Upon arriving at Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the year, expectations were high for Mauricio Pochettino, who finally looked likely to win a league title. Yet, four months later, and PSG sit second, three points away from leaders Lille in the Ligue 1 title race, with nine games remaining, having just lost to the fellow title candidates.
No matter the manager in the last decade or so, the guarantee was always the title. The money guaranteed it, as did the players and drop off in the quality of the opposition surrounding the French capital. So, with Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Keylor Navas, Angel Di Maria– just to name a few- many believed that, once again, the title would be wrapped up.
It reached the point that, even when a title was won, the manager still faced the threat of the sack. And, with that in mind, four months into the biggest job of his career, Pochettino cannot afford to fail in the Ligue 1 title race.
Ligue 1 Title Race: Underdogs Emerging and PSG Faltering
Pochettino Not Doing Reputation Any Favours
The impact Mauricio Pochettino had in England cannot be questioned. He transformed Southampton from relegation candidates and mid-table boredom to a side battling for a place in Europe. They played football similar to that seen at the very top and upset sides as a result.
In turn, players left for big moves and, eventually, so did Pochettino. This time, it was Tottenham Hotspur in need of a transformation.
And transform them, he did. In six years, he had them challenging for league titles before reaching what would be the pinnacle of his career: A Champions League final. Ultimately, he and Spurs lost out to Liverpool but, the fact remains, he took a side just about making the cut in England’s top six to a European final.
He came away from the job with the reputation of a master tactician who only lost out on silverware because of the tools he had at his disposal. That mask is fading at PSG, however. The ‘tools’ can no longer be at fault. With Kylian Mbappe and Neymar at his disposal, it is the bad workman who will soon take the blame if they miss out in the Ligue 1 title race.
You could make a case for him at Spurs and Southampton as to how he didn’t win silverware- not many do at those clubs these days. But it is the norm to win, at the very least, the title at PSG. The Champions League is how a manager would cement themselves in French history. The Ligue 1 title is an expectancy.
Lille Overcoming the Odds in Ligue 1 Title Race
In a season of financial difficulty, those without the money in France, more or less every team but PSG, were expected to suffer a bigger drop off than ever. But Lille took that script of expectancy and tore it apart.
Now, with nine games remaining, a young Lille side are three points clear and on the verge of ending PSG’s dominant run. With the odds stacked against them before the season even started, Lille are defying what is possible in the Ligue 1 title race and French football.
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