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How will Paris Saint-Germain change under new manager Luis Enrique?

Almost as soon as Christoph Galtier was sacked Paris Saint-Germain manager, Luis Enrique was announced as his replacement. The Spaniard had been lined up to take over at the Parc des Princes for a number of weeks, so there was no real surprise at his hiring, but Enrique’s arrival at the French club could prompt a fundamental change of philosophy.

Last season was calamitous for PSG. Despite boasting the most fearsome frontline in European soccer, they only advanced as far as the last 16 of the Champions League, while finishing top of Ligue 1 by a single point. Dressing room tension undermined an entire campaign. A fresh start was badly needed.

The appointment of Enrique represents that new beginning, with the former Barcelona and Spain manager an advocate of a possession-orientated approach. His teams play with control in possession and energy out of possession. This marks a significant shift for a team that has been extremely individualistic in recent times.

There was no strategy behind the assembly of Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar as a front three. Instead, PSG merely threw three world class attackers together in the hope they would form chemistry by chance. Over time, though, it became clear Mbappe, Messi and Neymar brought the worst out of one another.

PSG were too easy to play through with their front three unable or unwilling to press from the front. Enrique won’t stand for this and so Mbappe and Neymar (Messi has since left for Inter Miami in MLS) will have to offer much more out of possession. They will have a greater duty to the rest of the team.

In possession, PSG were also too predictable under Galtier. They lacked creativity, making them easy to defend against in a low block. Many Ligue 1 opponents demonstrated this last season as PSG missed a midfield creator who could unpick defences with a pass or quick movement. 

As Spain manager, Enrique had the likes of Gavi and Pedri to perform this role. At PSG, though, he has inherited an unbalanced squad with little in the way of midfield or final third creativity. This is where the French champions might have no choice but to enter the transfer market, with links to Jamal Musiala fluttering about as the first step in shoring up the center.

Moves have already been made. Marco Asensio has joined as a free agent from Real Madrid with combative central midfielder Manuel Ugarte also arriving from Sporting CP. Lucas Hernandez has been signed from Bayern Munich while Milan Skriniar is another new addition who has strengthened the PSG defensive ranks.

There is still more work to be done. PSG’s squad is bloated and so the likes of Leandro Paredes, Keylor Navas, Julian Draxler, Colin Dagba, Georginio Wijnaldum, Layvin Kurzawa, Abdou Diallo and Mauro Icardi could all be moved on this summer. History shows Enrique likes a lean squad to work with.

When the remoulding is finished, though, Enrique will have a squad with the talent to become a true European force in the way PSG have always wanted. PSG’s problem was never a lack of quality, it was the lack of a coherent structure. They had no framework and that’s what their new manager will provide.

Enrique has arrived in the French capital with a point to prove. While his time as Spain manager couldn’t be considered a failure, La Roja were one-dimensional at the 2022 World Cup. They lost in the round of 16 to Morocco who found it easy to hold Spain at arm’s length in a low defensive block. Spain were too predictable.

Some argue Enrique has become too idealistic in his approach. Spain frequently played with possession for the sake of it. There was no purpose to their passing. Others might point out they did this because they lacked a world class number nine to play into and through. PSG, on the other hand, have Mbappe and Neymar.

PSG have got themselves into such a mess that it’ll take Enrique time to untangle everything. However, the Spaniard already appears to be reshaping the club. Finally, this summer could mark the start of a new era for the French giants. They might be heading in the right direction under a manager with a clear idea of what the future should look like.

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