In May 2018, Thomas Tuchel signed a two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), replacing Unai Emery. The French club broke the bank and signed big players to elevate their status as one of the richest clubs in Europe, but the ambition to become the best remained unfulfilled. They stuck to Tuchel and for PSG he has tried to deliver the best. But more often they chocked in the big stage and Tuchel along with the players and management came under widespread criticism.
Last season, it seemed, Tuchel broke the jinx by taking PSG to the finals of the UEFA Champions League and ended up as the runner-ups after a hard-fought match, where the German Giants – Bayern Munich tactically outweigh them in a crucial juncture of the match. Bayern hogged the limelight, but Tuchel and his boys earned the respect.
The relationship of Tuchel with the hierarchy of PSG started to become strained.
In an interview with German television station Sport 1, he said he felt “[more like] a politician in sport” than a coach.
PSG announce the sacking of manager Thomas Tuchel, with Mauricio Pochettino reportedly lined up to replace him pic.twitter.com/tlCrLB0dPC
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 29, 2020
These comments, as well as his previous criticism over the club’s transfer activity, were condemned by PSG’s sporting director Leonardo, who said Tuchel “[must] respect the people above [him]”, and labeled the comments as damaging for the club.
Tuchel and Leonardo reportedly fell out over the signing of defensive midfielder Danilo Pereira, with the coach requesting a central defender; in response, Tuchel often fielded Pereira as a central defender.
He was sacked just hours after their comprehensive win over Strasbourg on the eve of Christmas.
The 47-year-old Tuchel’s two-and-a-half-year reign at Parc des Princes met a sad ending, with the French champions taking the decision to make a change in the dugout following a mixed start to the 2020-21 campaign.
Tuchel departed Paris Saint-Germain with a record of 95 wins, 13 draws, and 19 defeats in 127 games, with the best win percentage in Ligue 1 history (75.6%) and the highest average of points per game (2.37, tied with his predecessor Emery.
Tuchel’s time at PSG:
Six trophies in two and a half years ?
Four trophies in the 2019-20 season ?
Won 74.8% of his games in charge ?
Took the club to their first ever Champions League final ? pic.twitter.com/KBr8riTcwg
— Goal (@goal) December 29, 2020
On January 2, 2021 – PSG have confirmed the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino as the new manager.
Pochettino, 48, who made 95 appearances for PSG as a player between 2001 and 2003, has signed a contract until the summer of 2022.
“I am really happy and honoured to become the new coach of Paris Saint-Germain,“ Mauricio Pochettino said.
“I would like to thank the Club’s management for the trust they have placed in me. As you know, this club has always held a special place in my heart. I have wonderful memories, especially of the unique atmosphere of the Parc des Princes.”
“I return to the Club today with a lot of ambition and humility and am eager to work with some of the world’s most talented players. This team has fantastic potential and my staff and I will do everything we can to get the best for Paris Saint-Germain in all competitions.”
Welcome Mauricio Pochettino ?pic.twitter.com/Fr4ZgKxhNI
— Paris Saint-Germain (@PSG_English) January 2, 2021
“I am proud to see our former captain returning to Paris Saint-Germain, as the Club has always remained his home,” PSG chairman and chief executive Nasser Al-Khelaifi said.
“The return of Mauricio fits perfectly with our ambitions and it will be another exciting chapter for the club and one I am positive the fans will enjoy. With the appointment of Mauricio Pochettino, Paris Saint-Germain is committed to continue to build and move the club forward over the coming years.”
Even though Pochettino’s tenure as the manager of Tottenham Hotspur ended like Tuchel but he kind of charisma he showed during his stay in North London, he became one of the sharpest brains in world football.
In PSG he would have some outstanding players up front, but at the back and midfield, he would need to reorganize and give the club a better shape.
In January 2001, Mauricio Pochettino signed for PSG.
20 years later, he's returning as manager ? pic.twitter.com/C1o3VRvTop
— B/R Football (@brfootball) January 2, 2021
His predecessor, Tuchel chose to adapt his tactics to the opposition.
He never had a clear-cut formation and even though, it looked like, 4-3-3 had been favourite formation, but he never used it regularly and his formation switched to 4-4-2, 4-2-2-2, 2-4-3-1, 4-1-4-1 or 3-5-2
He wanted his players to adapt and deliver – but at the center of the park and back – he lacked the cutting-edge and coordination to deliver in the European Competitions. Then more often, he was undermined by the injuries and suspensions of his big stars.
The workload was never distributed equally and for which, some of the big names had to take an extra-amount of workload – which actually never brought him the desired results.
Last season, his philosophy was that even the attacking players need to put opponents under pressure when possession is lost.
Dominating the space within the pitch had been vital to Tuchel’s planning.
Thomas Tuchel's tactics board. Good luck, Bayern pic.twitter.com/54C4FdqqbE
— Jack Lang (@jacklang) March 4, 2016
In terms of pressing for the ball, Tuchel is also open to adapting to the team’s needs.
While players are required to maintain some type of pressure on the opponents’ ball carrier, there are also precautions taken against highly technical opponents. PSG operated with a deep back four, extend the width of their side, and look to block passing avenues.
Neymar was given the free role – which paid rich dividends.
But for the ultimate accolades – total coordination was lacking.
Now, Pochettino comes from the school of Jose Mourinho and relies on aggressive pressing more than Tuchel used to do.
Danny Rose: "Will Mauricio Pochettino manage a top club? Without a doubt, without a doubt — eventually, #mufc." #mulive [the lockdown tactics]
— utdreport (@utdreport) May 19, 2020
4-2-3-1 is his favourite formation and in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League – especially in that memorable campaign of 2018-19 – intense pressing had been his hallmark.
He won the battle in the middle of the pitch with his pivots – cut short passing lanes through man-marking in order to force the opponent to go wide, before putting even more pressure on the opponent through that flank.
In Tottenham, Pochettino used a risk-averse approach in their pressure in order to force the opponent into playing a long ball, rather than ‘gegenpressing’ and trying to recover the ball in an advanced area.
Spurs were more effective when pressing with only three forwards as they didn’t have to push too many players forward. Their three forwards helped them cut passing lanes on the inside while their full-backs were able to press high without exposing the backline, and if they had enough players in wide areas, they could apply pressure in the final third to win the ball back.
The first step towards a successful project with Pochettino is to involve him in the squad building process.
Unlike the last 9 years, player signings and sales should be adapted to the tactical ideas of the coach, not the other way around. That time has passed.
— Ali (@AliTactics) December 29, 2020
Meanwhile, playing against fluent opponents – for example – he told his players to only press high in certain periods of time. These periods of high-intensity pressing caught City off guard on numerous occasions while not exposing Tottenham too much as they could remain compact in between the lines.
Tottenham tried to prevent the opponent from creating havoc on the counter by crowding the opposing player on the ball and packing the center of the pitch.
The plan was to reduce enough time on the ball towards the ball-carrier and press the opposition immediately after losing the ball.
Welcome to @PSG_English Pochettino. Your combination with @neymarjr and @KMbappe would be fantastic ?
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) January 2, 2021
The entire team focused on closing down the opposing defenders and winning the ball high up the pitch.
The build-up play of Pochettino is heavily reliant on the usage of diagonals.
In Tottenham, he had Toby Alderweireld and Vertonghen to exploit such and deliver the ball to his teammates upfront – and not to forget, the pivots and full-backs had been influential in such works as well.
The center backs consistently receive under pressure before hitting diagonal balls towards the flanks, thus bypassing the opponent and creating chances.
I have the ultimate respect for Mauricio pochettino. So sad that he didn’t even get a chance to say bye to his players when he got sacked. Left this message on the tactics board. He did an amazing job at @SpursOfficial & was unlucky not of won anything. pic.twitter.com/QXFj5Sr1Wg
— Frank Khalid (@FrankKhalidUK) November 22, 2019
This strategy of switching the play proves to be especially efficient if the player is playing on the side of his strong foot.
The defenders of Pochettino effectively used switching-of-play in order to create more angles to progress the ball and break the lines with long passes.
Whilst Pochettino’s players often try to progress the ball centrally through positional rotations, they didn’t hesitate to go long and attempt to win second balls, rather than running the risk of having their central pass intercepted in dangerous areas.
Pochettino used to instruct his attackers and creative force upfront to remain narrow whilst one of his fullbacks push high up the pitch to provide a width and offer a numerical overload on one flank – ensuring that the forwards remain narrow provided unique advantages in terms of link-up play and quick combinations.
From the description above regarding Pochettino’s style of play, it can be assumed; the players of PSG would require a high work rate, synchronicity, fitness, and discipline.
Pochettino is the ideal manager for PSG – he is different from Tuchel and if the PSG hierarchy wishes him to deliver them the best then they need to respond to his demands while the players need to back their coach like the Spurs did for the Argentine.