Why PSG's Laurent Blanc Needs to Develop a Plan B Between Now and Next Season

Jonathan JohnsonFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2014

Paris Saint Germain's French coach Laurent Blanc  attends prior the French League Cup final football match Lyon between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Lyon at the Stade de France in Saint Denis, north of Paris, Saturday April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Jacques Brinon

Paris Saint-Germain's dramatic late 1-0 win over 10-man Evian Thonon Gaillard at the Parc des Princes on Wednesday means that they are now able to wrap up the Ligue 1 title this week.

It was in doubt for the majority of the 90 minutes, though, with substitute Blaise Matuidi scoring in the final minute of normal time.

The result moves them 10 points clear of second-placed AS Monaco again, with three points against FC Sochaux-Montbeliard on Sunday now enough to seal a second successive French title in four days' time.

Christophe Ena

However, it was a frustrating evening for the current titleholders

PSG were never really at the races in the French capital, just days after securing the club's fourth Coupe de la Ligue trophy. Laurent Blanc's men visibly struggled to refocus themselves for a return to league duty, although le President did not help himself.

Despite recent warning signs that European and domestic opponents have started to get wise to the French champions and how to beat them, the Frenchman insisted on going with the 4-3-3 formation that has largely served him well this season.

Of course, there is no need to alter a winning formula, but it is not the first time this campaign that Blanc's preferred method has only just secured three points in narrow circumstances.

In fact, it is his lack of a Plan B that prompted most of the criticism that he received following PSG's UEFA Champions League exit to Chelsea and the recent 1-0 defeat at Olympique Lyonnais. The formation's inefficiency was even clear in the second half of the Coupe de la Ligue final last Saturday.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 08:  Head Coach Laurent Blanc of PSG looks on during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain FC at Stamford Bridge on April 8, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Blanc was delighted with the result, but admitted to PSG.fr after the match that the performance left a lot to be desired. 

"They are three crucial points in the race for the title. It wasn't a great game, we were even pretty poor in the first half. We didn't start the game with the right attitude. We were better in the second half, we created chances and we scored late on thanks to Blaise."

"He never gives up, he's a player that believes right to the very end. It's not just a coincidence that he scored. We need to show a different attitude and approach if we want to win the league against Sochaux on Sunday." 

There is little doubt that—based on the entire season's performance—Blanc is worthy of a second term in charge of the capital club. What many detractors point to, though, when suggesting that he is not the man to lead the side long term is his lack of an alternative system.

When 4-3-3 works for PSG, it works brilliantly and usually to devastating effect. But when it does not, it produces dull, frustrating performances like the one we saw for 89 minutes against Evian that is either settled by a PSG winner or sees the Parisians suffer a draw and sometimes slip to a disappointing defeat.

More often than not, it is a late—and often fortuitous—winner that will save PSG and turn a seemingly poor result into an acceptable one. However, with PSG now 10 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 and the title as good as won, Blanc needs to start thinking about how he is going to progress with this side next season.

PARIS, FRANCE - APRIL 02:  Laurent Blanc the PSG manager looks on during the UEFA Champions League quarter final, first leg match between Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea at Parc des Princes on April 2, 2014 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Get
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Thanks to the Coupe de la Ligue success and the almost certain league triumph that will secure the capital outfit’s first-ever league and domestic cup double, the 48-year-old has set the bar extremely high for himself ahead of next season.

Not only is progress expected in the Champions League, Blanc will be required to reproduce the same sort of league and cup showing—plus an improved Coupe de France display—next term. This is why he needs to add to his current formation and to become more flexible.

If PSG approach next season with the same system, there will be more frustrating results like this narrow 1-0 win over Evian. Teams are wise to the Parisians now, and they know how to frustrate the champions.

Three of PSG’s last four games have finished 1-0, and all have been won in fortuitous circumstances; there have been other examples of this earlier in the season, too. Without those points, Blanc's side would be struggling to keep Monaco away from the title.

One of the main reasons for these marginal victories over the likes of FC Lorient, OGC Nice and now Evian is Blanc's reluctance to change his formation mid-match.

ATHENS, GREECE - SEPTEMBER 17:  Lucas of Paris Saint-Germain FC in action during the UEFA Champions League group stage match between Olympiacos FC and Paris Saint-Germain FC held on September 17, 2013 at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium in Athens, Greece.
EuroFootball/Getty Images

He threw Lucas Moura on in the 58th minute against the Savoyard side—in place of central midfielder Adrien Rabiot—and it was the Brazilian who provided the game-winning chance for fellow substitute Matuidi to score from.

Lucas could be forgiven for considering his future at PSG this summer because he is often not given the consecutive starts that his form has merited this season. However, the 21-year-old is also largely seen as a super substitute who Blanc likes to bring on in place of his preferred wide attacking option, Ezequiel Lavezzi.

Moura turned the game for PSG against Evian, but Blanc rarely makes these sorts of attacking changes in the biggest games. Showing that sort of boldness against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge a few weeks ago—when Lucas started—could also have paid off similarly.

The Frenchman can be forgiven for sticking to his preferred formation, but at times his stubbornness to consider changing system hints at tactical ineptitude instead. It is important that Blanc adds more game plans to his repertoire in order to ensure that PSG do not stagnate next season.