PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel faces a lot of questions ahead of next season, having fallen short of his predecessors at the club during a complicated first campaign in charge.
Unai Emery was fired to make way for Tuchel, even though Emery had clinched a domestic treble. In 2016, Laurent Blanc was fired and replaced by Emery, despite Blanc also securing the three domestic trophies.
Under Tuchel, PSG is going backward.
Although PSG won the league title with five games to go, it failed to retain its cup titles. PSG lost the French Cup final on Saturday in a dramatic penalty shootout against Rennes, having led 2-0 midway through the first half.
In January, PSG was beaten at home by Guingamp in the League Cup quarterfinals despite leading in that game, too.
“It’s difficult to say that we’re not fragile mentally … we’re always missing that little something extra,” Tuchel said after the Rennes defeat. “It gives the impression we’re a bit fragile, not only in attack but in defense.”
He added: “We’re not clinical enough, not attentive enough to details.”
Tuchel’s accurate assessment comes too late, for PSG’s season has been marred by such shortcomings since the players returned from the midseason winter break.
PSG blew a 2-0 lead secured away from home against Manchester United in the Round of 16 of the Champions League, losing at home 3-1 in March and going out to an injury-time penalty.
Blanc led PSG as far as the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Emery only got to the last 16 and Tuchel has not done better than that.
Some would argue he has done worse, considering PSG went out to a United lineup riddled with injuries, rather than to a Messi-inspired Barcelona in 2017 and eventual champion Real Madrid in 2018 as Emery did.
There have been alarming dips of concentration in the league, too.
Although PSG won the league at a canter, it could have sealed it with eight games to spare. Instead, PSG had a dismal three-game spell in which it lost twice, drew once, and conceded 10 goals — including a 5-1 hammering by Lille.
PSG’s jittery defense has allowed 13 goals in the past five games.
“It’s not an easy situation,” said Tuchel, who needs time to work out where he made mistakes.
“It’s too early to say,” he said. “I need to think for a few days.”
LISTEN TO NEYMAR
Neymar thinks he has an idea where things are going wrong.
The Brazil star said after the loss to Rennes that PSG’s younger players need to fall into line more.
“They must listen more than they talk. Sometimes a more experienced guy speaks, and they answer back,” Neymar said in quotes translated and reported by French media. “The coach himself speaks, and they retort. This is not how a team goes far.”
For Neymar, who played alongside Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta at storied and highly traditional Barcelona, a brazen attitude from young players might seem hard to accept.
“We are more experienced, so they must respect us a bit more, listen a bit more,” he was quoted as saying. “I had to do the same when I was starting out.”
Neymar did not mention any of the young players by name, but he also had words of advice for Kylian Mbappe, who was sent off late in Saturday’s game for a dangerous lunge at the knee of a Rennes player.
Although the 20-year-old Mbappe has thrilled fans with his attacking brilliance, and scored a league-leading 30 goals , Saturday’s red card was already the third of his young career.
Neymar showed a lack of restraint of his own when he lashed out at a fan who was filming and verbally goading PSG’s players as they walked up the stairs to collect their losers’ medals.
Although he was provoked, the way Neymar responded was entirely avoidable. Other PSG players — including Gianluigi Buffon and Marco Verratti — were verbally abused by the same person and simply ignored him.
Mbappe will be suspended for Tuesday’s tough game away to sixth-place Montpellier.
Neymar, meanwhile, may face another suspension, this time from the French Football Federation. He has already been suspended three games by UEFA for insulting the video review officials who awarded United’s stoppage-time penalty for a handball.
While Tuchel needs to find answers, his stars need to keep their composure.
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