Rennes have announced that Philippe Montanier has been dismissed as the manager of the club and has been replaced by former Montpellier boss Rolland Courbis.
The move represents a cold calculation on the part of President Rene Ruello who clearly believes that Courbis can achieve the short-term success necessary to propel Rennes into qualifying for Europe for the 2016/17 campaign.
Parts of the French media will undoubtedly bemoan the rather deceptive manner in which Rennes made this move, initially appointing Courbis last week as a special advisor to President Ruello after the former had quit his job at Ligue 1 rivals Montpellier at Christmas time.
During his unveiling press conference as special advisor last week, Courbis had the following to say in his role: “I am here to support Montanier, without overreaching into his role.”
While these quotes from last week are now consequently being smirked at following the events of the last seven days, Rennes fans have reasons to be cheerful.
When Philippe Montanier took over at Rennes in the summer of 2013, there was much anticipation. The move was seen as a coup for the Brittany side at the time, with Montanier deciding not to remain at Real Sociedad in Spain, despite having sealed a Champions’ League qualifying place for them in 2012/13.
Montanier’s decision to trade sunny Spain with rainy Brittany was met with incomprehension by many, but Rennes were delighted. What followed over the course of the next two and half seasons however gave the club’s faithful very few reasons to be cheerful.
Tirelessly incongruent. An apt way to describe Montanier’s tenure at the club.
At the beginning of his reign, Ligue 1 expected attacking, pleasing on the eye football from Rennes. What they got instead was consistently indecisive leadership from Montanier, who even as recently as this season has tinkered around with the tactical setup to such a degree that any type of sustained good form from the club was nothing but a daydream.
4-2-3-1, 3-4-3 and 4-4-1-1 have probably been the three most used formations this season by Montanier, and while this solutions tactically appeared to be some of the most successful during his time at Rennes, especially away from home, it was SRFC’s lacklustre performances in front of their faithful at Roazhon Park that real sealed his fate.
As mentioned aptly on The Get French Football News Show on Monday, only Ligue 1 bottom side ESTAC Troyes have a worse home record than Rennes this season. This, married with the mind-boggling amount of changes in personnel that Montanier seemingly made every week, ensured an unstable dressing room and an unclear hierarchy from position to position.
How could Montanier expect the players to perform impressively on a consistent basis if they are not play regularly, and especially if they are not playing regularly together?
Anyway, the point is that the arrival of Courbis gives the chance for entire squad to start with a clean slate, in a Ligue 1 season where the European places are certainly there for the taking.
Because despite such disappointing football in the main from Rennes over the course of the last two and a half years, the squad that Montanier has left behind exudes individual quality, at least from a Ligue 1 perspective.
Paul Georges Ntep is slowly coming back to his lightening brilliance after being out with injury and will surely occupy the left-wing permanently under Courbis. On the right hand side, the young Ousmane Dembélé is currently setting France alight with his performances.
With the reliable if clunky Giovanni Sio up top and the incredibly talent Juan Quintero in behind him, Rennes have one of the most salivating attacking lineups in the French first division.
With experienced heads like Gelson Fernandes in the middle of the park and Benoit Costil in goal, the spine of this outfit is talented enough to successfully attain a top four finish.
In Rolland Courbis, Rennes now have a man motivator, a character, but an individual who is reshaping his reputation as a football manager who has the personability to enable a squad to over-achieve.
There is no doubt that Rene Ruello’s managerial chopping and changing this week has been cutthroat and perhaps even controversial, but the move is likely to prove to be a shrewd one.