ESPN FC’s Raphael Honigstein discusses the man-management challenges that await newly appointed PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel.
PARIS — Thomas Tuchel has replaced departing Paris Saint-Germain coach Unai Emery, so the German can start preparing to implement his blueprint for success at Parc des Princes.
With superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on board and frustration rife after a second consecutive Champions League round-of-16 exit, the stakes are higher than ever in the French capital. Tuchel, though, has every confidence in his own ability, and called the challenge “by so far the most exciting proposition in football” in PSG’s official communiqué.
If the former Borussia Dortmund and Mainz man wants to succeed continentally, as well as domestically, here are some of the most pressing issues for him to overcome.
Toward the end of Laurent Blanc’s time in charge, PSG’s possession-based 4-3-3 formation went stale. It was still good enough to keep Les Parisiens dominant domestically, but they needed new ideas in the Champions League.
Emery, a three-time consecutive Europa League winner with Sevilla, was supposed to bring that fresh impetus but was quickly overawed by the scale of the task in front of him, so he played it safe and paid the price.
Tuchel, 44, is insatiable in his ambition, and despite Sevilla’s continental success, he has already coached a bigger club in Dortmund, where the pressure was higher than anything Emery had grown accustomed to in Spain.
Among other things, the German tactician is known for playing around with his teams stylistically, and with PSG’s Qatari owners more desperate for European progress than ever, he will be given greater power to do so than ever before.
Young blood needed
Emery did a decent job of bringing through some talented players from the PSG youth academy, but since bleeding Alphonse Areola and Presnel Kimpembe in to join Adrien Rabiot in the starting XI, too few homegrown gems are getting a chance to shine.
Thomas Tuchel was confirmed as the new PSG manager on Monday.
With UEFA’s financial fair play a consideration and complacent star names weighing the team down at times, Tuchel will discover a fertile breeding ground that could potentially provide important figures to be introduced at senior level. The likes of Timothy Weah and Yacine Adli could develop into future stars, if handled right, while a number of other starlets will return from loan spells this summer.
Tuchel has a reputation for being ruthless in his assessment of the players he inherits, which is bad news for a number of PSG stars who have been coasting for a while now.
Recognised names such as Javier Pastore, Layvin Kurzawa, Thiago Silva and Angel Di Maria could all find themselves surplus to the man from Krumbach’s plans, and it is Tuchel’s task to turn the current group into a highly motivated one hungry for success domestically and in Europe. There will be some victims of difficult decisions, but those tough questions must be posed after two consecutive seasons of Champions League stagnation.
Perhaps most influential in Tuchel’s potential cull at senior level is the need for greater collective mental strength. PSG have collapsed when under pressure on multiple occasions in recent years, so one of Tuchel’s key challenges is to toughen this team up.
Players like Edinson Cavani, at least in terms of his character, should be a welcome find for the new boss, but Tuchel will certainly be less enamoured with senior figures who struggle to find half the commitment and application that the Uruguay international does.
Winning Neymar over
Last but not least, the encounter that everybody is waiting for: Tuchel and superstar Neymar, who had enjoyed fleeting moments of brilliance during a debut season abruptly ended by injury.
There is no doubt that the Brazilian is the biggest star the German will have managed in his career to date, but there is no indication yet as to how he will handle Les Parisiens‘ No. 10. It was no secret that Neymar was quickly unimpressed with Emery, while the Spaniard did not help himself with weak shows of leadership at crucial moments.
For better or worse, Tuchel will be stronger where Emery was weak, but the question is whether Neymar will appreciate that it is for his own good and that of the team to get the absolute best out of his unique ability.
It promises to be a fascinating start to life with PSG.
Jonathan Johnson covers PSG and the French national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Jon_LeGossip.