Saturday, November 13, 2010

Where have all the French forwards gone?

Henry, Trezeguet, Anelka, Cisse, impressive list of strikers. And before you mock the inclusions of Cisse and Saha let us not forget what Saha was doing with Fulham and then Manchester United or the fact that prior to Cisse suffering horrific leg breaks he was one of the most sought after strikers in the world. Some of the goals he scored for Auxerre were absurd and he has lead two domestic leagues as top scorer. What is interesting is that Henry, Trezeguet and Anelka all came up together. The first two making the 1998 World Cup winning squad with the latter being a late cut from the squad.

And since 1998, France have had the luxury of being able to call on this talented pool of strikers. However today it appears Les Bleus have the opposite problem. With the international retirement of both Henry and Anelka, the age of Trezeguet and Saha, and finally the off again on again form from Cisse, Blanc does not appear to have options that Les Bleus otherwise took for granted. Players like Le Tallec, Sinama Pongolle, Aliadiere and Gomis were suppose to provide some fresh blood to the strike force. All have shown some potential but none have come close to the hype.

Even the supposed new golden boy - Benzema - has failed to impress recently struggling at both club and country level to approach the expectations that he established while at Lyon. He is still young - only 22 - so all is not lost. But one has to say that so far he has not lived up to what is clearly enormous potential. It is somewhat disconcerting that your #1 striker is a 10 - 15 minute substitute for his club.

None of the other strikers would be mistaken for Henry or Trezeguet in their prime:
  • Gameiro - nice player with good pace. But not sure he is a world class international level striker.
  • Hoarau - won a Ligue 2 scoring title had a great first season with PSG but has struggled with injuries and form. His recent showings for Les Bleus have been useful, but not top notch.
  • Remy - always compared to Henry, which we should stop doing. A nice player with great pace and good finishing, a real option coming in from a wide position. But again, not sure he has become a top class international striker.
  • Payet - The inform striker in Ligue 1, although he and St Etienne have cooled off recently, another good striker with pace but appears to better fit the late game substitute than a 90 minute striker.
All of these strikers are young - under 26 - and bring different strengths to the table, however none stand out based on form for either club nor country. Interesting that all 4 listed above still play in Ligue 1....

This is what makes international football so interesting, or frustrating to some like Gooner. Unlike at Arsenal or PSG or Real Madrid, you cannot simply go out and acquire players to fill needs, you have to do what you can with the available national talent. Clearly Les Bleus have the opposite problem when it comes to defensive midfielders: M'Vila, ADiarra, LDiarra, Matuidi, Toulalan, Flamini and Mavuba - have all been called upon to hold up the defensive responsibilities for Les Bleus. Clearly a wealth of options. Even left back - Abidal, Evra and Clichy. Or look at Argentina - Messi, Higuain, Tevez, Milito and Aguero were the striker options at the World Cup - ridiculous depth and talent, yet they could not find serviceable right and left fullbacks!

Clearly international sides have to deal with the talent that comes through the ranks and cannot simply purchase for need. France is dealing with this right now, how to replace the likes of Henry and Trezeguet up front. The cupboard is not bare by any stretch but when you no longer have the services of two of Les Bleus' all time scorers, the task is much more daunting. There is some help on the horizon in the likes of Kakuta, Sunu and Griezmann who have all shown great potential for the U19 squad. However players like N'Gog and Obertan will need to step up soon and integrate with the current crop of forwards waiting for the Kakuta generation to fulfill their potential.

A bright future, but still questions remain for the near term.


Anonymous said...

Good article ...But u forget one name..That was Sylvian Woltord...



GFC said...

Good point, Wiltord is sometimes the forgotten forward yet he was an important cog in France's run...especially in 2000 scoring the tying goal versus Italy in the Euro 2000 finals.

Very interesting the generation of offensive players Les Bleus had - add Djoraeff, Micoud, Pires and of course Zizou makes you realize how talented those teams were.

philip said...

I think Gignac should come back when he gets his form again. He did score a hatrick not too long ago. I think he could be a world class striker.

GFC said...

I am not convinced about Gignac. I think he is limited - has one foot....his right. He has decent pace and positioning, but I just do not see him coming close to the level you would expect from a World Class striker. I think he can be a serviceable international but will not become the next Trezegol or Henry.

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