Monday, February 12, 2007

Les Bleus - some food for thought

Since the France - Argentina match I have had some responses, thanks Laurie at, as well as some conversations with fellow footie fans about the state of the French national team. Here are the two areas of conversation - the French backs as well as the future of the French strikers.

First, with regards to the backs, this past weekend we once again say the wealth of talent the French have to draw from with regards to left backs. Clichy and Evra, plying their trades in the Premiership, both demonstrated their skill and pace. Clichy was everywhere in the Arsenal - Wigan match. To quote Brett "how can he not have a French cap yet" good question. I would surmise that losing last year to injury has delayed his emergence on the full senior French team. While Clichy may not have the offensive skills a Sagnol has, he definitely has the pace, confidence and ability to mark the best strikers in the world. A great example is watch his game when Arsenal beat Man United at the Emirates. He did more than hold his own against Rooney. Clichy is a product of AS Cannes, which produced the likes of Micoud, Vieira and Zidane....not a bad pedigree.

As for Evra, he made his way onto the French national squad while he was at AS Monaco, but his move to Manchester United seemed to send him to the waste land until he was called up by Domenech a few matches ago, marking the end to a 3 year sabbatical. I think with Evra's replacement of Heinze as the starting left back for Manchester United has elevated his name in the eyes of Domenech.

Here is the catch, Eric Abidal has established himself as the French left back, in addition his Lyon teammate Malouda plays left midfield and the two work well together attacking and defending. With the French team moving to a more wing based attack - attacking on the left with Malouda and Abidal on the right with Ribery and Sagnol, it would appear difficult in the short term for Clichy or Evra to make inroads into the starting squad. However, there have been some rumors that Abidal will be starting to play more in the middle of the defense...that might make room for one of the above mentioned to claim their stake at left back. I would much rather see a Gallas - Abidal pairing in the center of the defense with Clicy/Evra on the left.

Now on to the right back, with regards to Sagnol - Clerc. First I think that position is Sagnol's until he decides he no longer wants it, being 29 he should be able to make it through the European Cup and maybe to South Africa for the World Cup. Willy started out as a winger, which shows up in his many forays into the offensive end of the pitch. His crossing ability is second to none, he almost delivered a huge cross to Zidane in the World Cup final, only to see Zizou's header turned away by Buffon. Second, I am not sure why we are looking at Clerc as his heir apparent...granted he is young - 23, but he is still not Lyon's undisputed right back. Clerc and Reveillere are both trying to establish themselves at the post. While I think both could be the French right back in a few years, I think the real question should be why is Chimbonda not being called up on a regular basis to the French team???? He was a last minute surprise selection for the World Cup team, a very deserved selection after being voted the best right back in the Premiership for 2006! But post world cup...where has he been? He is at his peak - 27 - he is competing in one of the most difficult leagues in the world, for a large club - Tottenham. I am not sure if something happened during the month of World Cup football, but the fact he has not been recalled, while the likes of Clerc have, baffles me. Watching Tottenham, it is evident that Chimbonda is top flight right fullback. He can mark, make runs, and use his speed to recover. Clerc and Reveillere should be 3rd and 4th in line behind Pascal...wake up Domenech!

Finally, what about the strikers. Especially Anelka. I have been a huge fan of his, I was living in Paris when a certain Wenger swooped in a "bought" this young prodigy that was in the PSG development program. I remember the French press, and myself, were a bit irked that this great player that would have been a corner stone for PSG was taken from under our noses by the cunning Wenger (then again had he stayed at PSG I am sure he would have been complete lost in the insane asylum that is PSG). He only went on to dominate the English premiership scoring a bushel of goals...of course he then went on to play for every team in Europe - Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbahce, PSG (again), and now Bolton. He has earned the name the "incredible sulk" for a reason...however his talent is exceptional...his attitude not so much. The question remains does Anelka have a place in the French squad? With Henry, Saha, Trezeguet, and Cisse is there room for Nico to hold a place and play a role in this squad? I think yes. He brings something that few of these strikers have - the complete package of pace, size, being able to take on defenders, and ability to finish. While some might point to his attitude, I would argue that while he is not 100% over his moniker of "sulk" he is now playing with his contemporaries who are the leaders of the squad and will be more likely to control his attitude "issues."

Unlike the French teams of the 80s, when we had players like Lacombe and Six to play up front, the current version of the French national team has a wealth of options to pair up at the striker position, and Anelka should be part of the equation.


Anonymous said...

Hey, it's Laurie at again. I've got a nice little post linking to you coming up tonight. Check it out after around 9:15 or so. And thanks for the link!

GFC said...

Laurie, thanks for the post! Very cool.