Pochettino is no Solskjaer or Arteta: Why PSG were right to replace Tuchel

Mauricio Pochettino PSG GFX
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There has been a recent surge in Europe's biggest clubs hiring former players as coaches, but the Argentine is no sentimental appointment

The Paris Saint-Germain that Mauricio Pochettino will find when he returns to Parc des Princes as their new head coach is very different to the club he left as captain in 2003.

At that point, the Parisians were a fading force. They had just finished a distant 11th in Ligue 1, 14 points behind leaders Lyon, and been consigned to another season without European football.

Pochettino departed the French capital without fanfare, joining Bordeaux on a free transfer. The media spotlight was focused on Ronaldinho, who had moved to Barcelona, where the Brazilian would briefly shine as the world’s outstanding player.

Pochettino returns to a PSG in an altogether healthier state. Indeed, the French champions in each of the last three seasons took it upon themselves to sack head coach Thomas Tuchel following a 4-0 victory over Strasbourg and just four months after a first-ever appearance in the Champions League final.

While PSG flirted with elimination from this season's competition and presently find themselves third in Ligue 1, the season is by no means a write-off on any front.

In addition, PSG are hopeful of persuading arguably the game’s greatest player over the last 15 years, Lionel Messi, to move to the Parc des Princes when his contract with Barcelona expires in the summer.

Pochettino's appointment is noteworthy in that he will become the first head coach appointed during the QSI era – which stretches nearly a decade – to have previously played for the capital club.

While that will hold symbolic value for long-standing supporters, across Europe his arrival will be regarded as a fresh signal of intent that PSG mean to renew their challenge for the game's biggest prizes.

Mauricio Pochettino PSG GFX

Unlike OIe Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, Mikel Arteta at Arsenal or Andrea Pirlo at Juventus, sentiment played no part in this decision. Pochettino has already proven himself as a coach; his affiliation with PSG is merely a bonus.

“He knows the house, he knows the club,” Luis Fernandez, who coached Pochettino during the Argentine's time in Paris, told France Football. “But he also has this human side, this approach, this ability to speak to put players in the best possible position so that they can express themselves.

“Pochettino has this style where he manages to mix everything together you like as a footballer. When you have a coach like Mauricio, you want to fight for him, play for him and do good things for him.”

His shadow has been lingering over Parc des Princes for some time. With a contract up in June, Tuchel was already living on borrowed time after the 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich in Lisbon in August.

Relations with sporting director Leonardo were tender and only weakened during the transfer window, as the German sparred publicly with the 1994 World Cup winner.

When performances started to become stale over the course of the first months of the current campaign, Tuchel's position grew increasingly frail before ultimately folding.

The timing of his dismissal, which was confirmed on December 24, may have surprised some on the outside, but this was a logical time for a change.

During the January transfer window, it is notoriously difficult to strengthen a squad while receiving value for money. Consequently, PSG have sought to bolster their bench by jettisoning Tuchel six months early – an act that will reportedly cost them in the region of €7 million (£6m/$8m) – and hiring the man who headed the shortlist of many big clubs with managers in vulnerable positions.

Kylian Mbappe Neymar PSG GFX

As Goal has reported, the entire backroom staff is set to be overhauled, with the possible exception of long-standing employee Zoumana Camara. It promises to be a pricey operation, but less expensive than gambling on one or two overpriced arrivals to reinvigorate Tuchel's struggling side.

Pochettino is renowned for being able to get the most out of the players at his disposal. He led Tottenham to the Champions League final even though the club hadn't signed a single player during the previous two transfer windows.

What's more, over a five-year stay at Spurs, he enjoyed a win percentage in all competitions of greater than 54 per cent, all the while playing an up-tempo, aggressive style of football that should appeal to a Parisian public that demands entertainment as well as success.

Meanwhile, it is hoped that his history with Newell’s Old Boys and Argentina will aid PSG's attempts to convince Messi to leave Catalunya, where Pochettino still owns a property.

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Of course, such dramatic managerial moves do not come without risks. There are many outstanding questions. How might Neymar and Kylian Mbappe react to Pochettino’s favoured pressing game? Can the coach get the most from comparatively limited full-backs if he plays his preferred system? If not, how will he set the side up?

This move, however, is one that makes sense for both sides and promises to further establish PSG among Europe’s elite at a time their credibility was perhaps wavering a little.

This may not be the PSG that Pochettino left over 15 years ago – but that can only be a positive thing.

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