I just don’t bloody know. Crouch leaving has left me in the uncomfortable position of not having an assistant or anyone in mind to be my next assistant. After consulting with my staff about potential replacements and getting nowhere, I put out an advert and wait for the applications to start pouring in. Auxerre and France coach David Bechkoura will stand in and assist me as best he can for club and country in the meantime.
David’s first job will be to help me strategise for our home match against Monaco. We didn’t have the best time against them last time we met so we’ll need to be smart about this and defend resiliently to prevent a repeat performance.
Only joking. We played our best football in the PSG match when we went at them and attacked. We’ll do that from the start today. I can just feel it, we can pull off an upset here. Arturo Vidal and Faouzi Hikem will miss out through suspension though so Raf and Billy are drafted in.
The first half is one way traffic… But not in a good way. The best chances all come from corners, firstly when Giménez flicks on Bernardo’s cross and Jorge heads straight into Lenogue’s arms. The next one is on the half hour mark. Again Bernardo swings a cross in and this time Giménez heads straight for goal but is denied by a combination of Lenogue and Billy blocks on the line. The ball bounces down kindly for Adrien Rabiot though, who makes no mistake from a yard out. 0-1. Just before the break, we’re undone again: Bernardo in, Lenogue comes out, misses his interception and leaves that man Giménez with an open goal to nod the ball into. We’ve ballsed this up a bit haven’t we.
Having found no joy in our attacking set up we drop back just slightly and attempt to control, to keep the ball and to find a foothold before the game slips even more out of reach. With half an hour to go, Joël, Ferhat and Tirard all come on, but the result’s put beyond doubt with 5 minutes to play when more of my French National side link up, namely Sidibé drills a cross in from the right and Mbappé’s shot deflects in off Captiste and wrong-foots Lenogue, who I should probably point out is blameless for this one. The second half is better than the first, but not by much.
In the wake of the game, I’m not really in the mood for things that don’t involve stopping the rot at Auxerre. Championship side Wolves’ Chairman Guangchang Guo barely manages to say the word “interview” before we’re mysteriously cut off.
Joël’s also barely able to voice his concerns about his lack of first team football before he’s set upon by the ridiculously convincing Captiste, who turns the little Ivorian’s frown upside down.
With that out of the way, I can focus on wallowing in self-pity. Auxerre are starting to fall apart. Ok yes, we’ve lost 2 matches in a row by a combined score of 0-5 but they were against PSG and Monaco. I get that and I don’t want to go overboard. We were always going to lose those. The press don’t agree though, calling me “Reluctant to experiment tactically”.
This notion of course leaks straight into social media, where the general public waste no time regurgitating it as their own view. Perfect.
But the final straw for me is when Pep Guardiola feels the need to defend me in his press conference when asked about my abysmal record against… Well, Paris Saint-Germain. The way Pep phrases it though, it feels an awful lot like pity and it makes my stomach churn. I don’t need your pity, Guardiola, I don’t need advice from the papers and I definitely, definitely don’t need it from social fucking media. But fine. You know what? I concede. I’ll change. I’ll create a system to “stop” PSG unlike anything else I’ve put out before. If we lose, then at least everyone will be able to accept that certain teams in Ligue 1 are just far bloody better than us.
So what do we need against Pep and his 4-2-3-1? Well we’ll need to borrow elements from defensive systems I’ve used before of course: We’ll play narrow and restrict space in the middle, forcing them out onto the wings. We’ll also sit deeper to prevent their rapid players from slipping in behind us and we’ll sit off more and stay on our feet to prevent them from pulling us all out of position. Our defensive full backs will chuck crosses in but for the main part we’ll play through the middle, where we’ll have plenty of legs.
And the shape? Well the shape is dedicated to Dylan Marchal and his blog. Can you tell what it’s meant to resemble?
That’s right, a sword. A sword and absolutely nothing else, because of the rapier-like wit Dylan no doubt exercises in his little blog. Project: “Sword” is go.
Lenogue’s on the thinnest ice in terms of coming out for corners now, but he keeps his place still thanks to the goodwill he’s built up with me over the last 2 years. Samba, Captiste, Sohna and Hikem are the back 4, Vidal and Goujon hold midfield, Fomba and McCarthy are the energy in front of them, while Foden plays off Ferhat at the top end of the pitch.
PSG do take the lead, but the first half hour is their absolute worst nightmare. We defend valiantly, we deny them any space in the middle and we harass them mercilessly as they attempt to push forwards. It’s Orlando that opens the scoring, tapping in a Lato cross to give the hosts the lead, but each side manages just 2 shots in the first half hour. And then, against all odds, we equalise. Just before the break, Foden passes inside to Ferhat, who’s dropped deep and has Fomba running in behind. Ferhat helps the ball on and Lamine Fomba shoots low and hard past Donnarumma to equalise.
The second half devolves into the hosts taking pot shots from way outside the area, only 2 of which find the target. We hold the fuck on for the draw.
Social Media are impressed and so am I. That’s our losing streak over. That’s our run of losses against Pep over. That’s us… 18th in the league, but ignore that. We’ve done well today.