The international break is over and a return to club football will come as relief to many football fans. One person who probably wished he had another week to prepare for his first day back at school is PSG manager Thomas Tuchel.
Tuchel guided Paris Saint-Germain to the Ligue Un championship in his inaugural season in Paris, but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Bavarian. PSG suffered an ignominious defeat to eventual relegation bound Guingamp in the quarter finals of Coupe de la Ligue, while spectacularly crashing out to Manchester United in round of 16 of the Champions League.
After four back to back domestic double winning seasons under Laurent Blanc and Unai Emery, Tuchel was poached from Borussia Dortmund to break the deadlock that has beset PSG in Europe. As of yet PSG have failed to make it past the quarter finals of the Champions League in seven attempts.
Despite such a stunted record PSG are currently 15/8 to reach the Champions League semi finals. The best odds are with 22bet, currently one of the best betting sites in Kenya but also offering top odds worldwide. The Parisians are currently fifth favourites to lift the trophy at 10/1.
Forget European success, now with the arrival of a troublesome Mauro Icardi alongside a Neymar gone AWOL, it looks like balancing out of control egos could well be Tuchel’s toughest task yet.
The Neymar Saga
Since arriving at PSG in a world record breaking £199m deal from Barcelona in 2017 Neymar has both impressed and flattered to deceive, before doing a disappearing act towards the back end of last season.
The saga surrounding Neymar that played out this summer served to frustrate football fans the world over. In the end though a highly sought after return to Barcelona eventually fell through.
Neymar has yet to turn out for PSG this season although he has appeared in two friendly matches Stateside for Brazil against Colombia and Peru.
If Neymar is fit then it’s left to Tuchel to resolve his first problem – whether or not to include Neymar at all. In the face of fierce fan hatred, a sporting director who has imposed serious fines for failing to show up for preseason training, coupled with a massive wage packet while possessing undeniable talent, it isn’t exactly an easy decision for Tuchel to make.
A compliant and fully fit Neymar is a dangerous prospect for any defensive line. For PSG a return of 23 goals and 13 assists across all competitions last season makes you have to agree with what teammate Thiago Silva has to say that ‘Neymar is irreplaceable’.
The Icardi Issue
Mauro Icardi has arguably had an even more chequered career than his new teammate Neymar. The Argentine and his wife cum agent Wanda Nara seemingly fall foul of everyone they come into contact with at one point or another.
The latest casualties are Icardi’s parent club Inter Milan. Over the course of six years Icardi has netted for 124 goals in 219 games for the Nerazzurri, fallen out with the club’s ultra fan base, had a public spat with former coach Luciano Spalletti, and been stripped of the captaincy.
Now it seems Icardi has the potential for a fresh start and above all else, to prove that he is in fact a professional footballer, if not one of the best strikers in the world.
Bursting with talent
Putting all off the pitch issues and inflated egos aside, how PSG will funnel all of their big hitters into a trifecta of talent at the fulcrum of Tuchel’s favoured 4-3-3 formation is the key question.
Cavani, Neymar, Mbappé and Icardi would normally be the first names on most club’s team sheets, but for PSG and Tuchel four simply doesn’t go into three.
Icardi represents the real selection problem for Tuchel. The question of whether or not to play Neymar if the Brazilian is fully fit is mostly political. Providing that Neymar doesn’t disrupt the dressing room, playing him on his favoured left flank is a no brainer.
However, with frontrunner Edinson Cavani still in flying form for the Parisians it would be foolhardy to demote the Uruguayan in favour of an unproven Icardi.
Two of PSG’s starlets in Neymar and Mbappé are more than capable of covering the wide areas. For Cavani and Icardi who inhabit the same space as exclusive front men in the middle of the attack, it’s a different story altogether
A great deal for all involved
Although it may cause Thomas Tuchel some headaches in the short term, ultimately the Icardi deal is a good bit of business for PSG and their German manager.
As a proven goalscorer, securing Icardi’s signature on a season long loan makes perfect sense. After Inter’s acquisitions of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez and with Lautaro Martinez still to truly prove himself, new Inter boss Antonio Conte has no place for Icardi.
For Icardi, not only is he granted another chance but arguably an elevated position to potentially prove himself in the Champions League. The Argentine will most likely have to live with playing second fiddle to Cavani. If he can tame his ego and come to terms with that fact he could very well book himself a spot at the forefront of PSG’s attack for some years to come.
For PSG, with Edinson Cavani not getting any younger, it gives them a chance to try out a striker who can potentially fill a huge hole in the not so near future.
For Tuchel, If Icardi’s baggage becomes too much to handle he can simply ship him back off to Italy at the end of the season, where he once again becomes the thorn in Inter’s (and Conte’s) side.