Last we saw Thomas Tuchel, he was celebrating with his Dortmund players after winning the Pokal. Days later, he quit the club over a disagreement of direction with the Board. With rumours of numerous suitors lining up for his services, Tuchel stood pat to wait for the perfect position. It came in the form of super-club PSG, looking for a brilliant coach to help motivate its cast of stars to win the Champions League.
Now, post-World Cup and with the season quickly approaching, the time for Tuchel to prove his promised genius is not just hype is here.
Today his PSG side faces Monaco in the Trophee des Champions, the French version of the Community Shield. While the match does not count in standings and, like the English version is a glorified friendly, it presents an opportunity for an early good impression. After the hype, Tuchel now can unveil his tactical thoughts on how he can deploy Neymar Jr. (expected back for the match), Mbappe, and the roster of superstars PSG has compiled over the summer. A loss while meaningless will start the questions of whether the 44-year-old can handle the pressure of managing a superclub. A win gives the German manager a trophy after one match.
Going back to that superstar roster, Tuchel and the PSG management certainly reinforced the squad in one major way. While technically, Kylian Mbappe’s transfer was finalized this summer, the biggest transfer was Gigi Buffon moving north from Italy. While Alphonse Areola is the returning starting at ‘keeper, Buffon provides a veteran presence and leadership in the locker room.
The question now becomes how Tuchel balances his roster over what should be a long ten months. Like all superclubs, PSG has many players returning from the World Cup to the extent that even their impressive depth could be tested. This also assumes his current squad remains, as rumours surround almost every star on the club.
Up top, the attack should have no questions, but there remains some concerns. Angel Di Maria is relegated to the bench as expensive option. Yet there is only one ball and how Cavani, Neymar, and Mbappe share it could determine the effectiveness of the attack.
If Tuchel sticks with a 4-3-3, he has a few questions in the midfield. Verratti and Diarra form a good rotation with Draxler and Rabiot up front, but there is little depth in this area. If Draxler and Rabiot are found wanting, there is little relief on the bench as currently constructed.
Today’s match will begin to answer some questions about Tuchel’s approach to the season. The next step is if his vision can take PSG to the goals it seeks.