten.
Of course, many people were quick to point out that Pochettino is yet to win a trophy in his managerial career, but, on the other hand, he is yet to work with a squad as good as PSG’s, and given that he reached the UCL final with Spurs, there’s no reason to suggest he can’t achieve that with this side.
The Argentine has everything at his disposal to win the Champions League this season, but can he go one better than Tuchel and bring that sought-after big eared trophy to Paris? We’ll just have to wait and see.