Clearly dealing with the South African fiasco has become the main theme. As will all managers of European nations, Blanc will need a 2 year plan with the Euros and World Cup tournaments alternating every 2 years. With qualifiers taking up 2 years a manager must have an understanding of which players they need to leverage for qualifiers and who will be the core to carry a
- Clear house - every
teamneeds to figure out which veterans still have enough to give, which players no longer fit the teamstrategy and which players to build around...this is has never been so important as for France. Blanc will need to determine what to do with those that were part of the mutiny in South Africa. There are clearly some players that will be self selected, due to age, as no longer internationals - Henry, Abidal, Gallas and Anelka (he already announced his retirement from international duty). However what to do about others, such as team captain - Patrice Evra? Some like former international Lilian Thuram have called for the Manchester United player to never wear the France jersey again. Thuram is entitled to his opinion he earned that right from his playing career as well as his post career work for France and football in general. However that decision lies entirely with Laurent Blanc...not an easy one to make.
- Ribery - Speaking of cleaning house...the Bayern man was rumored to be the chief bully in the French camp in particular targeting Gourcuff. If there is any truth to this it will be an interesting situation. Gourcuff played for Blanc at Bordeaux and clearly developed under the former French international tutelage. One could assume that there is a rapport already between Gourcuff and his new national team manager, could this mean that Blanc has received a more genuine overview of what took place? In addition Diarra and Carrasso, both from Bordeaux were also in South Africa - neither of which were implicated in the mutiny. But back to Ribery, clearly he remains a player of enormous talent and should be someone France would continue to build upon, however have his actions made him a cancer to the squad? Blanc will need to address this head on. For me Ribery needs to remain part of the squad and it is up to Blanc to sit down with him and clearly lay out the rules and ensure his authority is respected, which I have a feeling the Bayern winger will do.
- Youth movement - It is not as if the
teamis old, but there is some talent in the youth ranks that needs to be considered. How does Blanc integrate these up and coming talents? With players such as Gonalons, Gameiro, Remy, Briand, Ait Fana, M'Vila, Sakho, Sissoko to name a few on the cusp of the A side, how will Blanc integrate some or all this talented youth into the national side.
- Captain - Titi Henry is most likely headed to the sunset of his international career and Evra, regardless if he is called back to France, his captaincy is over. Could Blanc turn to the man that acted as his captain for Bordeaux? Alou Diarra - who did captain France for the ill fated last World Cup game. Problem is Diarra is not necessarily an undisputed starter for France. What about Lloris? Apparently he does not want the responsibility.Gourcuff, he remains too young and not sure he is a natural captain. Toulalan? He also seems to shun the captain's arm band. Much will depend on the system and who the pillars are for Les Bleus - that will drive who becomes the next captain.
- Central defense - An area that Blanc should be very comfortable dealing with - determining and developing a solid central defensive pairing. Doubtful that the central defensive pairing will include either Gallas or Abidal. So
- System - maybe this should have been the first bullet point, but what system will Blanc adopt for the national side? During his tenure at Bordeaux his fullbacks were very active in the attack, especially left back Tremoulinas (could make him an option at left back...granted France has a wealth of options at left back). Gourcuff also played a much deeper role in for his club and there was a lone striker in Chamakh usually supported by a secondary deep lying striker. Unlike Domenech, one would hope that Blanc demonstrates some flexibility and strategy when it comes to his formations depending on the situation and opponent. Unlike other nations, I think France will stick with a traditional back 4 and Blanc will most likely look for his fullbacks to push high up the pitch to give the team width. I could envision Blanc leveraging 1 pure holding player LDiarra/ADiarra/M'Vila/Gonalons/Sissoko with someone such as Diaby as the shouldering midfielder - who is more offensive. These two would support someone such as Gourcuff/Nasri/Ait Fana and a lone striker - Benzema/Gignac/Cisse/Gameiro/Hourau up front? Blanc does have some options at his disposal. Looking forward I would say the strength for Les Bleus lies in their midfield depth and wingers, they do not have a deep reserve of pure strikers available.
Allez les Bleus.