When the most impressive victory of his time as coach of Paris Saint-Germain was established, Thomas Tuchel marched on the field; he splashed some players on the way, but the professional to whom he wanted was Idrissa Gueye. When Tuchel found him, he embraced him, for a second, then whispered something in Gueye's ear.
Idrissa Gana Gueye came from Everton in the summer, where he played in midfield for three years. Gueye is no talent anymore, he is 29 years old. He is not a star either. Gueye shoots no goals, he gives hardly any templates, it was somewhat surprised that PSG paid 30 million euros for him. He was one of the best in the 3-0 victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday night in the Champions League.
"I fought hard to get this player," Tuchel later said. Whether at the negotiating table or against skeptics in his own club, he left open. Gueye gives the Paris game balance, said Tuchel. That was the key against Madrid.
PSG tries to look cool and modern
Paris Saint-Germain home games are a big show, especially in the Champions League. As the lineup is announced, hip hop beats pump through the stadium and the lights flicker. The club, founded in 1970, has no history like the Madrilenians and certainly not their collection of titles. So he tries to make up for a missing tradition by trying to be cooler and more modern than clubs like Real.
But the best image is of little use if the big victories do not succeed. In the French Ligue 1 PSG wins although constantly, but failed in the Champions League last seven years in a row at the latest in the quarterfinals.
Against Madrid were missing the superstars Neymar (suspended) and Kylian Mbappé (injured), for both together Paris paid over 400 million euros, they should shoot the club for Champions League title. While Mabappé's Pablo Sarabia ran aground, Tuchel removed the Neymar position from his formation. Most of the 27-year-old plays on the number ten in a free role. This time there was no tens, but Tuchel strengthened the midfield center: Marquinhos played on the Six, Gueye and Marco Verratti on the half positions.
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Gueye went far in the pressing and often seemed to be in several places at the same time. "I do not know how many balls he won today, and those were not easy ball conquests," said defender Thiago Silva. The three-center field was perfectly matched; it held the gaps short so that in possession of the ball always a free option was playable and could be doubled against the ball mostly. "We controlled the game, we had a structure," Tuchel said.
Real as a counterpart to the collective
The Paris midfield, supported by the wingers Ángel di María and Sarabia, who did much for the defensive, was thus the exact opposite of that of the Madrilenians.
For the guests, the distances between the parts of the team were so great that each player was always on his own. Real seemed like the counterpart to collective. Only: Who relies on the class of individuals instead of planned positional play, should ensure that he has individualists of world-class format in the team. Which brings us back to Neymar and Mbappé. Both should have tried hard in summer both.
While Mbappé is likely to squeeze out Sarabia as soon as he gets fit, Neymar asks questions.
Does the 3: 0 against Real show that Paris is stronger without the Brazilian? Can a team be better without their best player?
What about Neymar?
The Brazilian and the debate about him marked the transfer summer. Until recently, there was a move to Barcelona or Madrid in the room, Neymar himself brought parts of the PSG fans against him. When he was first used against Strasbourg on Saturday this season, whistles sounded in his ball actions.
Paris won 1-0. Scorer: Neymar, by way of a kickback.
He may not have the best reputation, to many he is considered too exalted, he falls too often and too easily, is an actor. But Neymar also has everything a top-class offensive player needs: technology, creativity, speed, completion, game intelligence, nerve power and the vision for passports that others do not see.
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But with Neymar on the team, Paris is always in danger of losing the structure Tuchel cares about. This refers to the fact that fixed positions should always be occupied, with the aim of offensively by coordinated movements to overcome the opposing defense, and at the moment of losing the ball to be positioned so that no counterattack can arise. The more players who need their freedom, the more endangered is Tuchel's structure.
When he was told that without Neymar, Mbappé and the injured Edinson Cavani, things went well against Madrid, Tuchel nodded. That could even be helpful because the expectation without these stars is lower. "But in the long run without the three exist? Impossible."
Tuchel now has to find a way to maintain balance and at the same time make the most of his individual class. Whether he succeeds will probably decide how to rate his time in Paris.