Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blanc announces his list for upcoming internationals - Martin the new face to the mix

This morning, Laurent Blanc announced his list of players that he will leverage in France's upcoming matches. France will face Belarus in Euro qualifiers and then play 2 friendly matches against Euro 2012 hosts: Poland and Ukraine. It will give Les Bleus an Eastern European test to go into the summer break!

First of all the list:

Gardiens : Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cédric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
: Eric Abidal (Barcelone/ESP), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal/ANG), Adil Rami (Lille), Mamadou Sakho (Paris-SG), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/ANG), Anthony Réveillère (Lyon), Younes Kaboul (Tottenham/ANG)
Milieux: Alou Diarra (Bordeaux), Blaise Matuidi (Saint-Etienne), Yohan Cabaye (Lille), Yann Mvila (Rennes), Florent Malouda (Chelsea/ANG), Abou Diaby (Arsenal/ANG), Jérémy Menez (AS Rome/ITA), Samir Nasri (Arsenal/ANG), Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich/ALL), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Charles N'Zogbia (Wigan/ANG), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)
Attaquants : Kevin Gameiro (Lorient), Guillaume Hoarau (Paris-SG), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), Loïc Rémy (Marseille)

France's next play maker?
The biggest surprises - the play maker from Sochaux Marvin Martin gets his first call up to the senior squad. The leading assist man from Ligue 1 gets a well deserved inclusion. There is no Gourcuff, who is injured, so this might open the door a bit for a player such as Martin to create a bit of a presence as France's #10. Interesting to also see N'Zogbia included in a squad that seems to have a number of options on the left flank: Ribery and Malouda.

As usual Blanc has a deep set of players to lean on for his holding responsibilities: Diarra, Matuidi, MVila, Diaby and Cabaye. He has options on the left, see above, and some decent depth for the right - Menez and Valbuena, even Nasri in certain formations.

What makes me nervous are his options up front. France seem thin when it comes to true world class strikers. Benzema will most likely be the starting option, but I am not convinced that the secondary options can be relied upon. I am not saying there is not some quality there, but just not the level that inspires confidence.

I will be interested to see what formation Blanc looks to lean on, the game in Belarus may look very similar to the one in Stade de France: Belarus defending 10 men behind the ball and looking for a goal on the counter and set pieces. Knowing that, Blanc might opt for a more offensive formation. Maybe a 4-4-2 diamond, play one holding midfielder, two wide flank players and an offensive midfield player sitting right behind the two strikers. It will also be interesting to see who Blanc turns to in central defense, Mexes is out due to knee surgery.

MVila (or Diarra)
Ribery Menez
Hourau - Benzema

I can see Blanc leveraging Hourau, looking to get control of the Belarus' 18 yard box and allow him to get crosses from the wide players. Nasri would tuck in behind the strikers, Ribery and Menez will provide the width. Much will be expected of Diarra/M'Vila to do the work cleaning up any loose balls in the middle of the park. Sakho will be expected to find his bearings quickly with the other defenders.

It should be interesting!

Allez les Bleus.


Anonymous said...

Belarus poses a tricky tactical problem, well out of proportion to its talent level. France doesn't match up particularly well against this kind of ultra-defensive team. I think the strategy you outlined is basically the same one France tried the first time against Belarus. It makes sense theoretically, but I'm not convinced by Hoarau, who has been ineffective for les bleus. Unfortunately, he may be France's best option against this kind of team. The other problem is that the 4-4-2 diamond is fairly narrow. If France is going to play crosses to the box, it needs width. I suppose the FBs could provide that, but Sagna is pretty weak in that department. Then again, France's best (as of late)wide midfield players, Ribery and Menez, don't realy like to cross the ball to target men like Hoarau. They both prefer to dribble past the defense and play low crosses to strikers. France's best hope to score is probably off of set pieces. Sakho's pretty good in the air, right?

GFC said...

Good analysis. I agree about Hourau, I included him in the starting XI simply because of his size.

One aspect that I did not mention but needs to be considered: you are certain to have a potato patch pitch. I am sure the field will be awful, meaning quick and precise passes might be difficult. Look at France's previous trips to Lithuania.

To your question of width, I think that Sagna and Abidal will offer some wide play, I agree that their crossing is not the next coming of Sagnol! Blanc could go with a 4-2-3-1 remove Hourau and slot in another midfielder - maybe shoulder MVila and Diarra, look to replicate what he did away to Bosnia. Try to snuff out any midfield threats from Belarus....or even go with a 4-3-3!

Should be interesting to see how the team practices go and what Blanc leans towards.

Anonymous said...

Great write up and really looking forward to seeing Abidal back in the fold!

GFC said...

Good point about Abidal, it is great to see him back in the fold.

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