France Coach Laurent Blanc has spoken out over the need for Ligue 1 to reduce the size of the division from 20 teams to 18 to aid the national side, but according to Dave Trotter of French football blog
“I really don’t think any reduction would help the national team. If anything, I think it might help teams competing in the Champions League or Europa League instead. They always seem to be rescheduling their matches to accommodate European competition.” Trotter added: “And, in the end, these accommodations help these teams in Ligue 1 competition, which is unfair to the smaller clubs.”
Trotter does however agree with another Blanc suggestion – scrapping the French League Cup. “If there were to be any changes in the format, they should consider looking at changes in Cup play. People like Toulouse President Olivier Sadran have considered eliminating the League Cup. This could be a possible solution to the scheduling situation.” Trotter added: “I don’t know how much you can attribute to tiredness due to Ligue 1 play. In the past four years, much of our team has been playing in other leagues besides Ligue 1.
“Blanc is starting to create a very pro-Ligue 1 French national team. And, so far, since this change, France seems to be playing their best football since 2006. Of course, time will tell if the Ligue 1 players will start wearing down, but so far it doesn’t seem to be a factor.”
Blanc replaced Raymond Domenech in as national team Coach following a disappointing World Cup 2010, and Trotter feels the former boss is more of a reason for Les Blues’ underachievement than the crowded calendar Blanc spoke of. He said: “Each country has their own, unique, problems that they need to address for their national teams. In France, it was our coach. And now since he has been replaced, we can finally look forward.” Trotter went further, noting a switch to an 18-team division could have the opposite outcome Blanc is searching for: “The reduction to 18 teams could hurt. For example, if we only had 18 teams last year, St. Etienne would have been relegated, thus reducing the quality of their team and reducing their attendance. And for Ligue 1, it is important to have St. Etienne as a team in the top league, even if they aren’t the best in a given year.”
With the departure of Domenech and Blanc assuming control, Trotter believes France could be back on the road to success after the golden period of the late 1990s and early 2000s. “The first major step was to replace Raymond Domenech. Now since that has been done, we need to see how the team gels under Blanc.” And even after a mixed start for the 44-year-old, with defeats to Norway and Belarus, Trotter remains positive: “The first two games under Blanc were not exactly promising. But the games since have shown us that there are some real possibilities, especially the match against Bosnia (a 2-0 away win). Hopefully the only step that France had to make was replacing the Coach. We will see in the coming months if there needs to be any other steps taken.”