Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are superstars but PSG need to learn from Liverpool's collective spirit
You don't need to be Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp or any other top manager in football to recognise the main strengths of PSG and Liverpool. For the Reds, their force is gathered from the collective. For the Parisians, it comes from the individual brilliance of superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
If PSG had the collective strength of Liverpool they would be real favourites to win this season's Champions League. However, they are not there yet and sit third in their group with five points from four games. Despite Tuchel's attempts to make PSG more like a team since his arrival at the club this summer, they still rely too much on moments of magic from their two gems.
But it will take time. In Unai Emery's two years at the club there were no real patterns of play because the star-studded dressing room never let the Spanish coach develop his ideas or philosophy. Especially last season, after the addition of Neymar for a world record €222m from Barcelona, PSG became more than ever the sum of 11 individuals.
When Tuchel took over, virtually the first thing he did was try to explain how the team was more important than any individual.
The 14 wins from 14 Ligue 1 matches so far this season is a fantastic achievement, but Tuchel is still trying to figure out how to get the players to play as a team. He tweaked a lot of things tactically before finally settling on a 3-4-3 formation which brings solidity to his defence but also gets his players to pass in little triangles, make use of overlaps and bring Neymar and Mbappe inside to play between the lines. Earlier in the season, there was a lack of movement off the ball generally, but that is much better now.
Tuchel has always wanted Neymar to play as close as possible to the opposition's goal. The Brazilian still drops deep a lot and then has a lot of ground to cover to create something, but a spotlight was shone on the importance of teamwork by the club's U19 manager, Thiago Motta, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport last week.
"He [Neymar] has to learn not to try to dribble past three or four players," Motta said of his former teammate. "He needs to give the ball before so he can be free to receive the ultimate ball. He can't go always go one vs one. I used to always tell him: give me the ball and I will give it back to you so you avoid two more dribbles and getting kicked."
PSG have a strong squad, somewhat unbalanced in midfield with the absence of a world-class defensive midfielder but one that should be challenging for the Champions League every season. In Ligue 1 it is easy to hide behind the genius of Neymar or Mbappe because they are capable of producing things not many others are, but simply giving the ball to them and hoping for the best in the Champions League won't work. The opponents are too good.
That is why on Wednesday, against Liverpool at the Parc des Princes in a match that could see them eliminated if they lose and Napoli beat Red Star Belgrade, PSG need to find the kind of team spirit that makes you win big European games.
The 3-2 defeat at Anfield in September was the opposite of what they should be searching for this time around. PSG never attacked together, never defended together, while the front three of Neymar, Mbappe and Edinson Cavani failed to click as well. At the other end of the pitch, Klopp's team showed its collective force to win in the final minutes, despite not producing their best display.
PSG have to learn that, at a certain level, individual brilliance is not enough on its own. You can only win all together -- not just because of one or two players. You have to perform as a team, both defensively and offensively. Without those principles, breaking their Champions League quarterfinal hoodoo won't be an issue this year... because they won't even get that far.