Thomas Tuchel is revolutionary manager, who is seeking redemption at PSG. We take a look back at his illustrious career and ponder what’s next.
Last Sunday, Paris Saint-Germain’s run of fourteen successive wins in the Ligue 1 came to a halt as they were held to a 2-2 draw by an energetic Bordeaux side. Both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe were on target in the game, but neither the result nor the goalscorers managed to grab the headlines after the game.
It was the notable omission of Edinson Cavani and Adrien Rabiot which raised eyebrows, with several sources reporting that the duo is at loggerheads with Thomas Tuchel, the PSG manager.
If that is indeed the case, it will not be the first time that such an instance has happened with the 45-year-old, with the German tactician leaving Borussia Dortmund a year or so back, under similar circumstances, springing to mind almost immediately. Tuchel will be hoping for a better outcome this time.
Born in Krumbach, West Germany, Tuchel had a short playing career which he had to call quits due to a chronic cartilage injury. However, with his appetite for the game was as strong as ever, he dipped his hands in management.
He took up the reins of VfB Stuttgart’s Under-19 side and then moved on to manage the youth sides of FC Augsburg and FSV Mainz 05. It was at Mainz though, where Tuchel made his name initially when he was appointed as the first-team manager in 2009.
It did not take Tuchel long to leave his mark on the Bundesliga side, as in his first season, Mainz finished in the top half of the table. By the time he took a year-long sabbatical after the 2013-14 campaign, he was already a well-known name in German football circles.
His style of play was irrepressible; it involved high-pressing and clever use of zonal marking which saw his team making it to the playoffs of the Europa League twice in 4 years while also notching up a remarkable 2-1 win over Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena.
It was with the Karnevalsverein that Tuchel earned his reputation of being one of the country’s most tactically adept coaches. It goes without saying that he is, in fact, the club’s most successful manager ever, averaging more points per game (1.41) than Jurgen Klopp (1.13).
Hailed as a revolutionary in Mainz, his focus on attacking football would see him regularly change formations depending on the opponent, which is was what eventually caught Borussia Dortmund’s eye, and he was subsequently offered the top job vacated by Klopp in 2015.
Die Schwarzgelben had finished a lowly seventh in Klopp’s final season in charge, but they returned to challenge for the top spots immediately under Tuchel. Dortmund became the best runners-up ever in Bundesliga history, accumulating 78 points in total and scoring in abundance in both the league and in Europe.
Despite losing the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Mats Hummels, and Ilkay Gundogan next summer, Tuchel remained unfazed and oversaw the integration of talented prospects like Ousmane Dembele, Julian Weigl and Christian Pulisic in the squad. Under his tutelage, the trio developed to be some of European football’s most exciting talents.
However, by the time 2017 rolled in, Tuchel found himself to be at loggerheads with the Dortmund hierarchy. An injury to Mario Gotze ruled him out for the season, while defeat to rock-bottom Darmstadt and the signing of Alexander Isak, a player who Tuchel had no idea about, caused him to accuse the management of not backing his plans.
The press was already milking the situation, but it exploded when Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke rescheduled a Champions League game with AS Monaco without informing his manager. Dortmund’s bus was attacked by three bombs on their way to face Monaco, and although there were no serious injuries, the players and the coaches were too rattled to just go on and play the next day.
This was the final nail in the coffin in Tuchel’s relationship with the Dortmund board, and over the course of the next few months, a series of damning statements were released from both sides which laid it bare as to how much the relationship had soured. As such, despite winning the DFB Pokal Cup in May 2017, which was Dortmund’s first silverware in fuve years, Tuchel parted ways with Die Borussen.
Appointed as the replacement for Unai Emery at the start of this season, Tuchel has so far done an impressive job at Paris Saint-Germain. He has managed the ego of his frontline relatively well, easing both Mbappe and Neymar into their roles.
He has also utilised Brazilian centre-back Marquinhos in a hitherto-unused role in defensive midfield, a position where he has excelled so far. Their fantastic 2-1 win over Liverpool in their last Champions League game further underlined how far they have come into breaking into European football’s elite.
But, there is still a much longer way to go. A self-confessed Pep Guardiola fan, Tuchel has expressed his delight for a possession-based football system and is in the process of doing so with the Parisians. With a busy set of fixtures coming up from now to the Christmas break, Tuchel has his work cut out for him.
Not only is he at a risk of losing the dressing room once again, for both Cavani and Rabiot have been with the cub for a much longer time than Tuchel, he also has to oversee his team’s 8 fixtures in the span of 24 days.
Those games include the make-or-break face-off with Crvena Zvezda in the Champions League in the coming week. It is paramount for the French side to come out from this set of fixtures unscathed if they are to establish their credentials as a top-tier team this season.
Backed by the embarrassing riches in Qatar, PSG have established hegemony in Ligue 1. But, the Champions League continues to elude them. In Thomas Tuchel, they have a coach who has the potential to deliver the goods but he will need the full backing of his prodigious group of players to achieve that.
It will be interesting to see Tuchel try though, for if he can, the revolutionary would have finally found his redemption in a setup that has almost no second thoughts about sacking those who fail to prevail.