LYON, France (AP)On his first day in charge, Lyon coach Laurent Blanc was already in crisis management mode.
Blanc was appointed Sunday as the replacement for Peter Bozs following Lyon’s poor start to the season. Aiming for Champions League qualification, the seven-time French champions have won just four of their 10 league matches so far and are on a five-game winless run.
Blanc, who returned to the French league after a six-year hiatus, met with his players on Monday to instill a sense of urgency to right the ship before the World Cup starts in November.
”The players know they need to do way more,” Blanc said during a news conference in Lyon. ”I made a brief, but determined speech. The first goal is to try and secure a maximum of points in our five upcoming matches before the break.”
The 56-year-old Blanc has been very successful during his previous stints with French clubs, winning the league title in 2009 with Bordeaux when he ended Lyon’s long reign, then three times at the helm of PSG from 2014-16.
Blanc, who is credited with putting France back on track when he coached the national team from 2010-12, is also renowned for his ability to build teams playing an attractive brand of football.
But for now, he made clear winning ugly will do.
”I’m not going to pretend to be the guy who wants to put the beautiful game first,” Blanc said. ”If we get points while playing good, I will be the happiest. But I will be very happy, too, if it’s just about taking points.”
The former Bordeaux and PSG coach said the long break from Nov. 13 to Dec. 28 due to the World Cup will be a good moment to work in-depth with his players, hoping that this approach will bring long-term benefits during the second half of the season.
Before that, Blanc said he wants to improve his players’ confidence and fitness.
”Unfortunately, some of our players have been struggling to give as much as they should,” Blanc said. ”I’m thinking about our experienced players. They should be the one pushing the team upwards.”
On paper, Lyon’s squad has strong potential and Blanc said he did not ask for new players. But Alexandre Lacazette and Corentin Tolisso, back in Lyon after stints abroad, have not lived up to expectations so far. In defense, Jerome Boateng has not played this season and Thiago Mendes has proved to be unreliable.
Blanc did not say what he will immediately change, but promised to make his team sweat.
”The players will be surprised, because there will be a lot of work to do,” Blanc said. ”With a very, very high level of athletic preparation, which will allow us to put in place the game that I want for this team.”
Blanc’s hiring comes at a sensitive time as Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has been in talks to sell the club to Eagle Football Holdings LLC, controlled by American businessman John Textor. The deal was set to be finalized on Sept. 30 but has been postponed to Oct. 21 as both parties are still negotiating the financial details.
Aulas said the decision to fire Bosz and hire Blanc was approved by Textor.
”I always dreamed of having Laurent Blanc as Lyon coach,” Aulas said. ”We are looking to the future. I believe we took the right decision.”
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