Paris Saint-Germain coach Laurent Blanc has blamed the World Cup for his team's - at times - lacklustre first half of the season.
PSG won the 2013-14 Ligue 1 title with 89 points - the greatest total in the league's history - but have struggled to overcome opponents in the first half of the 2014-15 campaign, drawing eight and losing one of their 19 matches before the winter break.
Blanc reckons his squad has been struck by a familiar problem - post-World Cup fatigue - with the likes of captain Thiago Silva, fellow defender David Luiz, midfielders Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti, plus strikers Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi all involved in Brazil.
It leaves PSG three points behind leaders Marseille (41) and one adrift of second-placed Lyon (39) with the second half of the season to come, and Blanc is convinced his team is ready to reel in their rivals.
"The years go by but the problems remain the same - the World Cup was very hard to get over for certain players and we, the coaching staff, are trying to get them back to their best level. But it takes time," Blanc told PSG's TV program 'This Is Paris'.
"The players aren't machines or robots. I've been through it myself and I know what it's like.
"It has to be clear in their heads. They have to want to work hard, train hard and they have to really want to beat their opponents.
"I think we've got there now. Fortunately, during the time it's taken for us to get there, we haven't dropped too many points."
Blanc's preferred formation of 4-3-3 has been criticized at times this season, with some fans and pundits wondering why the coach does not tinker with his set-up when facing different opponents.
But that criticism frustrates the 49-year-old: "When I hear people criticising PSG's formation... this is the formation that earned us 89 points last summer! 89 points! The all-time record!" he said.
"We played some fantastic games, winning three, four or five-nil. So we, the coaching staff, are trying to draw on what we did well last year. That's totally logical. In fact, it'd be incoherent not to do it. People always want change... no, no, no."comments