The good thing about having to wait for so long to be officially appointed is that at least you have plenty of time to prepare. This was especially true for Christophe Galtier, Paris Saint-Germain‘s new manager and the sixth appointment of the Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) era in charge of the club, as he was more than ready for his first-ever press conference in his new role.
It took what felt forever to officially sack Mauricio Pochettino after 18 tumultuous months in charge and in the mean time, Galtier was getting ready. He had known for days that he would be next to take up position on the Parc des Princes bench, so he was able to think carefully about what to say, how to say it and how to start his era in the right way.
He did just that on Tuesday. He used strong words — “discipline”, “demanding,” “collective” — when asked about his approach with this squad. His tone was strong and self-assured. He wanted to look the part and start defining the new rules under him, starting with timekeeping. “It’s good to see that all the players were on time today…” he said, which means a lot.
A broad lack of discipline within the squad was an issue under Pochettino, and Galtier knows it. He has already decided that as early as their trip to Japan next week for PSG’s preseason tour, there will be team rules and sanctions if they are not followed to the letter.
That attention to detail and order is one of the reasons why Paris went for him. Zinedine Zidane was QSI’s first choice and their preferred option, but once it was clear that he was waiting for the France job, Galtier became the man and in pivoting to the former Nice coach, PSG went in a direction more oriented around hard work than bling.
Galtier certainly fits that vision, though his relationship with PSG’s new sporting director, Luis Campos — the pair worked together in Lille for three seasons — played a big part. Campos believes in him and his ability to succeed. Having Galtier alongside him gives the Campos more power too. Eventually, PSG should have a strong, cohesive link between sporting director and manager, something that was almost never the case since the Qataris took charge over 11 years ago.
There were always tensions between the various duos tasked with taking this club to the top: whether it was Leonardo and Laurent Blanc, Leonardo and Thomas Tuchel, Leonardo and Mauricio Pochettino, Patrick Kluivert and Unai Emery, or Antero Henrique and Thomas Tuchel, the dissonance was always an issue. Now, things should be different. The axis is strong: Campos and Galtier will pull in the same direction as they want the same things and get on so well.
Notable, the decision to bring in Campos was Kylian Mbappe‘s call. The France star forward wanted to work with him again, like when they were in Monaco at the beginning of it all. Galtier was Campos’ call so in a way, hiring Galtier is also Mbappé’s call. The Paris-born prodigy is certainly happy with the appointment of the former Nice manager.
But how long will this harmony last?
Galtier knows the rules and pressure he’ll face at PSG; he’ll also be aware that he and his new team must hit the ground running pretty quickly. There will be a bit of patience, of course: as for every new manager, it is understandable that he will need a bit of time to implement his ideas, and it could well take some time.
One of the reasons why Pochettino was sacked was because the style of football was poor. PSG have to play well even if they fell short in big games, but they rarely did under the former Tottenham manager. Galtier will have to do better.
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“When you have such a great squad, you have to also play well, not just win,” said Galtier during his introductory press conference. At his previous clubs — Galtier spent seven-and-a-half years at Saint-Etienne, followed by three-and-a-half at Lille and last season at Nice — Galtier managed to foster a strong, collective spirit and built teams capable of hitting you hard on the counter-attack, especially Lille.
At Nice, Galtier wanted more possession and control of games, but his squad struggled to fulfill this brief, with results below what was expected. However, PSG is arguably the best squad he will ever manage and he should find it a little easier to implement his methods and deliver his message. “It’s a privilege to have a squad of this level,” he added.
Galtier’s first idea is to start the season with a three-man defence, which is intriguing because he played with a “flat” 4-4-2 formation at Lille and at Nice. But he believes that the 3-5-2 or the 3-4-1-2 will ultimately be the right formation for this squad, but it will come with puzzles to solve higher up the pitch. For example, he’ll have to decide where to play Lionel Messi in this “back three” system. And what if Neymar ends up staying? There’s no way to accommodate Mbappe, Messi and the Brazilian in a formation with three defenders. It could be a losing battle before the season even begins depending on PSG’s transfer business.
He will also have to untangle the hierarchy between the posts. With two world-class goalkeepers in the squad last season, Pochettino chose to not name an official No.1 between Gianluigi Donnarumma and Keylor Navas, but it will be different under the Frenchman. Expect him to make a call and stick to it: it’s also worth noting that in his career as a manager, his reserve goalkeeper at the start of the season never became the No.1 over time.
Overall, Galtier hit all the right notes at his unveiling, but he will need to quickly convince fans, QSI and the players of his vision. It’s not just because he only signed a two-year contract (with the option of a third season), but also because he knows that there is scepticism around his appointment: he is from Marseille, he is not a big name, he has been successful as a coach, but while setting up his teams to play quite basic football. A lot of the ultras are reportedly not impressed by his arrival.
The short deal offered to him also shows that PSG as an organization are waiting to see if he will be up for the task. At times in recent years, PSG has proven too tough for most. Can Galtier break that trend?