Sunday, May 09, 2010

France World Cup squad - Part 3 - Midfielders

So we have covered the Keepers and Defenders in my last 2 posts, now the heart of the team - the midfield. This is getting tricky, why? First there are some players that are at times considered forwards who I consider midfielders also there are some players that I think will be called up and could be looked to play some defense as well.

Midfielders that should be selected: 
  • Yohann Gourcuff (Bordeaux): I will not start with the "next Zidane" line, because there is no next Zizou just like there was never a next Platini. However the former Milan player has clearly carved himself out an important role within the French national team, as well as domestically with Bordeaux. He is the one player that can play the #10 role - distributing the ball, taking responsibility for free kicks and adding a goal when need be. While he does not have the touch that Zizou had or the scoring flair of Platini he does have enough creativity and vision to be able to unlock any defense at any moment. The concern for me is whether or not he will be heading to South Africa in the best mental and physical states. His play this season has dropped off, not surprising after he logged the most games in his career last season. I also wonder if he is properly used by Domenech. I have stated that I think he should be dropped further back similar to Pirlo, Veron or Ballack, this would give him more space and time as well as force opposing defenses to respect his ability to use the long through ball to catch a defense napping (others agree). Let us hope he recovers and is 100% for the World Cup...and that Domenech uses him more wisely. A reminder of what he can do at any moment...

  • Lassana Diarra (Real Madrid): The Real Madrid of the more interesting choices for a player to wear that number, similar to Gallas a central defender wearing it for Arsenal (good article about this "mis-numbering") also not in top form. However it is hard to argue with his performances for Les Bleus. He has a great engine and is a world class holding midfielder and unlike the player he is so often compared to - Makelele - he does bring some offensive punch to his side. I would also include Lass on the roster because in a pinch he can slot back to left back.
  • Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon): The Lyon holding midfielder can never be criticized for his work rate and engine, the only knock on him is that sometimes he runs too much...without a purpose. To me he is much more in the role of Makelele - midfield destroyer. I would put him on the roster not only because he does his job very well, but like Lass in a pinch he could slot back defensively into a central defensive role. I actually think he would be better suited to convert, similar to Marcel Desailly, into a central defender.
  • Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich): I see Ribery as a midfielder/winger so will categorize him in this group.

    Next to Gourcuff he is France's most creative player, maybe the most. He has had an injury plagued season and now has had some personal issues command the headlines, but this should not prevent him from having a good World Cup, I am hoping. He has been constantly lobbying to be played at his preferred position of left wing/midfield, the problem for Les Bleus is that they have an abundance of talented players that would like to own that left channel - Henry, Ribery and Malouda to name 3. A good problem to have unless of course you have few options for the right channel!
  • Florent Malouda (Chelsea): Once banished from the national side, the Chelsea man has crept back into the discussion and team based on his performances with Chelski. With 12 goals and 8 assists this season he is clearly back to the form he had with Lyon. Similar to Lass and Toulalan, he could also slot back in an emergency (he actually started his career as a left back) he can also slot higher on the pitch as a deep lying striker. His form of late also warrants him potentially pushing for a starting role and at worst be a game changing substitute leveraging his pace against tired defenses.
  • Abou Diaby (Arsenal): I am sure this will get Sam's blood boiling a little, he and I have had many discussions on the Arsenal man's value and development. I do still believe in the former Auxerre midfielder as a natural left footed player he adds an element to this side in terms of flexibility. He is a hard tackler, sometimes reckless, but also has a decent offensive element to his game. At times I think he could develop into the main holding midfielder shouldering Gourcuff in front of the back 4.

  • Samir Nasri (Arsenal):The former Marseilles play-maker should be on the plane to South Africa. Why? First I think he is a valid option to man the right wing/midfield role. Second he can also slot back into a more central role in the midfield - which he has done for France and Arsenal. He has a good goal scoring touch and the passing ability to also spring a defense. Unfortunately Domenech has not called up the Arsenal man in a long time so maybe he has forgotten about Samir, which is unfortunate since he should be on the plane to South Africa and should be manning the right wing for Les Bleus.
Who Domenech will take:
  • Gourcuff
  • Ribery
  • Toulalan
  • LDiarra
  • ADiarra (Bordeaux) - Domenech can never have enough holding midfielders....
  • Gouvou (Lyon) - One of Domenech's binkies...the brace he got against Italy in the Euro qualifiers has kept him in the French national team..not sure why. I have Gouvou as a midfielder, he is sometimes slotted as a forward.
  • MSissoko (Toulouse): I would not be disappointed seeing the talented midfielder head to South Africa. Again not sure why you would need another holding player, but Sissoko has a huge upside so I would not "poo poo" the selection.
Other players to watch:
  • Benoit Cheyrou (Marseilles): The OM holding midfielder received a well deserved call up last round of internationals and of course never saw the pitch. He has had a superb season for Marseilles, unfortunately I think there are too many players ahead of him.
  • Ben Arfa (Marseilles): The former "prince" of French football also got another call up last international break. While he has yet to live up to his enormous raw talent he has played well this season and has the creative flair that France could use. I just do not think Domenech would leverage a roster spot for this mercurial player.
  • Mathieu Valbuena (Marseilles): Okay 3 straight OM players, but the "Petit Velo" has also had a very solid season for OM. He, similar to Nasri, could solve France's problems on the right wing as well as slot in center of the park if need be. He did get a call up a year or so ago only to have to forfeit the chance due to injury.
  • Patrick Vieira (Manchester City): The former France captain has not been within earshot of the squad for what appears to be a life time. Mainly due to his difficulty in staying healthy! While I will never question his heart nor what he has brought to the French national team, I am not sure Domenech can risk taking a player that has logged limited minutes and is at the tail end of his career.
  • Rio Mavuba (Lille): Again another holding midfielder where France seems to have an abundance of...once figured prominently in Domenech's system but has not been called up for in years. Has had another outstanding season with Lille, but too much depth for him to be called upon.
  • Jeremy Menez (AS Roma): The 23 year old has been somewhat forgotten once  he left France for Italy, partially because he found himself stapled to the bench. However this season he has become a vital cog in Roma's challenge for the league title. He too could be leveraged as a winger or play maker...too bad Domenech does not seem to want to have anything to do with Italy.
I fear that Domenech will look to bring many defensive minded midfielders and leverage his strikers to fill the winger chasm, unfortunately he does not seem to realize the solution to his right wing issue lies in the midfielders he could already call upon. When does his reign of terror end?


    Anonymous said...

    It's great to finally hear someone agree that Domenech must have a bias against players in the Serie A. Mexes and Menez and he didn't want anything to with Viera when he was at Inter.

    Anonymous said...

    ..oh, and when Flamini was playing well for AC Milan he was ignored for the most part also.

    GFC said...

    I think that Domenech forgets sometimes that there are good players in the Serie A! Let's not forget Frey as well...

    Memejfr said...

    If Samir Nasri does not go to the WC I will be very upset

    GFC said...

    @Memejfr, I complete agree. I think Nasri has had a very good season with the Gunners and he deserves to be on the plane to South Africa. Especially since he could be the solution to France's right wing problems.

    GFC said...

    I also need to make a correction - Abou Diaby is not a natural left footed player - Sam did correct me on that.

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