Paris Saint Germain’s obsession with the Champions League has been increasing exponentially year on year since 2011, when Qatar Sports Investment branched into the European football market. Following Laurent Blanc’s inability to deliver the European Cup to the French capital, PSG’s Middle Eastern owners turned to a Spaniard who had just won the Europa League for the third year running.
However, after two years, the writing is on the wall for current boss Unai Emery. Last season, the Parisians were second best to AS Monaco in Ligue 1, but the owners care not about success in France. Emery’s PSG team was also on the receiving end of one of the most incredible comebacks in modern football, when FC Barcelona triumphed 6-1 in the Camp Nou to eliminate the Parisians from the Champions League last year. That was the defeat which gave Emery his final warning. This season, though, he fell victim to the other giant of Spanish football, as Real Madrid efficiently swept PSG aside in the round of 16. Despite domestic domination that seems to be the final straw for Emery.
Reports are abound that Thomas Tuchel, formerly of Borussia Dortmund, is the man who will be sitting in the dugout at the Parc des Princes come August, as Unai Emery’s axe is being readied. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chief executive of Bayern Munich, claimed last week that Tuchel had already committed to a new club and so would not be joining Bayern. While Chelsea and Arsenal have been whispered as potential suitors, it seems that PSG have beaten the London clubs to the punch.
Despite the French club’s haste in securing his services, if the reports are to be believed, Paris may not be the best location for him.
One of the big pulls of Tuchel is his exciting brand of football. He employs a high intensity style which makes for great viewing although there are definitely question marks about how this will fare against the better teams. PSG under Emery are already an enthralling team to watch. But it is not their aesthetics they need to improve. Their defensive shape and resilience are the weak spots. Tuchel may improve this somewhat, but he is more focused on how his team plays in the final third.
With the quality in PSG’s squad, they will expect to win Ligue 1 again next year. This season they have swept aside all domestic opposition, losing only twice so far this campaign. The ease with which they win in France means that their defence is rarely tested by strong front lines. As a result, the only challenge is when they face Champions League opposition and they require a coach who has already gained significant experience at this level.
Tuchel is not a man who has bags of experience. His one major honour is the DFB Pokal, won last season before he and Dortmund parted ways, as they finished in third place in the Bundesliga. In total, he has only been managing for a decade and has just one season of experience in Europe’s premier competition.
Given that Emery was selected for his perceived experience in European competition, it seems odd that Tuchel would be considered given that he led Dortmund only to the quarterfinals of the Champions League and has spent little time at the top. Assuming that PSG’s owners will be equally ruthless with the German, it would be a surprise if he can bring home the holy grail of European football in two attempts.
Another large challenge for Tuchel will be working as a mediator amongst the big personalities in the PSG team. Emery was infamous for his reluctance to intervene in an altercation between Cavani and Neymar earlier in the season. The altercation occurred when Dani Alves snatched the ball away from the Uruguayan to give penalty taking duties to Neymar.
This is another part of management in which Tuchel has limited experience. At Dortmund, he had his problems with the board who did not fund transfers for him. In the PSG team, however, it seems to be the senior players that could cause the problems. According to calciomercato.com Neymar has advised club president Nasser El-Khelaifi who should be the next manager of PSG. This player power has become increasingly part of the game, but Neymar’s influence in Paris is unprecedented. Tuchel is known for his strong headed nature, and after a few months of working with the likes of Neymar and Dani Alves, could clash with them.
Take nothing away from Thomas Tuchel, he is a talented coach. His record at Dortmund boasts a win percentage of almost 63% and a trophy to boot. However, PSG’s board have completely contradicted themselves in looking for a manager who has already mastered the Champions League. Nevertheless, the list of managers available who have significant Champions League experience is limited.
Carlo Ancelotti managed PSG at the beginning of the Qatari investment era but was tempted away by Real Madrid. If he were willing to return to France, he would be a great option with significant experience. Massimiliano Allegri could also be an interesting fit. The Italian has led Juventus to two Champions League finals in three years, winning Serie A in every campaign he has overseen. Additionally, Juventus are famed for their defensive stability, despite a premature exit seemingly imminent this year from Europe at the hands of cup specialists Real Madrid.
Tuchel may be better off looking elsewhere. Arsenal are licking their wounds this season, languishing in sixth position in the table, and do not set the bar anywhere as high as PSG regarding European competition. If Wenger were to leave a year before his contract expires, Tuchel could be a great appointment.
The question remains though. Do top managers want to go to Paris? PSG do not help themselves regarding the managers they can attract. When you sit in the dugout in the Parc des Princes, Ligue 1 is just shooting practice. If you fail in the Champions League, the axe is ready to fall with no remorse.
What do you think? Will Thomas Tuchel be a success at PSG?