“How’re you feeling, Boss?” Asks Crouchie, stepping out of the hotel and following me onto the team bus.
“Like a Höllviken manager with a France squad.” I mutter, managing a weak smile. Crouchie laughs.
“It’ll be fine. International football’s a doddle.”
“Well you would say that wouldn’t you, Mr 20 goals in 40 games. For some of us International football has so far been a harrowing experience.”
“22 in 42”, he corrects me quick as a flash. “And this isn’t exactly Liechtenstein, is it? These players know what they’re doing. No offence.”
“And lest you forget, we’ve got Project: Renaissance ready to go. You know it’s a good system. It’ll be fine.”
Crouchie’s right. Project: Renaissance has become my obsession lately. Despite not knowing what he was talking about, the beeb’s Don Collins was right about one thing: France need to play more than just functional football and along with my assistant, I’ve designed a system that should allow us to win beautifully. It’s probably the first time ever I’ve set out to play truly attractive football, but in my defence this is a system that very few teams would have a chance of pulling off. If anyone can do it though, it’s the French national team.
Project: Renaissance, put basically, is Project: Meatloaf taken to the extreme. Whereas Project: Meatloaf and pretty much all of my systems to date have tended to be simple in order to be picked up quickly and easily by “lesser” players and limit their creative freedom to make sure they’re doing their job, Project: Renaissance is quite the opposite. The players are told to play more instinctively and express themselves, especially in our front line where I want the 4 most attacking players to roam, float and interchange at will, finding pockets of space to receive quick passes to feet and play it on. The “wide men” are encouraged to come in and affect the game in the centre, the “striker” will have almost complete freedom to link up with his team mates as he sees fit, while our number 10 becomes almost a second striker, driving into the box as our primary attacking threat. The 2 full backs will charge down the lines providing a wide option to stretch defences and the central midfield pair will press high up to win the ball back in our opposition’s half. With our defence pushing up we’ll play the offside trap and we’ll use a sweeper keeper to mop up any loose balls at the back.
So far this should all sound fairly familiar, albeit with more freedom and fluidity. I do of course have some instructions for the team other than “Do whatever you want” though. On the ball I want us playing quick give-and-go football, using our superior movement, intelligence and passing to move up the pitch. We’ll play narrow and with a high defensive line to keep the game as compact as we can in the opposition’s half, which will help us off the ball where we’ll chase and harass the opposition mercilessly in order to win the ball back as quickly as possible. Above all, we’ll attack, attack, attack. This side should be able to attack nearly any other team home and away and impose our game on them. We’re taking elements from German gegenpressing and Dutch total football and on paper at least, I think Crouchie and I have come up with something pretty special.
Finally, the meaning behind the name Project: Renaissance. The Renaissance is a defining period of European history covering the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th centuries and is named after the French word for “Rebirth” as it’s seen as the artistic and cultural rebirth of Europe. The huge cultural shift from the middle ages into a more modern, humanistic Europe led to developments in things like the Arts and Sciences, just as my introduction as the French Head Coach will surely lead to huge developments in our style of football and eventually (Hopefully) a new generation of French World Cup Winners. This is a new era for me and it’s a new era for France. This is my rebirth. This is our rebirth. This is Project: Renaissance.