Ligue 1 Focus – Blanc and Gourcuff collect top accolades

Bordeaux have continued to dominate French football this week with resounding victories for the club, the manager and one of their star players. The Bordeaux playmaker Yoann Gourcuff collected his award for French Footballer of the Year, while Les Girondins’ coach Laurent Blanc was named top boss. These two prestigious accolades are coupled with Bordeaux’s victory over high-flying rivals Montpellier to take the League leaders six points clear at the top.

After missing out in 2008, Gourcuff played an indispensable role in helping Bordeaux break Lyon’s sequence of seven consecutive titles and at the same time performed brilliantly to push France into the World Cup finals. Les Girondins’ midfielder beat-off stiff competition from French heavyweights in Lyon keeper, Hugo Lloris and international strikers Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka.

The accolade for Blanc was described as “gratifying” by the Bordeaux chief and beat Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to first place. Blanc has exceeded expectations in his maiden managerial role after guiding Les Girondins to the Ligue 1 title in only his second year in charge.

In light of these events and Bordeaux’s healthy domestic and European position, Blanc eluded to his uncertain future. He said: “I don’t know how long I will stay at Bordeaux. It is already the third season. Three seasons is short but it is also long for a manager’s shelf life. You know it well, there are plenty of examples.”

The Bordeaux boss however feels it is the right move to monitor the progress of his team until the end of the next season to decide his managerial positioning. Speaking about his squad, Blanc said: “There is an interesting group, who have not reached their peak in my opinion. There are young players developing and it is a club which is more and more ambitious. They have a little more means each year while competing in the Champions League.”

Supporters would be inclined to ask Blanc, why he would want to leave a side that is dominating domestically and qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Coupled with this success is the undoubted talent that Blanc has at his disposal with the new French Player of the Year Yoann Gourcuff and the much sought after Marouane Chamakh. Stability is a rare occurrence in French football but it would appear that Blanc has the opportunity to create and develop an extremely promising team.

In other news, Lyon boss Claude Puel and his players are in trouble with supporters after a serious dip in form caused fans to voice their discontent during Les Gones’ home victory against Boulogne. Following the defeat against Bordeaux last week, Lyon alarmingly dropped to ninth place in the table – a worrying sign for supporters after nearly half the season already played. During the midweek encounter against Boulogne, a game in which they were victorious, Lyon players and staff were jeered and booed by supporters in a tense atmosphere at the Stade de Gerland.

Lyon chief Claude Puel said: “It has been very complicated because the environment was very difficult for the players.” Key player Michel Bastos echoed the sentiments of the manager as he said: “We are sad because we need the supporters to be behind us. I know that these moments are a little difficult. We understand the supporters. In these moments, everyone including the players and the supporters should regroup and get their heads together. We need everyone.” It is clear from both the manager and the players that Lyon need their supporters in this difficult time, which has seen the team go through a difficult phase with victory over Boulogne their first in six matches. Supporters still appear to be hurting following Bordeaux’s sudden rise to supremacy, which saw Les Gones finish third last term – the first time they had not won the League for eight years. However, the situation is certainly retrievable with Lyon currently in fourth place in Ligue 1 and competing in the knockout stages of the Champions League. The majority of French teams would gladly take their place, but supporters crave for flamboyance and success for a club of Lyon’s stature.

Finally on a domestic front, the draw for the French Cup round of 64 was held this week and delivered three all Ligue 1 encounters. Grenoble will host high-flying Montpellier, while Saint-Etienne play FC Lorient and Le Mans meet Valenciennes. The ties will be played over the weekend of the ninth and tenth of January of next year.

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