On Tuesday night, Demba Ba’s late goal for Chelsea knocked Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League at the same stage that they faltered last season. Carlo Ancelotti’s side were praised for pushing Barcelona all the way to the final minute, losing 3-3 on aggregate, the same score line that Chelsea advances to the semi-finals.
Laurent Blanc is not receiving the same level of praise that the Italian did, quite the opposite. The former Bordeaux and France coach is being blamed for poor tactics and decisions. Stories emerged last week that Blanc was due to sign a new contract this week, last night’s result will disappoint PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, but it shouldn’t go against the good work that Blanc has done in just eight months.
It would be a typical knee-jerk reaction from a side with bags of cash to give up on Blanc after such a positive start. This is not a failure in the Champions League: it is just an unfortunate result. Play the 180 minutes over again, you would get a different outcome three times out of five.
On another day one of Edinson Cavani’s chances could have beaten Petr Cech, or one of the Chelsea goals doesn’t fall to the feet of Andre Schurrle or Demba Ba and the Parisians advance.
Last season the diagnosis was that PSG were a top-class striker away from beating Barcelona and advancing to the semi-finals, now 12 months on, they have their striker but still managed to miss out on a place in the last four.
What PSG lack now is experience, that experience that comes from playing and winning games in the Champions League. That experience comes from playing multiple high-risk games away from home in the Champions League. That is something that money can’t buy, and it’s a problem that does not have a quick fix.
As much as Qatari Sports Investment have a five-year plan, it is now a case of patience, building a strong squad and gaining experience in each year’s competition. Only then will they be classed as true contenders.
Laurent Blanc will never be an experienced Champions League coach unless he is given the chance to become one. He is learning in the same way that players like Marco Verratti, Blaise Matuidi and Edinson Cavani are learning. Just because it is easy to replace him, doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do.