Laurent Blanc: Taming egos at PSG
By Nicol Hay
It had been 72 very Paris Saint German minutes.
The French Super Cup was in full swing in Libreville, Gabon – and the Parisians were doing their best impression of the worst of themselves: diffident, lazy, and unwilling to match the effort of an opponent whose collective wage would struggle to buy Edinson Cavani’s soul patch. Any energy expended by PSG in that opening period was focused solely on glowering at each other as every player decided that winning this game was someone else’s job.
Laurent Blanc doesn’t like lazy though. Or diffident (his opinion on soul patches remains unrecorded). The man who was charged with purging the prima donnas from Les Bleus finds himself charged with the same task in Paris – like a Red Adair of French football, on constant standby to wade in and rescue a failing dressing room. So with the match disappearing down the vortex of ego and shrugs that have characterized the Qatar-era at PSG, Blanc rolled up his sleeves and made a statement. A statement in two parts.
Part One: he made a triple-substitution. Normally the last act of desperate man, a rarely seen hail-Mary toss from the dugout, the triple-substitution is a clear way of saying “Sorry, Plan A was bobbins.” It’s a rash move on a number of levels, not least because it leaves the manager no recourse to change again if Plan B turns out to be less than inspired. Furthermore, going maximum sub means that a third of your outfield is now trying to catch themselves up to the pace of game against a fully-functional opponent who has just been buoyed by watching you perform the footballing equivalent of kicking over the drawing board and setting fire to the pencils.
Part Two: Blanc used two-thirds of his nuclear-option substitution to remove €70m-worth of Argentine internationals and replace them with two teenagers who had previously played six minutes of competitive first-team football between them.
And it worked.