Paris Saint-Germain's loss to Liverpool raises further questions about Thomas Tuchel's band of super-egos

Miguel Delaney
The Independent

Tuesday night at Anfield again showed just how much the Champions League means to Liverpool as a club, and yet the exacting reality for Paris Saint-Germain is that results like this mean even more to them as a team.

That is the absurd case when your circumstances are so absolutely distorted that your entire season is built around a smattering of big games in this competition. Everything is amplified. Not least any slips, any defeats.

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For the French champions, this wasn’t then just another one of those evenings at Anfield with the kind of dramatic events any side coming here can suffer, but another seismic night that potentially told so much more about the entire PSG project.

Thomas Tuchel did predictably attempt to put it in the context of the former, but inadvertently revealed much about the latter.

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Thomas Tuchel blamed PSG's loss on the Anfield factor ( AFP/Getty)

“For me, the Champions League starts now and we have to move forward so that we can win close games,” the PSG boss said, alongside adding a significant qualification for this close game. “This Anfield… it was not the moment to speak about tactics. If you play at Anfield, it’s not a tactical game. It’s about feeling confident, to play quick, with confidence. You play easy.”

As Tuchel would elaborate a little more, the very experience of Anfield can be so intimidating and so get to players’ minds, that you don’t want to make things even more complicated for them. You need to give them instructions that are easy to execute amid the electricity of such an occasion.

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Except it’s also difficult not to wonder whether that is true more generally with PSG because of how electrically charged that squad’s egos can be. One discussion that is already developing around the club is how those players will take to Tuchel’s intensely specific instructions, and he is known as a manager to treat every individual the same; to not exempt anyone from his exacting demands.

You wouldn’t have guessed it from Neymar’s performance. He did what he always does, admittedly offering more than a few moments where his talent allowed him to really raise it, but amid a lot of spells where he was almost at walking pace.

If Tuchel does have typically specific plans for where ‘Ney’ - as he somewhat comically calls him - should position himself when PSG are counter-pressing, they are not yet clear.

Kylian Mbappe feels a much less self-indulgent talent than the Brazilian, but he wasn’t faultless in this regard either, and it all added up to their backline regularly getting overrun.

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Kylian Mbappe is not yet the finished article (Getty)

The big question with this PSG is exactly what type of management they need.

That is not to immediately dismiss the entire Tuchel regime already, but there were a few alarms and warnings here, even if individual quality did cover up a certain amount.

Do they need a strong and assertive manager, or a more facilitative one in the guise of Zinedine Zidane? The latter does on the surface seem logical, but would Zidane even work in a club that doesn’t have the inherent identity and demands of Real Madrid? That does make a difference.

As a thought experiment, it’s interesting to wonder how Jurgen Klopp would work with that side.

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PSG wilted under Liverpool's late pressure (Liverpool FC via Getty)

Would they respond to his motivation, or does he need the spirit of defiance that Liverpool so love to live up to? Would his personality get the effect that others can’t?

He was complimentary to the team of his Borussia Dortmund successor.

“If you play against PSG, you have to reach the next level. If we play 95% we can lose 5-0. We played 100% and we won.”

That was someway exaggerating the difference between the sides, but does not exaggerating the Klopp effect.

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Liverpool celebrate their opening goal of the night (Getty Images)

He really does get them playing at 100 per cent on these games, and for key spells.

Liverpool may have needed a late goal here, but they still created the kind of hurricane that also won the ties against Manchester City and Roma as well as so many league games.

And this what is become really relevant with this Liverpool.

We maybe need to stop talking about the effect of Anfield with this team. It’s about this team. It’s about how Klopp just uses that atmosphere to enhance what his side do so well, creating the perfect synchronicity that then amplifies everything: the sound, the noise, the raucous and rocking football of the team.

It’s a synchronicity currently beyond PSG.

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