Gone but not forgotten: PSG start life without Ancelotti

Posted by Jonathan Johnson

Laurent Blanc talks to the media at the Parc des PrincesGettyImagesLaurent Blanc talks to the media at the Parc des Princes

Laurent Blanc took Paris Saint-Germain training for the first time on Monday in the familiar surroundings of Clairefontaine. For many of the players, it was their first time back in the French capital since Carlo Ancelotti departed. Although the Italian is now in Spain with Real Madrid, his legacy leaves PSG in good shape and Blanc inherits a strong side.

It won't be easy shrugging off the long shadow that Ancelotti cast in Paris, but the team started taking their first few steps without him. Despite his success with the side, there are areas that Blanc can improve upon.

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Though PSG won their first title in 19 years under Ancelotti, it was less-than-convincing at times. Of course, the two-time Champions League winner coped admirably with the vast array of stars put in front of him by sporting director Leonardo, but their style of play often left a lot to be desired when the strength of their talent was taken into consideration.

Discovering the players that he believes will produce the most entertaining style of football will have been at the front of Blanc's mind as training got back underway. That, as well as the results, of course, will be what the former Bordeaux coach is primarily judged on given his sparkling reputation with Les Girondins.

The strong defensive foundations left by Ancelotti in particular will enable him to focus on that pressing matter.

In the 18 months under ‘King Carlo,’ PSG's defensive problems became a thing of the past in little time. PSG conceded 23 goals in his solitary full season in charge, opposed to the 41 they shipped the year before. PSG had conceded just 17 goals when Ancelotti took over from Antoine Kombouare, and they leaked 24 more over the second half of the season. They slipped from first to second, eventually losing the title to Montpellier by just three points.

That second-season defensive improvement has benefitted the side greatly and will be something Blanc is keen to keep in place. Thiago Silva, one of the main reasons for that newfound solidity, was absent for the team's return to training, having played a key role in Brazil’s Confederations Cup victory the night before. Once the Samba star returns, Blanc will have a greater idea of who or what he requires alongside the Selecao captain, and what, or who, he doesn't.

The 47-year-old will also no doubt have been impressed by the improvements made by a number of the French stars in the side that he coached with Les Bleus. Blaise Matuidi in particular was a revelation under Ancelotti, and the 26-year-old will be unrecognisable from the player Blanc took with him to Euro 2012. Mamadou Sakho will no doubt be keen to show his former international coach how Didier Deschamps’ faith in him at international level has improved him, despite becoming a bit-part player under Ancelotti.

It will also have been Blanc’s first chance to see the likes of Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez up close. The pair will be the Frenchman’s toughest challenges in terms of the current personnel, the Argentine because of his enigmatic genius, and Menez because of his questionable attitude, something Blanc is already well-versed in from their France days together.

Ancelotti enjoyed mixed success with Pastore, but brought the best out of Menez in spells. Blanc will be hoping he can work the same magic that saw him get the best out of similarly frustrating talent Yoann Gourcuff at Bordeaux and Menez for France.

Ancelotti's exit has also taken a number of strong influences from the backroom staff. Blanc has moved quickly to replace them by naming Nicolas Dehon as his goalkeeping coach, ending rumours that Fabien Barthez was to be controversially added to the coaching setup. Dehon is no stranger to Parc des Princes, having already worked in the capital for the 2009-10 season. Philippe Lambert has come in as the team’s new fitness coach to replace Giovanni Mauri.

With his staff now completed, Blanc will be able to use the remaining days before the team departs for Austria on July 4 to assess the squad depth and to identify any areas for improvement he and Leonardo have not already discussed.

It will be some time though before players can forget Ancelotti and his methods, but for some the arrival of Blanc is the start of a new chapter in Paris. With little over one month until the season gets underway in Libreville, Gabon, against Blanc's former side Bordeaux in the Trophee des Champions, the Frenchman will already be forming an idea of his preferred starting lineup and formation.

But for a squad that took time to adapt to Ancelotti's eventually successful 4-2-2-2 look, completely avoiding the Italian’s old methods could mean a slow start to the season similar to last year.

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