Mauricio Pochettino couldn’t have asked for a better start to his time as manager of Paris Saint-Germain. A 4-1 against Barcelona is about as clear a victory as a team can hope for. How has Poch revitalized PSG and what are the tactical tweaks he has employed since joining the club?
Mauricio Pochettino’s career
Pochettino wouldn’t be the first manager in the modern era to achieve near-instant success. Sure, Hans Dieter-Flick managed to win the treble with Bayern Munchen in his first campaign for the club.
The main difference, of course, is that Mauricio Pochettino arrived in Paris as one of the most famous football managers in the world, albeit one unemployed for more than one year.
Also, unlike many of his contemporaries, the Argentine enjoyed a very good playing career. He earned 20 caps for the national team. Pochettino played for clubs like Newell’s Old Boys, Espanyol, and PSG, the team that he currently manages.
His managerial career has also been remarkable. It began in 2009 when he took charge of Espanyol, briefly turning the Spanish team into one of the most entertaining on the continent. Following a brief stint with Southampton, he joined Tottenham.
While it’s true that he failed to win silverware for Spurs, history will most likely mark this time as one of the best in the club’s modern history. The club went on to earn consistent Top 5 spots in the Premier League and even reached the Champions League final in 2019.
Mauricio Pochettino’s style and philosophy
The Argentine’s time in London ended in 2019. He then spent 14 months without a job, but not out of a lack of offers. Instead, Pochettino did his best to bid his time while a suitable employment opportunity presented itself. When Thomas Tuchel was deemed too problematic in dealing with PSG’s numerous stars, the former Spurs manager was asked to step in.
Mauricio Pochettino is a manager with a clear tactical vision. Some of the cornerstones of his philosophy include: using a diamond shape in attacking build-up, pressing hard and high up the pitch, and demanding wing-backs to assist in the final third.
It’s a highly modern interpretation that has earned Mauricio Pochettino a lot of fans. It is, also, a very intense approach. Many pundits have observed how Tottenham and Espanyol’s players tended to look drained by the end of Pochettino’s time in charge of those teams.
PSG’s formation and tactics under Pochettino
Pochettino has the luxury of taking charge of a fully-formed team in terms of the squad. Furthermore, this is a team that, with minor exceptions, is the same that has reached the Champions League final last season. It includes some of the biggest names in football, Kylian Mbappe, and Neymar, and their manager is expected not only to nurture results but also a good relationship with the team’s stars.
Since joining PSG, the Argentine manager has opted for a 4-4-2 formation and, occasionally, a 4-2-3-1. Against Barcelona, in their most famous victory, they used a 4-3-3 with Mbappe almost acting as an advanced playmaker at times. The same approach, however, did not work against AS Monaco, one week later, where they lost 2-0 at Parc de Princes.
In all matches, the team has tried to emphasize the quickness of their movement. Only Mauro Icardi is given a fixed poacher role. Players are also encouraged to swtich positions, with Neymar and Mbappe, changing lanes throughout the match.
Pochettino instructs his players to pass vertically whenever possible. The speed and technique of the players greatly help their chance of success. Leandro Paredes has proven, particularly, impressive in directing the team’s buildup play.
PSG’s tactics in attack
Marco Verrati revealed that Pochettino looks to adapt his tactics based on the type of opponents PSG encounters. Against Saint-Étienne, a team known to defend in their own half, Verrati was deployed almost as a regista. He and the rest of PSG’s players were told to attempt to receive the ball in a less advanced position than regularly.
PSG’s players, as expected, look to build diamond shapes on the pitch, encouraging passing avenues. Furthermore, the full-backs try to provide width by advancing in wider areas when the team is in possession.
Paris Saint-Germain’s tactics in defense
In many ways, PSG is an ideal team for Mauricio Pochettino to mold. The Parisians are already well-known for their intense pressing. They’ve done the same since the Argentine took over the job.
Furthermore, the team employs a high press. This would be risky were it not for the speed and positioning of PSG’s players. The intensity of this approach though can backfire, as may have been the case recently when Monaco earned an unexpected 2-0 victory at Parc de Princes.
Mauricio Pochettino is rightfully viewed as one of the best football managers in the world. His appointment at PSG makes perfect sense, especially considering his history with the club.
The start of his career in Paris has shown great promise. The 4-1 victory against FC Barcelona, in particular, will have done a lot to endear him to the team’s fateful.
However, Pochettino’s mission is clear. He needs to win the title in France, and in an emphatic manner. This will prove a harder task this season with PSG trailing four points behind Lille. He will also need to go one step further than his predecessor, Thomas Tuchel, who got the team to the UCL final.
Finally, he will need to keep players like Neymar and Mbappe content. All of these three would be hard tasks for any manager, even one as capable as Pochettino. Failure in any of these will, no doubt, greatly shorten his spell as manager of PSG.