Following Paris Saint-Germain victory over Lille OSC in the Coupe de la Ligue final, club president Nasser Al-Khelaifi announced that Laurent Blanc will stay with the club for at least one more season.
The contract was extended for two years [in February], he will stay with us next year.”—Nasser Al-Khelaifi, SkySports.com
The news shocked many supporters who blame the loss to Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League on Blanc’s failed tactics. Exiting the quarterfinals for the third straight year seemed to sound the death knell in the ex-Bordeaux manager’s career in Paris. But is sacking the manager the best way forward for Paris Saint-Germain? If it’s instant European glory Qatar Sports Investments crave, getting rid of Blanc may not have the desired effect.
Contrary to what Blanc’s well-documented shortcomings in the quarterfinal stage of the Champions may suggest, he has proven that he’s capable of getting his team to compete at a high level against top clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, and “former elite club” Chelsea since his appointment. The problem arrives when Blanc is forced away from his preferred system due to injury or suspension to key players. You have to believe that PSG would have come away with a more favorable result against Manchester City had Marco Verratti, arguably the most important player in the team, been available for both games.
Blanc’s reluctance to change his system has been blamed for the team’s failures in the biggest matches but that only disguises the real problem, which is a lack of quality on the bench that fit his style. Domestically, PSG is able to get away with a lack of depth due to the level of competition in the French league. The Champions League is a different story. Against Barcelona last season and Manchester City this year, injuries and suspensions resulted in a significant drop in quality and Blanc didn’t have the options on the bench to maintain a similar level of play.
The lack of squad depth was exacerbated when Blanc opted for a 3-5-2 formation instead of his preferred 4-3-3 in the second leg of the Manchester City tie. Verratti and Blaise Matuidi forced the Frenchman’s hand as both were unavailable and with Benjamin Stambouli on the bench, Blanc went with an untested formation in the biggest game of the season.
Ideally, squad depth shouldn’t be an issue for PSG as they have the ambition and financial war chest to attract the biggest names in football but for some reason, Blanc routinely brings in players who don’t exactly fit the system. I’ll concede that Blanc isn’t necessarily in charge of all transfer dealing, but some of his recent additions leave you scratching your head. Credit to him for Kevin Trapp and Angel Di Maria, but it’s the signings in the midfield where Blanc has struggled. Stambouli simply isn’t good enough for PSG and Yohan Cabaye, which made sense at the time as he was coming off his best season, didn’t quite work out and was sold to Crystal Palace last summer.
Blanc appears to be more like a national team coach who manages what is available to him rather than one who is able to engage properly in the transfer market. Heading into the crucial summer transfer window with multiple key decisions needing to be made, a better transfer structure will need to be put in place. One option might be to hire an experienced sporting director in to work with Le President to fill the needs of the squad with world class talent.
Blanc might not be the best manager around but keeping him wouldn’t be the worst decision by the Qataris. It would save the club money, as Blanc recently signed an extension, and when you look at the manager market, there isn’t a lot of talent out there. José Mourinho was rumored to be a target but has reportedly agreed to a deal with Manchester United. Also, bear in mind a new manager would probably need at least one season to implement their style, keeping Blanc at this point is the most logical option in line with the club’s desire for immediate success. He already has an amazing dynamic with the team that has taken years to build and he’s on the verge of another domestic quadruple, an impressive accomplishment no matter what league you play in. With the right offseason signings, Blanc could finally bring a Champions League trophy to the Parc des Princes.