Football: Thomas Tuchel confident of 'keeping stars hungry' at united PSG

Paris Saint-Germain players warming up during an official training session for the International Champions Cup yesterday. They face Arsenal tonight at the National Stadium.
Paris Saint-Germain players warming up during an official training session for the International Champions Cup yesterday. They face Arsenal tonight at the National Stadium.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

New boss wants to build a united dressing room, says his job is to 'keep stars hungry'

Since Qatar Sports Investments took control of Paris Saint-Germain in 2011, three top coaches have come and gone.

Thomas Tuchel is the fourth and, while patience is not a trait shown by his employers, the tactician believes the spirit within his squad can pull the club towards success.

His predecessors - Carlo Ancelotti, Laurent Blanc and his opponent at the International Champions Cup (ICC) tonight, new Arsenal boss Unai Emery - all left without delivering the Champions League trophy craved by the owners.

Add to that the superstars like Neymar, Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe, and Tuchel has a big job on his hands.

But the German, 44, believes the PSG players are more united and professional than what is perceived.

Last week, the French champions lost 3-1 in a friendly against Bayern Munich in Austria. That match was noted for Tuchel's use of midfielder Lassana Diarra in defence.

Asked about his new role at an ICC press conference yesterday, Diarra said: "If need be, I'll play in central defence. I am ready and I will give my maximum. I will play anywhere at the disposal of the team."

UNITED WE STAND

Of course, we want to compete hard for the highest honours at this club, but it's important to have the best kind of atmosphere.

THOMAS TUCHEL, PSG coach, on creating a great atmosphere at the club.

Tuchel, seated alongside the player, reacted immediately, saying: "This is why it's a pleasure to have guys like him in the team. That's the attitude you need.

"It's not about whether we play with three at the back. It's about who we have, which skills can be used and which formation can help us to have structure and stability on the field. And, if you have guys like Lass, it helps a lot and that attitude and intelligence separate him from the talented players."

Throughout the 20-minute session, Tuchel wanted to make clear that he hopes to create a positive mood at PSG in the light of stories suggesting that stars like Neymar and Cavani do not see eye to eye.

He explained: "Everybody here welcomed us with open arms, everybody is so friendly and that made it easy to smile. It's my biggest wish to keep this going and have an atmosphere where everybody feels good.

"Of course, we want to compete hard for the highest honours at this club, but it's important to have the best kind of atmosphere."

But will he be asking Emery tonight for pointers on how to handle Neymar?

The German said: "I would love to talk to him, but I will not talk about PSG with him. I will make my own impression (of the players) and not be influenced by any opinion."

Whether it is superstar Neymar, Uruguayan hotshot Cavani or the magical Mbappe, the ex-Borussia Dortmund coach does not find it daunting to work with big names.

He said: "In my experience, the biggest players are the easiest players (to work with).

"They want to compete, they want to win. I am not here to teach them football or teach them how to play. I'm just here to help them, to organise a structure to make them to show their talent, to keep them on track, to keep them hungry."

And while they are showered with money and luxury in Paris, there is still that boyish spark in each of PSG's superstars that Tuchel intends to ignite.

He said: "I strictly believe that at some time, these guys are like a six-year-old boy with a ball under his arm and going around to play on the beach, around the house, on the streets... This is in them.

"We want to bring this out from them and let them enjoy the hard work, that they are aware of the signs they give to people inside and outside the club."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2018, with the headline 'Tuchel aims for harmony'. Print Edition | Subscribe