Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Laurent Blanc press conference - hope ahead for Les Bleus

Today Laurent Blanc held his first official press conference as the manager of France. Gave many of us desperate France fans a glimmer of hope that the new boss is not the same as the old boss. The main points I took away from the press conference:
  • Players who's performances are worthy will be selected. Even someone such as Anelka will be considered if he demonstrates his worth on the pitch and adheres to the next few points.
  • All players will need to respect the shirt and the honor of playing for the national team.
  • What happened in South Africa is reprehensible however there will not be a sweeping judgement.
  • He does ask for patience when it comes to the team - although he recognizes that at this level results are measured on the pitch and immediately.
  • There is much work - most new managers have a core from the previous regime, but with what happened in South Africa that core might be rotten.

At no point did it appear that Blanc mentioned the prior regime, a clear indication that he was not going down that path. He did announce that Boghossian will remain part of the staff - the only hold over from Domenech's on field team. Blanc has also been addressed statements from his former teammate Thuram head on, basically saying excluding Evra outright would be excessive. Blanc also gave some insight into the system he may employ, stating that he did not feel he needed 2 holding midfielders and thought the 4-1-3-2 fit the French style better.

Overall the right sound bites came from the new France manager. Clearly he is bringing all the pedigree and respect that comes from someone who has achieved everything as a player and has already demonstrated a great foundation as a manager.

Let us look at the formation he is mentioning. While there is a plethora of holding/defensive midfielders available: LDiarra, ADiarra, ADiaby, Toulalan, M'Vila, Flamini, Mavuba, Cheyrou just to name a few. Assuming Toulalan gets slotted back in central defense, who out of this list becomes THE holding player? That will be very interesting. The midfield should be built around the play-maker: Gourcuff, Nasri or Ben Arfa? Or if he has a good season in Spain could a Feghouli find himself in the conversation as one of the play-makers? The left side will most likely be filled by Ribery or Malouda...what about N'Zogbia who is being courted by England as he has dual citizenship. Will the right wing be held down by Valbuena, or will a player such as Menez or Ait Fana come into the picture. Up front will Blanc look to select from the following - Benzema, Remy (more of a winger), Briand, Gameiro, Gignac, Cisse, Hourau or even the Chelsea youngster Kakuta or his U19 teammate Yannis Tafer? Would Blanc throw youngsters into the the deep end? Why not: let us not forget that when Blanc won the World Cup in 1998 there were two 20 year olds on the team - Trezeguet and Henry - and we all know the rest of the story. Henry has become the leading goal scorer for Les Bleus with 51 goals and Trezegeut is the 3rd highest scorer with 34.

If Blanc does work the 4-1-3-2, with the flexibility to change based on the opposition and situation, I think this will allow France to play a better style of football. I could easily see the system allowing for France to allow a Gourcuff to drop deeper, playing a deep #10 and pull one of the strikers back into the offensive midfield depending on how the game progresses. The question remains, which players Blanc leverages to make this system work. I trust, unlike with a certain past manager, that he sticks with a core works the system and allows it time to evolve. Something I believe he will do and has the mentality and intestinal fortitude to see it through.

The page has turned. Let us hope the new chapter is more like the one from the late 90s than for the late 2000s.

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