Can Pochettino get all-star PSG to fulfill potential?
Mauricio Pochettino has Paris Saint-Germain(PSG) cruising in Ligue 1 and on course to qualify for the Champions League last 16, and yet the Argentine is still struggling to get the best out of an all-star team in the French capital.
It has become a pattern with Pochettino’s PSG, who have had to come from behind to win three of their last four home games in Ligue 1 and also recovered from losing positions in both legs of their recent Champions League double-header against RB Leipzig.
Sitting eight points clear at the top after just 12 games, PSG are on course to reclaim the French title they lost to Lille last season.
However they have found themselves behind in four league games in total before coming back to take all three points.
Wins against Lyon, Metz, Angers and Lille were all achieved with goals in the 87th minute or later.
At home to Leipzig they were 2-1 down before a Lionel Messi brace helped them win 3-2.
In Germany on Wednesday, with Messi out injured, Pochettino’s team went behind, came back to lead 2-1 but then conceded a last-gasp penalty and drew 2-2.
That result ceded the advantage in their Champions League group to Manchester City, although the Qatar-owned club are on the brink of reaching the last 16.
And yet they are not playing well.
Despite the stars, the football is not seductive. The fighting spirit and the never-say-die attitude exemplified by so many late goals are admirable qualities, but Pochettino is struggling to put his stamp on a team that can be expected to perform better given their resources.
Kylian Mbappe wasted several great chances against Leipzig. Neymar’s only goal this season was a penalty. Messi has scored three times in Europe but has rarely featured in Ligue 1.
“It is obvious that we are not yet where we want to be,” said PSG sporting director Leonardo last weekend.
“What I don’t really like is the way the team is judged and the unwarranted criticism of the coach and the players who were signed this year.”
Leonardo added: “We will see where we are at the end of the season. We want to win the Champions League and we have the means to do it, I’m convinced.”
Pochettino, who was appointed in January to replace the sacked Thomas Tuchel, takes PSG to struggling Bordeaux this weekend.
French-born Algerian international striker Delort started the season as the Montpellier captain before being sold along the Mediterranean coast to Nice in late August for a reported 10 million euros ($11.5m).
Having scored 15 Ligue 1 goals last season, the 30-year-old had netted twice in three games for Montpellier this season and already has five goals for his new club, who lie second in the table behind PSG.
Delort, who had a brief spell at Wigan Athletic in the English Championship in 2014/15, bagged a second-half brace as Nice won at Angers last weekend and on Sunday he will come up against his former team as Montpellier visit the Cote d’Azur.