I’ve defended Mauricio Pochettino long enough. It’s time for the former Paris Saint-Germain player and current manager to leave the French capital as things just haven’t worked out under his leadership.
If you were to look at the standings, you would think all is well at PSG. The club is comfortably in first place in Ligue 1, still in the Coupe de France, and advanced to the Round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League finishing just behind Manchester City in Group A. However, those who watch the matches will tell a very different tale.
Nearly every PSG match this season has been a chore to watch. The imbalance of the squad has resulted in a team that cannot create consistent goal-scoring chances and instead, relies on the individual brilliance of Kylian Mbappé.
The midfield is the primary culprit. Marco Verratti is one of the world’s best, however, he’s often injured, and even when he’s on the pitch, he can’t do it all. He needs help and while PSG made several marquee signings last summer, they ignored the midfield.
The actual football has been less glamorous. Pochettino's game plans have been confusing, abundance of absentees, delays with Messi, Ramos situation & Neymar injury. Still, comfortably leading Ligue 1, qualified for UCL knockouts. Individual brilliance has gotten us this far. pic.twitter.com/0gsT2lKpiJ
— PSG Fan Club Helsinki (@PSGHelsinki) December 22, 2021
Pochettino could help cover the midfield deficiencies by playing Marquinhos, Presnel Kimpembe, and Sergio Ramos at the back, and Nuno Mendes and Achraf Hakimi as left-and-right wing-backs. Verratti and either Idrissa Gueye or Leandro Paredes could man the midfield with Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr., and Mbappé leading the attack. Put simply, if the midfield is your biggest weakness, lean into what makes your squad strong, which would be the attack and full-back positions.
The manager also has failed to give youngsters like Xavi Simons a chance to play first-team minutes this season until very recently. The 18-year-old is desperate to play and would certainly add some creativity to the midfield, but Pochettino seems reluctant thus far.
From tactical errors to his inability to identify talent within the youth ranks, Pochettino has turned the fanbase against him and it’s hard to find a supporter right now who thinks he deserves to finish out the season.
Almost a year to the day, PSG sacked Thomas Tuchel in favor of Pochettino and the German went on to win the Champions League with Chelsea FC. If PSG is going to sack Pochettino, they have to get a manager who has the resume to command a dressing room full of some of the biggest stars in world football. They can’t bring in an up-and-coming manager with “potential.” As it turns out, the perfect candidate is available.
Zinedine Zidane has the credentials as a player and manager to get even Messi to pay attention during a training session on a cold morning. Not to mention that Zidane is a French legend and someone that Mbappé undoubtedly admires. But, will the former Real Madrid manager want to take the reigns at PSG?
Paris Saint-Germain director Leonardo: "We never contacted Zinedine Zidane or any other coach. Also before Pochettino joined as new manager, we never opened any talk to appoint Zidane", he told Europe 1. 🇫🇷 #PSG
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 20, 2021
That’s a difficult question to answer. The fact that Zidane hails from Marseille muddy’s things a bit. Paris and Marseille are bitter rivals and Zidane taking the job would likely turn his hometown against him, not to mention many in Paris will turn their nose up at him as well.
Let’s say Zidane can navigate through that bit of domestic drama. Then comes the fact that soon after taking the job, he’ll have to face his former club, Real Madrid, in the Champions League. Regardless of how he felt about the club when he stepped down, he is a legend there and he may not want his first big test as a PSG manager to be against Los Blancos.
There are some positives, though. First, Zidane would be stepping into a role where he would be in charge of a team constructed to win now. He has the gravitas to convince Leonardo, PSG’s sporting director, to sign a midfielder in January and the tactical knowledge to put it all together and make a deep run in the Champions League.
At PSG, Zidane would have the opportunity to work with Messi and Neymar, but it’s Mbappé who might ultimately convince Zidane to take over at the Parc des Princes.
Zidane is on record claiming to be “in love” with Mbappé when he was at Real Madrid. We all know about the transfer speculation in regards to the French phenom going to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium next summer, but for now, he’s a PSG player and this might be Zidane’s only opportunity to manage a player he admires so much. Who knows, maybe things work out so well that Mbappé signs an extension to remain in Paris to be managed by Zidane. Stranger things have happened.
It’s a long shot for sure, but who thought before last summer’s transfer window opened that PSG would sign Messi, Sergio Ramos, Hakimi, Mendes, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Gianluigi Donnarumma? If PSG truly wants to “Dream Bigger,” they need to deliver the biggest manager in the game for the holidays.