SPIRO BLOG: 'Heaven knows I'm miserable now'
By M. Spiro
New Bordeaux boss Jocelyn Gourvennec will turn to Morrissey for inspiration as he looks to lift the gloom in southwest France, writes Ligue1.com's Matthew Spiro.
With his greying hair, bushy eyebrows, calm demeanor and sombre suits, Gourvennec comes across as one of Ligue 1's more conservative managers. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The new man in the Bordeaux hot-seat is most unconventional. Certainly his passion for rock makes him more Slaven Bilic or Jurgen Klopp than Arsène Wenger. The Frenchman's desire and capacity to think deeply on a variety of topics - from football to philosophy - is more Arrigo Sacchi than Sam Allardyce.
Breaking the mould
As a youngster, Gourvennec was quickly earmarked as a gifted attacking midfielder, but he refused to take the usual route of joining a youth academy, preferring to further his studies and make his own way in to the game. He played the flute and wrote his own blog about music. This creative streak was natural, and reflected in his languid, visionary playing style. Initially compared to Michel Platini, Gourvennec was a free spirit bristling with talent, and while he never truly fulfilled his potential, his refreshing style brought great pleasure to fans at Rennes, Nantes and Marseille.
He was different on the pitch but even more so off it. After games, whilst team-mates headed to nightclubs, Gourvennec would travel to Paris, or even London, to take in a rock concert. The Arctic Monkeys and Morrissey remain particular favourites. When he wasn't writing he would be reading Paulo Coelho or essays on socialism in France.
Gourvennec first thought about becoming a coach during his time at Nantes, where he played under the legendary trainers Jean-Claude Suaudeau and Raynauld Denoueix. As mentors go, he could hardly have asked for better, and you don't have to dig deep to find out where his insistence on collective pressing and perpetual movement come from.
The 44-year-old's quiet, forceful personality is perhaps more suited to life in the dugout - and he certainly underlined his managerial credentials during a tremendous six-year spell with Brittany side Guingamp. This tiny idiosyncratic club proved a perfect match for Gourvennec, who steered them from the third tier to Ligue 1, glory in the Coupe de France and Europe. Not bad for team emanating from a village of 7000 inhabitants.
Gourvennec left Guingamp as a legend in the summer, and his subsequent appointment at Bordeaux has provided the south-western club's fans with a much-needed injection of optimism. He is seen as one of the brightest coaches around - and not only in France. UK-based magazine FourFourTwo recently included the Breton in their list of the world's top 50 coaches, PSG's Unai Emery being the only other Ligue 1 representative.
Blessed with natural authority, the tall, elegant trainer is drawing comparisons with Laurent Blanc, who steered Les Girondins to their sixth and most recent league title, in 2009. Like Blanc, Gourvennec is a 'hands-off' coach, observing training from a distance as his energetic, volatile assistant Eric Blahic dishes out the instructions.
"It's the same style as before," long-serving midfielder Grégory Sertic told L'Equipe. "Laurent Blanc arrived with his ideas, and Jean-Louis Gasset was behind him barking orders. I'm not the only one to have noticed." Gourvennec is arguably more innovative and tactically astute than the former France manager, but Bordeaux is his first big job.
Whether he can perform similar miracles to Blanc remains to be seen. The club finished a disappointing 11th last term and their beautiful new stadium was rarely more than half full. Indeed, the local rugby team is attracting more fans than Les Girondins these days. Yet the potential to reverse that trend remains and the football club appears to have taken steps to address the trend of stagnation this summer.
Gourvennec has pulled off shrewd signings, luring two France internationals, Jérémy Toulalan and Jérémy Ménez, as well as injecting some talent and youthful exuberance in the form of striker François Kamano and left-back Youssouf Sabaly. The arrival of holding midfielder Toulalan from Monaco should help a defence that leaked 57 goals last term (the fifth worst record in the league). "Jocelyn's methods are simple and he explains what he wants very clearly," Toulalan told L'Equipe. "Everything is clear, well prepared and we understand well."
Moment of truth
We'll get a better idea of what exactly Gourvennec wants when Bordeaux play Saint-Etienne on Saturday. He is likely to employ the 4-4-2 that served him well at Guingamp. Ménez and Diego Rolan provide an enticing cocktail of power and technique through the middle, with speedsters Kamano and Malcolm on the flanks. The Bordeaux fans are keeping their fingers crossed they will be watching an expansive, attacking team this term after several years of average fare. As for the defence, Gourvennec has cited Sertic as the answer to last season's woes: the midfielder looks set to drop to centre-back alongside Nicolas Pallois, and insists: "We'll be more solid now. No question."
One thing that won't be changing is the music that greets the Bordeaux players when they run out. Their musical connoisseur of a coach has validated the current ditty, 'Liquido' by Narcotic. "I already have it on my Iphone," Gourvennec said. "It's not a recent song, but it's aged well. Certainly better than (Marseille's song 'Jump' by) Van Halen."