It’s a simple box in the newspaper The Team who set fire to social networks. “A full-time psychologist at PSG? “Wrote our colleagues last week, suggesting that Paris would think since the slap received in Madrid last season to call on a specialist to work on mental preparation for matches and strengthen team spirit. The mocking reactions were therefore quick to fly on Twitter, like “PSG was matrixed by Barça and Real, MDR XPTDR LOLILOL”.
A great analysis that says a lot about the perception of this question, and not only with the supporters but also with the players, who are often closed when it comes to talking about their psychological flaws. However, the question of the mental management of Parisian players is far from trivial as his season begins this Sunday with the Champions Trophy against Nantes. For former tennis player Pier Gauthier, who has successfully converted to mental coaching, the craziest thing is that this question only comes up now, after three historic cracks in five seasons in the Champions League.
Better late than never
When asked the question of the delay of French football on the subject, when our Anglo-Saxon neighbors have long since integrated psychological cells into their staff, he nods his head. “You have the answer in fact! Do you find it normal that PSG screw up so many big meetings, often in the same way, and that there is still no mental coach in the staff (laughs)?, he exclaims . There is a strong reluctance because clubs and players have the impression that going to see a shrink implies that they are weak or mentally fragile. Christophe (Galtier), there is something that he understood well, it is that if it can help him to be more efficient, it goes, period. »
Oh yes, because what we haven’t told you is that Pier Gauthier worked personally with the new Parisian coach when he was on the Sainté bench. And from what we understand, it is no coincidence that this question of psychological management appears at the very moment when he takes the reins of PSG. Even if the Parisian staff already had this idea in mind after the last trauma in Madrid.
Historic assistant to Galtier with the Greens, Alain Blachon is not surprised by the news. “Christophe is someone who wants to constantly progress, him, his players, but also his job as a whole, he reveals. If there is something that can allow him to become more efficient, he jumps at the chance. At the time he approached certain people because he already thought that football was behind in terms of mental preparation, psychological approach to events. In other disciplines, be it tennis, combat sports or athletics (to name but a few), we have understood for a while that what makes the difference at the highest level is a question of details. which are played in the cigar and not in the legs or the arms.
“Planning for the unpredictable in order to approach it as harmlessly as possible”
Pier Gauthier: “When PSG get three goals from Barça in seven minutes or from Real and they can no longer make two passes in a row, it is not the technical skills of individuals nor their intrinsic level that are in question, it is their mental aptitude to manage the pressure, the unforeseen ones. When Marquinhos gives it full axis to Benzema, he knows it’s forbidden. But he is in such a psychological state that everything becomes confused and he comes to realize the unthinkable. »
Converted into mental preparation after his coaching career, former PSG coach Denis Troch, who also worked on these issues with Galtier in the year of Losc’s title in 2021, invites players to “create antibodies throughout throughout the year”. The idea? “Predicting the unpredictable in order to approach it as harmlessly as possible. Imagine the unthinkable things so as not to be surprised and know how to deal with them the day it has to happen, ”he explains.
“What will solve the problem for Parisians is not the management of past traumas but understanding how we do not put ourselves in this situation, engages Gauthier. And so how do you manage to be in your optimal state of performance when you need it most. »
In Paris, it’s nothing to say that there is taf in this area. Hence the idea of delegating part of this management to a specialist, and if possible full-time, which seems to be the case in the minds of Parisian decision-makers. For Pier Gauthier, this is the sine qua none condition for the company’s success. “You have to understand that to be able to bring your players to be at 90% of their capacity at the moment T, it takes a lot of time and special skills. It goes through individual and regular interviews with the majority of the players in the squad. In that, I think that a coach, who already has so many things to manage, who is a kind of conductor, can have his limits. Ideally, there should therefore be someone who is available to the group on a daily basis. »
For Galtier, everything is good to “win everything”
It remains to be seen who PSG will rely on this season. However, on this point, nothing has yet filtered at the present time. “Are we talking about a psychologist or a mental trainer? Asks the former tennis player. Because it’s not the same thing. “The psychologist will manage the pathologies, the link with the past, when the mental coach works more on the present, therefore on the action, and the future”, summed up the mental coach Alex Kergall in a complete article by Foot Mercato on the subject. Whether it’s one or the other, he will need, whatever happens, a certain freedom in his prerogatives to achieve results.
Which is not easy with coaches who are often hesitant to delegate in areas as sensitive as the mental aspect of their group. “The transition between the technical-tactical and mental domain is a very, very fragile border, warns Alain Blachon. This is why the majority of coaches are reluctant on this subject. But knowing Christophe, if he trusts the person, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work. “If he manages to take PSG to a new level in this area, the Marseillais will be on the right track to achieve the objective he set himself when he arrived: “Win everything”.