Monday, August 29, 2011

The English Patient - Arsenal

8-2...8-2.......EIGHT goals...a snow man in golf terminology. Just plain awful. The nice thing for me was because of hurricane Irene I had no power and therefore "watched" the game through my iPhone. Thankfully. Too bad Arsenal are no refunding fans who had to suffer through that match away from Old Trafford. Alas, after 3 games in the young season, Arsenal are just above the drop zone.

  Team P W D L F A W D L F A GD PTS
1 Man Utd 3 2 0 0 11 2 1 0 0 2 1 10 9
2 Man City 3 1 0 0 4 0 2 0 0 8 3 9 9
3 Liverpool 3 1 1 0 4 2 1 0 0 2 0 4 7
4 Chelsea 3 2 0 0 5 2 0 1 0 0 0 3 7

5 Wolverhampton 3 1 0 0 2 0 1 1 0 2 1 3 7

6 Newcastle 3 1 1 0 2 1 1 0 0 1 0 2 7
7 Aston Villa 3 1 1 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 5
8 Wigan 3 1 1 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 5
9 Stoke 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 2 1 1 5
10 Bolton 3 0 0 1 2 3 1 0 1 5 3 1 3
11 Everton 2 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 3
12 QPR 3 0 0 1 0 4 1 0 1 1 2 -5 3
13 Sunderland 3 0 0 1 0 1 0 2 0 1 1 -1 2
14 Norwich 3 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 2 4 -2 2
15 Swansea 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 4 -4 2
16 Fulham 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 4 -3 1
17 Arsenal 3 0 0 1 0 2 0 1 1 2 8 -8 1

18 West Brom 3 0 0 2 1 3 0 0 1 1 2 -3 0
19 Blackburn 3 0 0 2 1 3 0 0 1 1 3 -4 0
20 Tottenham 2 0 0 1 1 5 0 0 1 0 3 -7 0

The only funny part is who is in last place! Hey maybe next season Arsenal and Tottenham can battle it out in the Npower Championship, might actually make Wenger happy, he can start a bunch of teenagers all season!

I don' really know where this post will head so please bare with me...a couple of thoughts:

  • There are three entities that should shoulder the blame: Wenger the coach, Wenger the manager and the board.
  • Wenger the coach - cannot be sacked today, what could another coach do with this ragtag bunch of players? Can a new manager teach his defenders how to ... defend? Or somehow find a way to get the Arshavin of Euro 2008 to show up? Or get the likes of Walcott to live up to their over-hyped potential? Or keep Diaby on the field? Like or not we are stuck with Wenger the coach at least until the January transfer window.
  • Wenger the manager - to me he is the main culprit in this debacle. So you sell Clichy, Nasri and would think that with that cash windfall you would have some plan in mind on how to back fill these roles. Instead all Wenger does is talk about how the squad will rally behind this and close ranks. Rather than wasting our time telling us that Nasri and Cesc were going to stay, maybe Arsene should have been devising a plan on how to fill in these gaps. Maybe he did, in the back ground, but he seemed to keep saying that both players were going to stay that he convinced himself that it might be true! Feels like Rain Main - three minutes to Wapner...yeah....Wenger talks now of Hazard, well maybe making bids a month ago would have been good. M'Vila? Same thing...Kaka on loan, how about approaching your buddy Mourinho when the Special One was all but buying Kaka a bus ticket out of town? Instead Wenger the manager has stockpiled a boat load of cash and with 48 hour left in the transfer window would like us to believe that he will purchase 3-4 players. FAIL.
  • A lonely lonely man
  • The board -where have they been during this whole time? According to this post, Kroenke might not even care that his team will be lucky to get to the Europa League next year - click here. If that is the case then...ugh...not much one can do. And Manchester United fans think the Glazers are crocks, at least they SPEND and borrow and use ManU as a cash register, but they are winning and I am sure the value of the club is higher now than when they acquired it! If Kroenke and his cronies are satisfied to have a world class stadium that throws off cash then so be it, smells too much like the Boston Bruins under the Jacobs family, but at least they spent some money! If Kroenke really does want to win or at least feign competitiveness then what were they doing this summer??? WAKE UP!!
Wenger's time is coming to an end. His self imposed rules about not signing players over 30 to multi-year deals is asinine - you mean to tell me that the likes of Pires, Gilberto, et al could not have contributed to the team when they hit 30? Instead they were jettisoned due to the Wenger rule, of course until he decided to sign Squillaci.... What about the self imposed rule of running transfer as a business? I realize that the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City and the likes have taken all semblance of reality and spending and thrown in into the trash compactor, but as far as I can tell they seem to be finding ways to survive and WINNING.

The season is young...Arsenal might surprise us and come roaring back with a collection of no names. Or they might toil in the middle of the table...more likely.  The sad part to this weekend's thrashing - Manchester United's starting line up was younger than Arsenals....sad day for the Gooners, could be a sadder day as the end of the Wenger era seems to be crashing to a abrupt end.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Les Bleus get ready for Euro qualifiers - the home stretch

Ok maybe not the home stretch, but these next two games will go a long way in determining if France will be present next summer at the Euros. France are sitting in a good position, but they should not assume the qualification is in the bag at all.

Group D


1France France620121041192713
2Belarus Belarus722011133162412
3Bosnia-Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina620111131287110
4Romania Romania62100122228628
5Albania Albania621001222246-28
6Luxembourg Luxembourg7012004016113-121

France are a point up on Belarus, but with a game in hand. Bosnia still remains a threat, only 3 points back and with the last game of qualifiers in Paris, any slip up by Les Bleus and Bosnia could pull to the head of the pack. Forcing a decisive last game in Paris. With away matches at Albania and Romania upcoming, how France fare will determine whether or not we will have to sweat out the remaining matches or whether Blanc will be able to leverage those matches as preparation for the Euros.

First the the list from Blanc:

Lloris, Mandanda, Carrasso
Abidal, Evra, Kaboul, Rami, Koscielny, Rami, Réveillère, Sagna
Cabaye, A. Diarra, M’Vila, Malouda, Martin, Matuidi, Nasri, Valbuena
Benzema, Gameiro, Hoarau, Ménez, Ribéry, Rémy

No real surprises. As Blanc stated these are qualifiers, so not the time to start tinkering with the roster or adding players who are seen in better form than others.  What Blanc also spoke of, was to expect these two games to be tough, physical matches. Similar to what France went through against Bosnia. Does this shed some light on what could be a 4-3-3? Considering Blanc will also be without his central defensive pairing of Rami-Mexes. Mexes remains on the shelf recovering from injury and Rami is suspended for the Albania match. He might look to add even more muscle to his midfield and protect his back 4.

Based on the Chile match, I think we will see Sagna, Kaboul, Abidal, Evra on the back line. A 3 man midfield - ADiarra, Martin and M'Vila. A three man attacking formation - Malouda/Ribery on the left, Benzema up front and Remy on the right. Might also be seen as a 4-2-3-1, but I think Blanc will look to have Martin play much deeper. Without a healthy Diaby, I do not think Blanc can slot 3 holding midfielders in the 4-3-3.

Blanc must expect to deal with two physical teams and will need to counter with his own tougher midfield and look to get goals on the break or from a deep counter. We will be able to get a sense as the team starts to train ahead of the matches.

Allez les Bleus

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cesc and Nasri, don't let door hit you on the....

Fans of football, Barcelona and Arsenal are all waiting for the soap opera that is Cesc to come to an end. All signs indicate that the Arsenal captain will be heading back to his former club shortly. This has been long time coming and the soap opera for the past few seasons has been a distraction and quite frankly nauseating. Add to this all the horse bleep that has come out of Barcelona and the likes of Puyol and Xavi doing their best impersonation of John Calipari on the UK recruiting trail. I said this a few years ago when there was all kinds of smoke around Titi Henry and his leaving Arsenal, at some point it is better to sell the player rather than force him to stay. That is if you have a plan in place to leverage the revenue from the sale to back fill the position...

Chasing each other out of town
When it comes to Cesc, I can understand the desire to head back to where his heart is. While I cannot blame him, I still feel slightly bitter towards the Spaniard. I will admit, much of this is linked to his being anointed as he replacement for Vieira, he was even given the #4 shirt! My respect for Pat is nothing new and to me the way Vieira was shown the door at Arsenal is directly linked to the arrival or Cesc. From a footballing stand point I understand what Wenger was doing and seeing Vieira's career since leaving Arsenal indicate that Wenger was slightly vindicated. Or would Vieira's steel resolve been valuable the past few seasons? Cesc doesn't want to be here anymore, let him go, thanks for your time here, too bad you couldn't lead us to any silverware.

As for Nasri, his reputation as the "Petit Prince" has not been diminished in his demands for more money and subsequently forcing his sale, most likely to Manchester City. One characteristic that should never be criticized (not because it isn't criticize-able but just because it is a simple reality) is the desire of an professional footballer to seek more money.  I do not discount the frustration that must be felt by the likes of Nasri at a legitimate inability to challenge for silverware by Arsenal. But I am sure that if Arsenal met Nasri's pay demands, the lack of silverware contention would be quickly forgotten.

I would ask Wenger to get these two out of town as soon as possible, and with as much time as possible left in the transfer season. Not that Wenger or Arsenal will take advantage of that time. The Gunners have become the epitome of a club that is more concerned about the cash flow and balance sheets rather than the score sheets and trophy case. Granted the most recent transfers have Arsenal in the red:

Arsenal FC Arsenal FC -15.474.800 £

Gervinho (Lille) 10.560.000 £
Francis Coquelin (Lorient) * -
Pedro Botelho (FC Cartagena) * -
Armand Traoré (Juventus) * -
Carl Jenkinson (Charlton) 990.000 £
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton) 12.144.000 £
Jens Lehmann (End of career) -
Mark Randall (Chesterfield) free transfer
Gaël Clichy (Man City) 6.820.000 £
Denílson (São Paulo) * ?
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (Ipswich) 1.100.000 £
Pedro Botelho (Rayo Vallecano) * 299.200 £
Total: 23.694.000 £ Total: 8.219.200 £

However, if they sell Nasri and Cesc, receiving the expected to add close to 60m £ that would rapidly swing the negative into a 40m £ + positive. Now if Wenger is
willing to take that windfall and actually invest maybe I will be play with all this. 
But I fear he will buy a few bargain basement players and 
call it a day.

Alas, we might be looking at another season of no silverware and maybe even, 
gasp a place in the Europa League! Wenger's war chest must be quite 
healthy, unfortunately that money sitting in a bank does not score goals, make
tackles, dribble defenders or make passes.

Use it Wenger, otherwise what's the point?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Les Bleus opting for an attacking formation for Chile match

Surprise surprise, Blanc announces what appears to be a very offensive minded formation! What appears to be a 4-3-3 could really be seen as a hybrid Spanish formation: 4-1-4-1. A very offensive midfield.

The line up: Lloris - Sagna, Kaboul, Abidal (cap.), Clichy - Mvila, Martin - Rémy, Nasri, Malouda - Benzema.

No surprise at the back, with the absence of France's first choice central defensive pairing, Blanc opts for what appears as his most steady combination. Sagna and Clichy are natural choices on the flanks, especially with Abidal being asked to slot in the center and Evra having sat out.

Also no surprise that we see Benzema up front, based on his recent form as well it should be interesting to see if he can find some goals for Les Bleus. Here is the surprise for me - Martin, Nari, Malouda and Remy with only M'Vila as your natural holding player. That quartet of offensive midfielders looks to do what Spain does so well - keep possession. While I realize you can line up Martin deep, next to M'Vila, he is really more offensively geared. Now his talents can be leveraged to spring counter attacks from deep as well as be a late runner into the offensive actions. The formation could also swing to a 4-1-3-2 with Remy pushing up high on the right flank to shoulder Benzema.

It should be interesting to see how the game and team evolve during the match. Clearly Blanc is not afraid to try new formations and look to get his best players on the pitch, good for him. Unlike the previous regime, who stuck to one formation whether in the middle of a World Cup game, qualifier or friendly.

This should be very insightful.

Allez les Bleus

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Abidal back in the center - France v Chile

All indications point to Abidal - Kaboul as the central pairing for the French defense in tomorrow's match against Chile, which also be the pairing for the match against Albania in the Euro qualifiers (Rami will be suspended and Mexes recovering from injury). The last few matches for Sakho, both for France and PSG, have not exuded confidence in the eyes of Le President. How quickly things change, a few months ago Sakho seemed the clear #3 option behind Mexes - Rami!

Back in the middle again
With Evra injured, Clichy will most likely take up the left flank with his former team mate Sagna off on the right. The question is who will start in front of this back 4? With Blanc leaning towards a 4-2-3-1, it appears that Malouda is the choice on the left (made easier that Ribery was not selected) with Benzema up front and Nasri as the #10. So who for the right or the holding pairing?

Blanc was seen working Martin - Diarra as one pairing and Cabaye - M'Vila for another. The latter much more defense, the former with a #10 in Martin playing deeper, something Blanc had tremendous success doing while managing Bordeaux when he would line up Diarra - Gourcuff as his deep lying midfield duo. On the right I think the time will be split between Menez and Remy. With 6 substitutes allowed, look for Blanc to rotate his central pairing in the midfield, give both pairings a run at it. Look for Menez and Remy to split time on the right. And I can see Gameiro getting in 45 minutes at the top of the formation. I doubt he will swap out his central defensive pairing, unless he wants to see Sakho on the pitch for 20 minutes, hopefully get him back on the right track; however, I think Blanc of all coaches understands the importance of getting his central defensive pairing in sync, and this will be seen as his best chance in preparation for Albania, so expect to see his pairing stay together on the pitch for the full 90 minutes.

I do not expect too much from this game, players are getting back into game shape, are focused on the start of the season...Chile is coming off Copa America. I expect to see a bland 0-0 draw. The real issue will be, can Blanc get the most out of his 90 minutes to prepare for Albania?

Allez Les Bleus

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Ligue 1 starting up again! Guess who I think will win the title???

It never ceases to amaze me how little time professional footballers seem to get off between seasons. No wonder players are even more strained summers when there is a global tournament - which was the case this season with the Copa America. This should not impact too much the teams in Ligue 1, now the African Cup of Nations...that will be a different story.

The biggest news during this off season was the rise of Manchester City by the Seine - aka PSG. The team from the capital started splashing out tidy sums of money to acquire talent after being taken over by well funded Qatar owners. It will be interesting to see if, as the French say, "si la mayonnaise prend." Marseilles also made some noise, namely in not losing DD - Deschamps, their manager. Lille are the defending Cup and Championship winners and the exodus from the northern French team was less severe than feared. So who will finish in the top 5 this year? Read on ...
  • FC Sochaux: The surprise team from last campaign will build upon their 5th place finish and...maintain that fifth place finish! Much of their continued success will be due to continuity. Primarily in the fact they have held on their core, especially the new French darling Marvin Martin, even though the transfer winds were strong. The dynamo play maker made some noises that he would like to join PSG or others, but nothing came of it...yet. The other major factor why I see Sochaux defending their Europa League spot is that none of the other contenders really improved themselves enough to get into the top 5. I would, however, keep an eye on TFC, they did add some fire power and talent but I do not think enough to challenge Sochaux for Europa League play. Now if Martin does leave before the close of the transfer window, Sochaux will drop back to the middle of the pack. Look for the likes of TFC or Rennes to slot up.
  • Olympique Lyonnais: It was not that long ago that the club from France's gastronomic capital was seen as Ligue 1's best chance at European glory, and why not? With the likes of Essein, Malouda, Abidal, Benzema and the likes having worn the OL kit. Unfortunately it is never easy at the top of the pyramid. Especially when you miss on some key signings - Gomis, Gourcuff to name two. I do see Lyon coming back very soon based on the youth that has come up through their system and who is poised to make a greater impact on the senior side: Kolodziejczak, Gonalons, Lacazette, Tafer and Pjanic. They might be one more season from truly gelling as a unit. The transition in the Rhone region continues but they are not far from contending again. Unfortunately, veterans such as Gourcuff, who
    Better days for the play maker
    was brought in as key pieces to build around have failed to impress. Is the French play maker overrated? I know I have had many debates with the Gooner about this very topic, and after the past season I am starting to believe that the Gooner might be right. Gourcuff had a break out season at Bordeaux, but since then it appears that the burden of being anointed the next great French #10 is too much for his slender shoulders. With a new manager - Remi Garde (who by the way is rumored to be in line to replace Wenger at Arsenal whenever the Professor decides to move on) - who has been with Lyon since 2003, Gourcuff will need to establish himself and his game under a new system. Lyon's season will depend greatly upon his ability to regain some of the form that teased us while at Bordeaux.
  • LOSC: The defending French Cup and Championship side will not defend either title, too much attrition. Cabaye, Gervinho, Rami, Frau, Emerson....and the list goes on, but it did stop at the prize possession - Hazard. LOSC did bring in some replacements: Rozenhal, Pedretti and Payet to name a few. Not that the comparison is fair, but Rozenhal to replace Rami, Pedretti to replace Cabaye and Payet to replace Gervinho. Not like replacements, but what LOSC did that was intelligent was bring in players from Ligue 1 or who have played in Ligue 1. This should ensure a smooth transition for the club.  However with Champions League football and defense of two titles in addition to the year long rumors that will invariable swirl around Belgian winger Hazard, I think this will prove too much for the "little engine that could" of French football. LOSC have too much talent left over and were able to hold on to their best player, Hazard; however it will be too much to ask for them to mount another title winning campaign.
  • Paris St Germain: Surprise! I bet some of you thought I would pick them to win the title this season...why not I have done so consistently in the past when they had a far less exciting transfer season as this year! With the additions of Douchez, Gameiro, Matuidi, Menez, Sirigu, Bisevac Sissoko and the cherry on top - Pastore, add to this more rumors of players coming to Paris such as Cole and Berbatov - and you have a very exciting off season for the Parisians. I have argued with Gooner that, unlike Manchester City, these moves all making footballing sense and are not just the exploits of a front office drunk with petro-dollars. Granted if they also sign Berbatov and Cole we might start creeping into MCFC territory, but I digress. PSG had a good run last season, but just did not have enough to stay in contention. The main reason? Goalkeeping - check with Douchez and Sirigu that should not be a problem. Midfield depth - check with Pastore, Matuidi, Menez and Sissoko replacing the older Makelele and Giulys of the team.

    Scoring - check with the addition of Gameiro and Menez, if Hourau can ever find his goal scoring touch again then look out. If you add a Berbatov to that mix then goals should not be an issue. The other positive for PSG - not losing Sakho to the likes of Arsenal or Barcelona. Having him pair with Bisevac, in front of a solid keeper will go a long way to stabilize the back line for PSG. So why not in first place? I am not convinced that Kombouare is the right man for the role. Tactically he has not shown me anything and when it comes to personnel I am not convinced either - he was opposed to signing Nene last season, without him PSG would have been stuck mid table. I also think PSG need a season under their belt before we can see PSG live up to their potential.
  • Someone looks happy
  • Olympique de Marseille: Bleehhh...that was painful to type....might need to wash my hands. Hard for me to accept, but OM will win the league title this season. They stuck around all season, but could never make a serious charge to threaten Lille; however, look for this to change this season. With the main question of whether or not DD would stay, having been resolved, Marseilles spent a relatively calm off season, instead allowing their hated rivals PSG make all the noise. They were able to add Bordeaux captain Diarra, a player long sought after by Deschamps to add muscle to his midfield. The situation
    with Gonzalez remains a moving target, with the latest rumors being a move to Serie A. If that move were to materialize, look for DD to target another striker, possibly Gilardino from Fiorentina as a replacement. Regardless of the Gonzalez/Gilardino dance, Marseilles have the players in place to win the title. With the likes of Remy, Gignac, Valbuena, Mandanda, Cheyrou, Diarra, Amalfitano, Fanni to name a few, OM have the necessary fire power and depth to capture the crown. Ugh that was painful for me to write.
Teams that will have to fight on their hands to avoid relegation:

ASSE: The once storied French side have yo-yo'd between Ligue 1 and 2 for the past few seasons. This year will be no different with the losses of Payet and Riviere look for Les Verts to struggle to stay in Ligue 1.
Auxerre: Another storied Ligue 1 side will find the sledding tough after a net loss in the transfer market, especially their captain Pedretti who was the engine for the small French side. The one time hot bed for youth talent, thanks to Guy Roux, has become a small club that tends to punch above its weight, but they are destined to get knocked down one of these days.
FC Lorient: Talk about a team that punches above their weight class, but with the losses of Gameiro, Morel and Amalfitano it will be too much for the club.

If the likes of ASSE and Auxerre get relegated, Ligue 2 will look like Ligue 1 in the 1980s - Nantes, Lens, Monaco, Metz, Le Havre...

This should be an exciting Ligue 1 season, if nothing else to see a ratcheting up of the OM - PSG rivalry.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Sakho - Kaboul tandem for France v Chile

Looks likely that this, Kaboul and Sakho, will be the defensive central pairing for the match against Chile and might very well be for the Albania match as well. I forgot that Rami was suspended for a Blanc will have to leverage this match to test out his central pairing.

Jumped to #3 in the queue?
Some might say that Abidal should slot back in the center, while he always stated he did not want to do so, he has spotted Barcelona this past season at central defense and done so with great aplomb. However as Blanc points out, his offensive skill on the left flank is something to be taken advantage of. The Chile match takes on even greater importance for the PSG center back as his last matches under the France flag have not been 100% reassuring. Granted it was the end of the season, playing in what amounts to exhibition matches. However, the player that was once seen as the clear "next in line" at central defense, no longer is afforded that luxury. With the likes of Koscielny returning from injury and Varane making the big move to Real Madrid, there appears to be some competition that might be emerging.

I think Blanc will allow Sakho and Kaboul to play the entire game against Chile, similar to what he did with Mexes and Rami from day 1 of his tenure. As a former international central defender, Blanc is well aware of the need for the pairing to develop a level of understanding vital to successfully navigating those waters. Something obviously lost on his predecessor - Dumbenech.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

La Rentree, back to work - Blanc calls up his 23 for the Chile match August 10th.

Laurent Blanc has called up 23 players for next week's friendly against Chile. Not too many surprises, the list:

GARDIENS : Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cédric Carrasso (Bordeaux).

DEFENSEURS : Eric Abidal (Barcelone), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Younès Kaboul (Tottenham), Adil Rami (Valence), Mamadou Sakho (Paris-SG), Anthony Réveillère (Lyon), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal).

MILIEUX : Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Alou Diarra (Marseille), Yann M'Vila (Rennes), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Marvin Martin (Sochaux), Blaise Matuidi (Paris-SG), Samir Nasri (Arsenal).

ATTAQUANTS : Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Kevin Gameiro (Paris-SG), Guillaume Hoarau (Paris-SG), Jérémy Ménez (Paris-SG), Loïc Rémy (Marseille), Dimitri Payet (Lille).

The one "surprise" is no Ribery and Payet is back in the line up. Ribery is slowly recovering from an ankle injury so not really a surprise that he was left at home. Blanc has called up a number of players that work the wide channels on the pitch - Malouda, Menez, Remy and Payet. Arguably Nasri can also play on the wide side, and really only one pure central offensive midfielder - Martin. with Gourcuff still on the shelf, this is really the Sochaux play makers time to make his mark on Les Bleus. Also there is no Mexes due to injury, so it will be interesting to see how Blanc navigates his central defensive pairing.

It will be interesting to see how Blanc works his formation, I have a feeling we will see Blanc lean on the 4-2-3-1 and look to place Martin in the middle of the formation. Blanc will have to be thinking ahead to the start of qualifiers with tricky away ties against Albania and Romania. Blanc will need to focus on the following 3 potential problems prior to the Euro matches:

  1. Central defense - with Mexes recovering from knee surgery who will shoulder Rami? Kaboul? Sakho? The PSG captain was seen as the natural replacement, however his last few matches for France have not infused tremendous confidence while the Tottenham man has surprised with his form.  I am sure that Blanc will give both players 45 minutes with Rami to see who makes the most sense.
  2. Who will be the playmaker - the natural choices are Martin or Nasri, or will Blanc look a particular formation that will dictate where the play making comes from? Might he go back to a 4-3-3 and look for 3 more defensive minded midfielders and look for his wide players to provide the offensive creative play? The 4-3-3 worked well in Bosnia but Blanc has not looked to play this since that match.
  3. Where will the goals come from - Benzema appears to have the lone striker role sewn up, especially since reports are he is the best shape of his playing career. However Gameiro was very influential in the last matches for France and could offer a different look up front. Les Bleus and Blanc still need to work out the front of their formation and where they will get a regular stream of goals.
For the match against Chile I see the following: Blanc will go with a 4-2-3-1 for part of the match. Look for the following starting line up:

Lloris - Abidal, Rami, Sakho, Sagna - ADiarra, M'Vila - Malouda, Nasri, Menez - Benzema

I see Kaboul getting 45 minutes for either Rami or Sakho, but I have a feeling the Tottenham man will spend a good part of his time partnered with Rami. I would also expect to see Martin spend some time in the middle of the formation as well as a potential 4-3-3 with a front line of Malouda - Benzema - Menez and a midfield where Martin might slot deeper or Cabaye partnered with M'Vila and Diarra. Finally, look for Gameiro to get some time up front either as the lone striker or in the high line of three in a 4-3-3.

Chile will prove to be a good challenge for Les Bleus. The South American side will be a stern test and will be interesting to see how they line up after a Copa America  and will the likes of Sanchez line up?

I do fear a rather bland game, most players will be still in the middle of their preseason training. But this match and its lead up will be vital for Blanc as he gets ready to finish out Euro qualifiers. Another interesting note - 5 players from PSG! That was usually the case back in the 1980s, but such a strong showing from PSG has not been seen a long time (granted 3 of those players just signed with the club - Gameiro, Matuidi and Menez)

Allez les Bleus.