The task facing Mauricio Pochettino at PSG

Mauricio Pochettino
Credits: Andrej Isakovic / AFP

Former Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino has been named as the new manager of Paris Saint Germain after the French champions relieved Thomas Tuchel of his duties following a poor start to the 2020/21 campaign.

The job awaiting Pochettino is perhaps not as straightforward as it might first look though. Here we look at the tasks he’ll face.

Winning in Europe

Pochettino has been lauded as one of the best young coaches in the world but one thing has always been angled at him is his record of winning trophies. He’s won nothing yet.

Picking up the reins in Paris will almost definitely kill off that accusation with the club the dominant force in Ligue 1. In fact, he already won silverware almost immediately, with PSG defeating Marseille in the Trophee des Champions (2×1).

Admittedly, that is just a Super Cup though so won’t quite carry the same weight as a ‘real trophy’.

Even so, domestic success isn’t likely to be the yardstick by which Pochettino is measured. Tuchel spent two full seasons in France’s capital and delivered league titles in both seasons in addition to lifting both cup competitions last year to complete a treble-winning season.

The club expects success at home. Considering the side also reached the Champions League final – where they lost to Bayern Munich – it’s fair to say that is where Poch’s real challenge will arrive.

Tuchel was 90 minutes from masterminding a quadruple and yet a stuttering few months has seen him sacked.

Can he keep the big names happy?

One of the biggest tasks facing Pochettino is keeping PSG’s star players. The French giants have always had iconic names on their books. In the recent past, they’ve had an aging David Beckham, legendary Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon and Swedish icon Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Nowadays their star men are Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. There are huge question marks over whether or not either will stay at the club long term.

Neymar looks more likely to stay at the Parc des Princes. Previously it had been rumored that his former employer, Barcelona, was desperate to take him back to Camp Nou but they’ve since fallen into disarray.

The fact Lionel Messi is at the heart of their problems won’t help either as he and Neymar are known to be very close. If anything, Messi is more likely to join PSG.

Mbappe meanwhile presents a different challenge. The blistering forward is only 22-years-old but has already been tipped as the man to pick up the mantle when Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo eventually call it a day.

Can he truly go on to establish himself as the best in the world at PSG? Given the strength of Ligue 1, you would be forgiven for thinking not.

There will be plenty of interested parties if he indicates he’s open to a move. Liverpool has been linked whilst compatriot and Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is a massive admirer. If PSG loses him, it will be a huge hole to fill.

What about the rest of the squad?

Whilst Tuchel got the maximum from his squad last season, it’s fair to say this year didn’t go to plan.

For starters, they lost experienced heads in Edinson Cavani and Thiago Silva, who are both now plying their trade in the Premier League, but there are deeper concerns in the squad too.

It needs a serious refresh. Pochettino has become known for developing players already within his ranks but his deal is a short one at just 18 months, which could see him change tact.

When it comes to looking at what PSG need to be effective under their new gaffer, you’re quickly drawn to two key areas – full-backs and central midfield players.

Defensive options

As far as the full back positions go the numbers are light. That is before questioning if Pochettino wants more attack minded players as he’s used elsewhere.

Norwich right-back Max Aarons has been attracting interest and certainly ticks boxes whilst a left-field choice might see a move for Jamie Shackleton of Leeds United.

Beyond that, links for his former players Serge Aurier and Danny Rose have been muted.

Both are still with Tottenham and whilst Aurier looks the more likely candidate to take PSG’s fancy, it’s unclear whether Jose Mourinho will let him leave given their summer signing Matt Doherty has struggled for form.

And in midfield?

In the middle of the park former Manchester United man Ander Herrera, Leandro Paredes and Idrissa Gueye see plenty of action but none of them are really of the quality to compete for the top honours despite all of them being decent enough footballers.

Where will Poch turn? There have been strong links with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen who, like Aurier and Rose, both played under the Argentine at Tottenham.

A recent injury to Spurs’ Giovani Lo Celso has reportedly put the blockers on Alli going anywhere in January. Eriksen could well happen though.

Inter Milan are keen to get him off their books just a year after signing him. If that move transpires, PSG will want to get some energy in and around him, which could see a move for their former academy man Boubakary Soumare whilst Eduardo Camavinga has also been mentioned.

So, will Pochettino be a success?

Will Pochettino be a success? That is the million-dollar question. The answer comes back to what we touched on earlier; what defines a successful spell at a club like PSG?

We can almost guarantee silverware and, knowing how Pochettino sets his teams up, they’ll do it playing decent football. Can he deliver the Champions League? Possibly.

It’s not easily done though and, as proved the case for Tuchel, anything less ends in the manager losing his job. That said, his stock as a manager surely won’t decrease.

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