Friday, May 25, 2007

Les Bleus for Ukraine & Georgia - more surprises

Domenech released his list for France's two upcoming EC qualifiers against Ukraine and Georgia. As usual the philosophical manager made some interesting selections and some head scratching non-selections.

First the list:

Gardiens : Grégory Coupet (Lyon), Mickaël Landreau (Paris-SG), Sebastien Frey (Fiorentina)

Défenseurs : Eric Abidal (Lyon), François Clerc (Lyon), Julien Escudé (FC Séville), William Gallas (Arsenal), Bakary Sagna (Auxerre), Sébastien Squillaci (Lyon), Lilian Thuram (FC Barcelone)

Milieux : Abou Diaby (Arsenal), Alou Diarra (Lyon), Lassana Diarra (Chelsea), Claude Makelele (Chelsea), Florent Malouda (Lyon), Samir Nasri (Marseille), Franck Ribéry (Marseille), Jérémy Toulalan (Lyon)

Attaquants : Nicolas Anelka (Bolton), Karim Benzema (Lyon), Jimmy Briand (Rennes), Djibril Cissé (Marseille), Sidney Govou (Lyon)

Some thoughts:

  • Glad to see the youngsters Nasri and Benzema. They played well enough in their lest friendly against Austria to warrant another look. Nasri, from all indications, has the potential to become the next #10 for Les Bleus. While I am far from anointing him as the replacement for Zidane and Platini, he has shown enough talent and sang froid to be viewed as a player that can pull the strings in the midfield. Benzema, is a young talent (19 years old) at striker. He has shown flashes of brilliance with Lyon and score on his first Senior call up with France. He is not at the same level as Henry and Trezeguet were when they played for France in 1998 as a pair of 20 year olds at the World Cup, but the experience will help him reach for that level.
  • Very interesting to see 2 more youngsters brought into the squad - Briand and Sagna. Briand has been playing very well for one of Frances' surprise domestic squad - Stade Rennaise. He is a top 20 goal scorer with 9 goals in league play, and had finished the season on a strong note. He brings pace to the front line. Sagna is an interesting call up. I would attribute this to a combination of need and good timing. Sagna was voted one of Ligue 1s best lateral defender by his peers for the season, a great accolade for the young Auxerrois. In addition, with the injuries to Sagnol and the apparent cold shoulder to Chimbonda (as well as the Tottenham player not having the best end of season) opened the door for the young defender. I think the fact the second game will be played at Auxerre played a role in calling him up for these series of games.
  • Gouvou, again interesting to see the Lyon player selected once again. He has played well this season for Lyon but not outstanding play. I have never been overly impressed by him but for some reason Domenech sees something I do not. I also think the brace he scored against Italy in Euro Qualifiers gives him a prolonged term with the senior squad. But why not look at a player such Peguy Luyindula? Both players made their way into the French squad around the same time, Peguy has dipped in form but this past season he has seen his talent and star re-emerge. He has been one of the only shining lights for PSG. And statistically done better than Gouvou - 3 goals vs 1 goal. 1 goal every 314 minutes vs 1 goal every 1790 minutes....
  • The non-retained players. Once again Trezeguet has been left of the senior squad. He has been scoring goals for the Old Lady but because he is in Serie B has not been considered by the French manager.....but why was he called upon for the Argentina match? I realize that Trezeguet has been cold for Les Bleus, but like all strikers they go through hot and cold spells and you need to keep feeding the player to get him back on track. His partnership with Anelka (granted against the Faroe Islands) appeared to be promising. With the selected strikers Domenech does not have a true poacher...or really any striker that can dominate in the air, two areas of Trezeguet's strength. I fear that his strike force is talented, it is young and thin on experience. And Cisse has not be lighting it up for the French in a while either! Another interesting exclusion is Mexes. He has been a regular starter for AS Roma this season and has shown why Thuram has stated that he is the next rock in the middle of the French defense. The one good thing about Domenech's rule of Serie B players is that we don't have to see Boumsong.....
  • Sebastien Frey - He has always been the forgotten keeper for France. But he has been plying his trade, and doing so very well, in Italy for many seasons. Where he English he would be a clear #1 on his national team. For now he has to accept his role behind Coupet and Landreau....but that is one position I am not too concerned about. With Landreau and Frey, France has solid keepers for the foreseeable future.
  • The injured - Saha, Henry, Vieira, and Sagnol. There is a lot of experience in those players that will not be available. Vieira will be missed in the middle of the pitch partnered with Makelele, Toulalan is good replacement from the talent level, but does not have the ability to bridge the defense and the offense as well as Vieira can do. Saha and Henry will be missed, but with Anelka's recent form there should not be too much drop off in talent but definitely in depth. The biggest loss is Sagnol. The right back position will need to be filled by Clerc or Sagna (Escude could fill in but not ideal). Both players are talented defenders but lack the experience and the offensive/crossing ability that Sagnol brings. Then again without Trezeguet to latch on to those crosses might not be as important......
I do like the fact Domenech is infusing some youth, and doing so for games that count not just for friendlies. I realize that all managers need to make decisions on who to leave at home and who to include. Taking Gouvou rather than Trezeguet is a mistake, but last time Gouvou lite up the Italians....however Trezeguet needs to build up his rhythm and relationship with strikers like Anelka. Even if he did not play, the ability for him to train with the rest of the squad would go a long way for the talented striker.

How I would line them up for Ukraine -

Clerc, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal
Makelele, Toulalan
Ribery, Malouda

I would throw Nasri into the big bath. Anelka does not necessarily need a #10 to feed him the ball, he can create on his own. Ribery and Malouda can control the channels and force the defenders to key on them while Nasri would be asked to distribute to 3 quick offensive players. With Toulalan and Makelele protecting him, I think Nasri would be free to leverage his offensive talents.

I will be curious to see what line up Domenech does give us. I am not sure Cisse and Anelka would make sense with Malouda and Ribery behind them, there would be too many runners and not enough passers, unless you allowed Ribery to slot more to the center of the pitch. That would leave one of the wings too exposed...

These next two games will be a good opportunity to see some of the youth for Les Bleus, I hope that we do not sacrifice results in order to see the youth running around the pitch.


Laurie said...

I like your Anelka-Nasri combination. I'm expecting to see Anelka-Cisse again, but they really haven't clicked together so far, havae they? It does look like Cisse's done a bit better for Marseille recently, so perhaps he'll play better for France as well.

I think if we could find the right partner for Anelka up front, France could be explosive. Do you think an Anelka-Henry pairing has good potential when Henry is finally fit again? Henry claims he doesn't like to play alone up front, but other than Saha (to some extent) there just hasn't been that click with another forward that would result in the points that France is capable of.

I was shocked that Mexes wasn't called up. I thought it was a given that he was the heir apparent for Thuram. What did I miss?

GFC said...

First, I agree on Mexes I am a bit if not very surprised. He has been solid for AS Roma. The only reason I can see him being left at home is the to bring pure right and left fullbacks with Sagnol being injured. But that does not really make sense. I would think you would leave Squillaci at home, Escude makes sense since he can cover on the right or left in an emergency.

Second, with Anelka, I really thought that the 45 minutes he played with Trezeguet looked good. Again I realize we are talking about a game against the Faroe Islands, but watching them work together I thought Anelka worked well of Trezeguet and vice versa. I still think there is a system for Henry and Trezegol to work together. They were so successful for the longest time, when they played a friendly in Germany they were deadly! But for some reason things have not clicked between the pair in a while. I think Henry - Saha and Anelka - Trezeguet are good combos, with Cisse as the super joker. With Benzema and others in the wings, I think the French have a good thing going with their strikers, but it will all come down to finding the right combo and managing those that do not get the playing time.

I think that once Henry is fit and back to his old self things will work themselves out. I just hope that Domenech gives players like Trezeguet the opportunities they deserve.

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