He may have been a master of the defensive arts, but after eight months in charge of FC Girondins de Bordeaux former French international Laurent Blanc owes his growing reputation as a coach to a free-flowing football philosophy.
Never have his methods looked more effective than in Sunday's 6-0 demolition of AS Monaco FC, which took Bordeaux to within one point of Ligue 1 leaders Olympique Lyonnais. Fittingly perhaps, the man in the opposition dugout was none other than Ricardo Gomes, who preceded Blanc at the Stade Chaban-Delmas and was often derided for his conservative approach. In contrast 'Le Président' has always insisted his players enjoy themselves. "There was no point pressuring ourselves," he said afterwards. "The result was all about taking pleasure from the game."
That attitude has much less to do with Blanc's years as a world-renowned centre-back than with his early days as an attacking midfielder for Montpellier Hérault SC. True, Bordeaux also possess a physical edge keeping them bottom of the Fair Play standings, but in a championship usually billed as defensive they have very rarely fielded fewer than two strikers. Goalscoring duties have also been widely shared, with Marouane Chamakh and Jussiê backing up David Bellion and current revelation Fernando Cavenaghi, who has fired eight goals in 12 league appearances.
"We have great forwards," commented Blanc recently. "I'm lucky to have so many options." The 1998 FIFA World Cup winner has undoubtedly created some of his own luck, however, having taken up the reins determined to give everyone a fair chance. Cavenaghi, in particular, began the present campaign on the sidelines and playmaker Johan Micoud has been given the liberty to rediscover his best form. "A coach's greatest strength should be managing his squad," added the man in charge. "The art of being a coach is making everyone feel needed."
That may not be too difficult right now, with Bordeaux juggling league ambitions with the French Cup and UEFA Cup. Europe is next up on the agenda and Blanc's men believe they can advance on Thursday after suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat at RSC Anderlecht in their Round of 32 first-leg encounter. For that to happen their coach will be looking for more of the attacking verve he cherishes. "That wasn't a bad away result but I was disappointed with our performance," he said after the Brussels setback. "And you all know how much importance I attach to that."
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