It says much about the success that Laurent Blanc has brought to Bordeaux that a run of defeats immediately spreads panic among the fans of the French champions.
Three defeats, to Olympique Marseille in the French Cup final, Lyon in their Champions League quarterfinal, and now at home to Nancy, represent the first hint of a crisis during Blanc’s tenure at Les Girondins.
Speaking after their latest defeat, Blanc pulled no punches especially regarding his team’s defending.
He said: “We were poor, especially at the back, at times like this there are no positives, only negatives. The boys are hurting just now. Too few of them performed to the best of their ability.”
The defeat at Nancy was costly, especially given the congestion at the top of Ligue 1, where six teams currently lie within three points of each other with Bordeaux currently in fourth.
Yet as Blanc was keen to point out, things can change quickly, and he added: “I think we can say that we have hit rock bottom, but we still hope to turn things around. I’m now eagerly awaiting Wednesday’s game.”
It is fair to say that Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal at home to Lyon represents one of the most significant games in Blanc’s tenure at Bordeaux.
His team has for most of that time been the form team in Ligue 1, and romped to the championship last season, thanks in part to Blanc’s signing of Yoann Gourcuff on loan from AC Milan, a deal swiftly made permanent after the young playmaker was named France’s Player of the Year.
Progress in the Champions League, especially over their rivals Lyon, would be fitting for the work Blanc has done, though their 3-1 defeat in the first leg makes life tough.
However the talismanic Gourcuff was buoyed by the performance in the first tie, and insisted: “The performance was encouraging. It is a nice end to the season, and everyone here wants to win the championship, although things have narrowed at the top of the rankings.”
The desire to finish strongly will be especially pertinent for Blanc, given that he more than anyone will be aware that the number of potential suitors for both him, and members of his team have grown significantly.
Key striker Maroaune Chamakh has allegedly agreed a move to Arsenal, and recently told L’Equippe: "I want to give my best before leaving for new horizons. I will not give up trying.
"My club and town will remain Bordeaux for ever. But I want to discover a different league, a different culture.”
Meanwhile strong campaigns in South Africa from young stars Yoann Gourcuff and Michel Ciani could prompt interest from some of Spain and England’s bigger clubs.
Then there is the situation regarding Blanc himself. As one of the brightest young coaches in Europe, he has recently been linked with moves to either Juventus or Sevilla during the summer.
Though intriguingly, he has been championed as either a successor for Raymond Domenech with France, or Sir Alex Ferguson at former club Manchester United.
When quizzed about his future, Blanc recently told L’Equippe: “Three or four years, even in a club that works well, it’s already done.
“To extend [my contract] now serves no purpose. If someone can tell me today what I'll do tomorrow, it is very hard! I do not know yet myself.
“I always look, without knowing when [the time to leave] will arrive. For now, I’m not there. But the question may arise very quickly.”
How quickly may depend on whether Bordeaux manages to overturn a two-goal deficit against Lyon on Wednesday, and perhaps intriguingly set up a tie against former boss Sir Alex Ferguson in the Champions League semifinal.
Then there is the league title, in what promises to be one of the closest title races in recent history, Bordeaux’s clash with Lyon at home on April 17th suddenly takes on huge significance given the narrow margin for error at the top of the league.
As he enters what could be the final months of what has been a largely successful period for both manager and club, both Laurent Blanc and Bordeaux will be hoping to finish with a flourish.
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