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Mauricio Pochettino is struggling to deal with the egos at PSG

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Mauricio Pochettino arrived at PSG on the 2nd of January 2021 after the sacking of Thomas Tuchel. He arrived with a big reputation after guiding Tottenham to the Champions League final in 2019. He was the latest man charged to bring the elusive Champions League trophy to Paris.

In the 11 months that he has been at the French capital, it hasn't always been plain sailing. In his first season, PSG finished 2nd in the league and crashed out in the semifinals of the Champions League against Manchester City. With the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos Donnarumma and Hakimi joining the club, PSG was regarded as firm favourites for the Champions League trophy.

A partnership of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe had been formed akin to the MSN trio at Barcelona. But Pochettino's men have struggled this season, especially in the Champions League. They sit second in their group after losing to Machester City. They are still 12 points clear at the top of the table in Ligue1.

But the league title is taken for granted at PSG. The club's Qatari owners only care about winning the Champions League and anything less than that is deemed as a failure. Thomas Tuchel won the domestic treble and took PSG to the UCL final but was sacked 6 months later.

The trio of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe hasn't fired like the club's fans would have hoped for. Messi hasn't hit the ground running in Paris, scoring 4 goals and providing 3 assists. There have been flashes of brilliance like the goal against Manchester City, but he has been largely underwhelming. Pochettino hasn't yet found a system that brings the best out of his three superstars. In a recent interview, ha talked about the strengths of the three players and how he is yet to find the right formula for success at PSG.

‘[Either of] these three players can be the king of any club in the world. But you have three kings on the same club: three kings with different needs, who need different things. Mbappe needs space to run and a high tempo in the transition. Neymar needs to have the ball, feel the ball and sometimes he needs to drive the ball,’ Pochettino says.

‘And Messi needs maybe another tempo in the game. It’s not easy to put all that together. That is why we are working in trying to find the right way to play so that Mbappe feels comfortable, Neymar and Messi feel comfortable and the rest of the team understand that sometimes we need to increase the level of the tempo of the game and sometimes we can play on the space. Sometimes we need to play more horizontal and build in the slow possession. It’s an amazing challenge, which we are enjoying.

There has been no identity and game plan to this PSG side under Pochettino. The games are being largely won by individual moments of brilliance rather than a fixed style of play. The high energy pressing and the free-flowing attacking football that he had imparted at Spurs and Southampton is nowhere to be seen. These were the hallmarks of his Tottenham side that almost won the Champions League.

The game against Manchester City at the Etihad was a case in point. The 2-1 scoreline doesn't tell the full story of the game where a disjointed PSG side was utterly dominated by Guardiola's men. City has shown how a well-drilled team can beat a side full of individual superstars.

The type of players that Pochettino had to manage at Spurs are very different to the ones at PSG. At Spurs, he had a young Harry Kane, Son and Dele Alli but at PSG he has to deal with players like Messi, Neymar and Ramos who have big egos. His predecessor Thomas Tuchel said the same.

"It's easier to coach Lukaku than Neymar or Mbappe," he said. "At PSG, I felt I was the minister for sport. I had to also manage family members and friends of the stars. At Chelsea, I work much more calmly."

“A club like PSG has many influences that go far beyond the interests of the team. I just love football and, in a club like here, it's not always about football. There, I say to myself: 'But I just want to be a coach.'"

Pochettino also works well at a club when there is a long-term project for him. He had that at Spurs where he worked for 5 and a half years. At PSG, he needs to deliver instant success or else he will be shown the door.

The season still has a long way to go and Poch can still turn it around with the squad he has at his disposal. The Argentinian is being linked to the Manchester United job and many suggest he should take it and leave PSG.


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