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Tuchel learning the hard way as PSG struggles in Europe

PARIS (AP) — Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel is enjoying domestic dominance yet the Champions League is proving a difficult challenge. Once again, PSG's season resembles an ongoing television soap opera. Some of the cast changes, but the storylines do not.

PSG's annual saga is very familiar. It dominates the domestic scene by easily winning the treble, but falls short in Europe. The club's hierarchy, based in Qatar, then changes the coach out of sheer frustration.

When Carlo Ancelotti left in 2013 after two years in charge, Laurent Blanc took over. Blanc was fired to make way for Unai Emery in 2016 after failing to get past the Champions League quarterfinals. Emery lasted two years, failing to reach the quarters, and Tuchel arrived this summer. Emery joined PSG after winning three straight Europa League titles with Sevilla. He's already forgotten and is now coaching Arsenal.

The club's impatient desire to fast track success has not solved anything because familiar flaws were glaringly evident in Wednesday's 2-2 home draw with Napoli in the Champions League . PSG struggles to dictate games against strong sides, losing its composure and shape when put under pressure. Only an injury-time equalizer from Angel Di Maria prevented a second European loss in three games, following a 3-2 defeat at Liverpool.

"We're lacking a compact structure," Tuchel said. "When you're not compact you can't play with intensity." Champions League Group C makes grim reading for PSG fans: third place with games at Napoli and home against Liverpool to come. It is some contrast from the luxury of Ligue 1, where PSG can record an 11th straight win by beating Marseille on Sunday night.

But Tuchel will be judged in the Champions League, where PSG's best showing is a semifinal in 1995. After three group matches, his side has conceded six goals — as many as in 10 league games. "I knew the group would be complicated, we're not the favorites," Tuchel said. "''We have to improve, that's evident for me."

Complaining about a tough group is what modest sides do, not those aspiring to win the Champions League and bankrolled by huge funds. Considering PSG's financial might, it should be more logical for Napoli and Liverpool to be worrying.

Tuchel is in a difficult position, for no PSG coach has failed to get out of the group stages since cash-rich Qatari investors QSI bought the club seven years ago. He sounded like he was making excuses when, comparing Napoli's side to his own, Tuchel said "they've been together for years, (and) we've been together for 11 weeks."

Although Tuchel only took charge of PSG this season so did Ancelotti at Napoli, replacing Chelsea-bound Maurizio Sarri. Tuchel's argument is further undermined. Marquinhos, Edinson Cavani, Thiago Silva and Marco Verratti have all been at PSG at least five years for a combined 968 appearances.

Di Maria joined in 2015, while the major additions of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar for a massive outlay of 402 million euros (460 million dollars) came last year. They scored freely in their first season together and are big stars, with Mbappe helping France win the World Cup this summer.

So what more does Tuchel need when he has such elite players? Several things, according to him. In a candid acknowledgment after the Napoli game, he listed some alarming flaws for such an ambitious side.

"It's difficult for us to respect our game plan and our structure for a full half. I don't know why, but it's tough," he said. "We play with a plan and a structure for 15 minutes and then we lose it. We have to respect the fact that at the top level we can't lose our shape and lose the ball easily."

Tuchel seems concerned about his team's mental strength. A surprising weakness since it's comprised of seasoned internationals. "We have to play in a completely reliable way and to do so we really have to improve, tactically but also in our minds," he said. "We have to respect the importance of our shape when we have the ball we when we don't have it. That's a challenge for us."

Verratti, meanwhile, merely echoed his coach's words when he should be putting them into practice. "We have to play more as a team and in a more organized way," the Italy midfielder said. "Because when you come up against a better team it becomes difficult."

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