Thursday, May 31, 2012

Another win for Les Bleus - but a big time scare early on

So France march on with another victory in preparation for the Euros. This one much easier than the first against Iceland. Yet it too had some scary moments...right from the beginning!

The Good:
  • Like I stated after the Iceland game...a win is a win. Unlike the Iceland game, Les Bleus came out with their dancing shoes on and quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead and it could have been 3-0 at the half hour mark had Benzema been able to react to a deft Ribery pull back. But the game was much easier for France overall and the victory well deserved.
  • Speaking of Ribery, another goal and really a fantastic match for the Kaiser. Ribery started this match in his preferred left attacking spot. He and Clichy seem to click immediately, the Manchester City left back jumping into the offense allowing width to the attack. On the Ribery goal it was a nice little overlap from Clichy after Ribery had drawn 3 defenders that opened up the space. Ribery was then able to run to the open space left by the Serbian defenders, follow up on a dangerous cross from Clichy and finish with a powerful volley. In addition, Ribery was allowed to float and interchange with Malouda and Nasri, really popping up all over the field. Scoring two goals in two games has to be good for the Bayern man, he looks ready to have a good tournament.
  • One has to give a tip of the cap to Malouda and Nasri as well. The Chelsea man had a wonder goal from distance, showing a willingness to shoot, something too few midfielders seem to do these days. Like Ribery, Malouda allowed himself to run to space and take what the Serbian defense gave him. The same can be said for Nasri. While he tried to maintain his position on the right, he too allowed himself to take what was given. At times two of the midfielders found themselves stacked on the same side, but not an issue when the defense was giving that space away.
  • Lloris was once again solid. It is easy to overlook sometimes the consistency of the Lyon keeper. He was called upon to make some above average saves, in particular on a free kick early in the second half. His play and steady hand will be vital to keeping the French well grounded from the back.
  • The wide players - Clichy and Reveillere - both played solid games. Giving Blanc some good options for who he wants to lean on for left and right fullbacks. I still put my money on Debuchy on the right but on the left Clichy could play his way over Evra.
The Bad:
  • Midfield work in progress...why bad? Because there are 11 days until the start of the tournament! I think the Ribery - Nasri - Malouda midfield was good...but I think there remains work to be done. I am not sure that with Nasri you have enough balance between the left and right side. Nasri tends to like to come back to the middle and while Malouda and Ribery pop up on the right, the real threats are from the left. Does this mean Ben Arfa is the solution on the right? I do not know. And that is bad this late in the game.
  • Benzema...might be a surprise but I think his lack of finishing is a bit disconcerting. He had a clear 1 v 1 early on, while the keeper made a decent save, a striker of Benzema's caliber needs to make the keeper work harder for a save. He also had a clear opening when Ribery showed some twinkle toes on the end line, granted it wasn't the easiest ball to handle, but again player of his level should at least get a foot to it.
The Ugly:
  • M'Vilas ankle...ouch. After 44 seconds it looked as if a key part of Blanc's set up could be done. Seeing the Rennes midfield on the bench sobbing after being taken off at the 4th minute was also a tad nerve wracking. M'Vila has become one of Blanc's main players and one quickly sees why when he is on the pitch. He provides cover for the back 4 and adds steel to the midfield. France could go far if he plays and plays well, without him there is definitely a lost element.  Thankfully all reports indicate the injury will not keep him out the Euros. 
  • Yellow cards .... for Mexes. Ribery played in two games and scored twice, Mexes has played in two games and recieved...two yellow cards. These do not mean anything now, but once the games start for real if begins to pick up yellows it will not be good for France. Especially since Blanc only has three natural center backs. Something that could get ugly if not controlled. 

Again a win. First half was very good. France played simple and fast, constantly putting Serbia on their back heels. The second half it appeared that fatigue caught up to both sides and we fell into a lackluster international scrimmage. That is fine as long as you win and do not get hurt!

One more before we start for real.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Blanc will get his squad in the next 24 hours

After the match yesterday, Blanc announced that he will have his roster set by today or tomorrow, meaning 2 unlucky will head home. So who will it be? A good article about those that might be on the short list, click here. The names listed - Yanga-Mbiwa, Gourcuff, Martin, Matuidi, Valbuena and Evra! The last name being the most surprising.

I think the first two names are the ones that should be left off the list. Here is why:

  • Yanga-Mbiwa - he has a good future with the senior squad showing what he can do this season for Ligue 1 champion Montpellier. However I think that in a pinch Blanc is going to lean on some veterans to provide cover at central defense (Mbiwa has not played a single minute for the senior squad). If he has to go to his #4 center back France has bigger problems! Diarra and Evra could both slot in the middle in a pinch. I think that Blanc will want to keep that roster spot open for one of his offensive midfielders who will more likely play a role with the squad.
  • Gourcuff - I just do not think he is 100% ready to showcase for the national side again. As I mentioned in my last post, I feel the Lyon midfielder is a gear or two slow when it comes to the way Les Bleus are playing these days. Gourcuff needs more time to recover with regards to his game and his physical health. Because of that I do not think that Blanc should carry him on the roster when he could instead keep the likes of Martin who, while did not have a great season at Sochaux, remains a spark plug that can turn a game on its ear as a substitute.

Matuidi might be on the outside looking in, but I think that Blanc will want to keep 3 pure holding midfielders, I know that Malouda can slot deeper and Cabaye can play that role. However both these players are more geared to the offense. Valbuena and his ability to play both wings is a valuable component - much like Martin can offer a late game change of pace. Evra, for not showing well yesterday remains a veteran - something that Blanc values.

We will see...does Blanc favor his binky (Gourcuff), take chances with his center back depth?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

France v Iceland a tale of two halves

Who would have thought this would be a hard fought 3-2 victory for France? A bad first half, from the scoreboard perspective, not necessarily from the play on the field. A much better second half and in the end a victory for Les Bleus.

The Good:
Le Petit Prince scored some points
  •  A win....a come from behind win none the less. Regardless of what the ranking is for Iceland in the world...131 if you are curious...going down 2-0 at half time and being able to come back in the second half to win the game has to be encouraging. France made two defensive gaffs in the first half and demonstrated what happens when professional football players are given a chance. But Les Bleus continue to press on and were rewarded with a victory.  Something to build on...the alternative would have been difficult to accept.
  • The right side of the formation - Ben Arfa and Debuchy. What was interesting with these two players on the field was that what tends to be a left heavy attack for France now switched to the right side. The Newcastle midfielder was constantly putting the Iceland defense on its collective heel, while the Lille right back was constantly making dangerous overlapping runs from his fullback spot. Debuchy even open his international scoring account, aggressively pouncing on a deviated ball in the box. I have a feeling this will be the right side for Blanc heading into the Euros and might be one we see for a few years.
  • Giroud once again showed why he is a viable option up top for France. While he did not score he got the assist on both Ribery and Rami's goals. Both times doing what a penalty box striker should do - receive the ball and distribute to cutting teammates. His ability in the air and to hold the ball deep might make him a valuable offensive joker during the tournament.
The Bad:
  • Going down 2-0 the way France did was not good...a tentative play on 50/50 ball by Mexes led to the first goal and some sloppy covering by Evra led to the second. The Manchester United defender was sloppy again in the second half forcing a terrific save from Mandanda. I think that part of the sloppy play was the fact Blanc did not align a true holding midfielder. This forced the back 4 of France to play higher on the ball than usual. Mexes was pushing up the field to challenge the Icelandic offense...only allowing space to be created behind him. I would hope that the introduction of M'Vila would alleviate this problem. But something to keep an eye on.
  • The left side of the attack. What has been the strength for France recently was absent tonight. Granted the usual starter - Ribery on the left wing - did not play until the last 15 minutes and when he did the dynamic on the left changed. There was little going on between Menez and Evra. The Manchester United left back at times was invisible offensively, not making any threatening runs. This left Menez alone to try and animate that side. I think the PSG winger did a commendable job, but was a shadow of what the right side was able to do. We shall see if that remains the case if Ribery is inserted back on his preferred wing. 
The Ugly:
About as fast as his game was going
  • I have to say Gourcuff did not impress me. And his play was not bad, I would say it was ugly. Why? When he was not on the pitch, it appeared that Les Bleus operated at a different speed. That speed was not slow. To the OL midfielders defense, he is still no 100%. He worked hard for the ball. However every time he came back to get it, the game appeared to slow down. He was sloppy in some of his passes, seemed to head backwards or sidewards too often rather than ahead and just did not seem to bring any offensive creativity or punch. I do not believe he should head to Ukraine in a few weeks.
  • Speaking of Gourcuff...the defending of set pieces was not pretty. Iceland's first corner kick went sailing to the back post where TWO Icelandic players were there and only Gourcuff to defend. He was not even in a good position! I am sure that Carrol or Crouch would salivate at being that open on June 11.
Overall it was an entertaining game, and the result can let us all sleep better! There remains a lot of work to be done for France. I do think that it is encouraging that the right side of the French formation is where much of the attack came until the introduction of Ribery late. I did like the fact Menez and Ben Arfa as the game went on starting popping up on opposite wings. Unlike other French teams, I believe the creativity will have to come from the wingers - Ben Arfa, Ribery, Menez and Valbuena. For that reason I think Blanc will keep all 4. Martin and Nasri were decent in the middle as outlets, I think that Gourcuff will be the odd man out. But we still have a two games and some training sessions to go before we determine who goes.

Next up - Serbia on Thursday. Should be interesting.

France v Iceland: De l'audace, encore de l'audace, et toujours de l'audace

Well well well. "Le President" must have read my post about the Christmas Tree...of course my Christmas Tree is more to act as defensive base with three holding midfielders protecting the back 4 and acting as the destroyers in the midfield. Blanc's Christmas Tree is one that is all about moving forward. France's line up:

Le onze tricolore :
Mandanda - Debuchy, Rami, Mexès, Evra - Cabaye, Gourcuff, Nasri - Ben Arfa, Benzema, Ménez

Reunite again
The top three are really more of a 2-1, with Ben Arfa and Menez expected to animate the wings with Benzema up top as the striker. The midfield three of Cabaye, Gourcuff and Nasri are not going to be mistaken for the likes of Karembeau, Petit and Deschamps, three very defensive minded midfielders. Much pressure will be placed on Cabaye, playing somewhat our of position, as the only true holding player. This formation could rapidly evolve into a 4-1-4-1 with Gourcuff and Nasri pushing higher on the pitch filling the space behind Benzema and between the two wingers. They can also stay deeper allowing the wingers freedom to roam in the offensive zone.

While I would be shocked to see this formation showcased on June 11th, it is interesting to see Blanc think "outside" the box for these friendlies. I am sure Blanc has his system in mind, but wants to allow some of his players an opportunity to showcase themselves before he has to cut two more. This game will be key for the likes of Ben Arfa and Gourcuff. For the former I think Blanc will look to see if he can animate either wing and even slot to the middle supporting the high striker. For the former Bordeaux midfielder, he must demonstrate that he can bring some creativity from the midfield as well as being able to keep up for the majority of the match. Another player to keep an eye on is Debuchy, can he build upon his good showing against Germany? The right back role is wide open. While I do not think he is at risk of not going to the Euros, he must still show progression in his play to warrant, what I believe will be, his starting at right back for the tournament.

I like this strategy by Blanc, it will give him a sense of what he has offensively and allow the likes of Gourcuff and Ben Arfa to showcase immediately.

Prediction: France 3 - Iceland 1

Goals: Benzema, Ben Arfa and Menez...with assists from Nasri to round out the 87 Generation!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The "Christmas Tree" option for Les Blues

My cousin Benjamin can attest, when we face off on FIFA 12, that I sometimes employ "le sapin" or the "Christmas tree" formation. The formation is a 4-3-2-1 (looks like a christmas tree). Ancelotti was famous for using this when he managed at Milan and used a similar formation with PSG. What got me thinking was is this an option for Blanc? I realize that seeing Blanc change from a 4-2-3-1 is about as likely as seeing Uruguay qualify for the Euros, but it does have some potential.

Just add presents under the tree

First a little history lesson. Les Bleus won the 1998 world cup by employing such a formation. I realize that they probably argue they had a traditional 4-4-2 formation...but with Deschamps, Karembeu and Petit on the field together you had 3 holding/defensive midfielders. Zidane and Djorkaeff acted as the two offensive midfielders with Guivarch as the "striker"....(quotes because he was really just a warm body not really an international striker). So why not with this side?

The biggest headache for Blanc - he doesn't have a real #10...so why not look for the creativity to come from your wide players, aka your fullbacks pushing up and allow your three pure offensive players to free lance...the formation could look like the following:

Lloris
Evra, Mexes, Rami, Debuchy - the two full backs will push high on the pitch and both have good offensive instincts and skill
M'Vila, Diarra, Cabaye - granted the Newcastle man is not a pure defensive midfielder but he plays a deep lying role and his a good passer from deep. Diarra and M'Vila would be there to do the dirty work.
Ribery, Menez (or Nasri or Ben Arfa) - allow the two offensive midfielders space and freedom to switch wings. They would also have the potential to cut into the field and allow their fullbacks to push into the vacated space to add width.
Benzema - can play well as the lone striker, but can also drop deeper to pick up the ball or allow one of the midfielders to push higher.

Just a thought for Blanc. The advantage of this formation is France could really clog up and block the midfield and hit teams on the counter. Without a true #10, they do not really have a player that can be the outlet and the creator in the middle of the park. Granted when France ran this in 1998, they had one of the greatest players of all time in Zidane...they had a #10 that would always act as the safety valve for Les Bleus.

Something to think about Laurent!

Allez les Bleus!!!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

PSG fall a tad short

What an ending for Ligue 1, not as crazy as what happened across the channel a week ago with Manchester City, but still a crazy ending. With Montpellier only needing a draw away to already relegated Auxerre and PSG needing to win versus Lorient and hope that Auxerre pull of the upset, it made for a tense last day.

Enjoy it while you can..
It started off well for PSG with Auxerre some how going up 1-0 versus Montpellier...and then all hell broke loose. Toilet paper, tennis balls and other objects rained down onto the Auxerre pitch from idiotic fans protesting the storied French side's relegation. This caused delays, teams being pulled from the pitch and questioning whether or not the game would continue.

Meanwhile, PSG decided to once again make things difficult and give up a goal to Lorient while watching their golden boy Pastore miss 2 chances. PSG finally woke up and found a way to a 2-1 victory, but because of the shenanigans in Auxerre the game was delayed so PSG was able to watch as Montpellier fought back themselves to a 2-1 victory. With that, the club from the south of France are crowned Ligue 1 champions. PSG only have themselves to blame. All one needs to do is look at the 6 dropped points versus Nancy, shouldn't a club of PSG's stature and aspirations be able to at least split the games against a club that was in a relegation battle most of the season?

PSG has announced it will increases its budget by 50m Euros to 200m Euros for next season, putting in the same neighborhood as the likes of Intern Milan. Clearly they are going to look to make inroads in the Champions League. But they must also demonstrate a greater ability to manage a championship - and cannot drop points uselessly.

On the flip side, I fear that Montpellier will suffer from its success. They stand to lose some of their key players heading into a Champions League campaign...might be ugly.

Congrats to Montpellier for winning Ligue 1, enjoy it while you can!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

26-23=3 to be cut before heading to Euros

Blanc has kept 26 players in his pre-list...list for the Euros. He will need to reduce that number by 3 for his final list. Here are the players to keep an eye on:

Kaboul - The Tottenhan central defender has already declared forfeit for the Euros. After re-injuring a nagging knee know, he will not be available for Les Bleus.That is one of the 3. No odds - he isn't going.

Remy - The OM striker also picked up an injury and is in question whether or not his fitness will come back in time. Unlike Kaboul, Remy does not seem to have a clear cut replacement in the list. The striker order appears to have become Benzema the starter with Giroud and Remy as his deputies. Remy offered the flexibility to play on the wings as well. Odds 50/50 that he goes, entirely depends on health.

Together again?
Gourcuff - Does the midfielder have enough to get back in the squad? The manager has a soft spot for Gourcuff and that might put him on the flight to Eastern Europe. Much will be determined in training. Does the midfielder have enough in his legs to be a viable option for the French midfield? I am doubtful that he is any where close to the form he had a few seasons ago. Odds 50/50 a lot of this due to his relationship with Blanc otherwise I would drop his odds at 30%.

Ben Arfa - To me the Newcastle midfielder should be a shoe in to go, but I have a feeling Blanc will heavily scrutinize "Le Petit Prince." I would think that Malouda is the one in jeopardy but Blanc keeps talking about the Chelsea man's experience...Ben Arfa might benefit from Remy not being able to go as the midfielder brings pace and creativity that can be leveraged on the wings (where without Remy would be a void to fill). Odds 75% he goes.

Matuidi - Blanc has retained 3 true holding midfielders - Diarra, M'Vila and Matuidi. For that reason I would think that Blanc will keep all three. However, he demonstrated against Germany that he was not afraid to slot someone like Malouda as a deep lying midfielder. Could Blanc see that as an option or even the likes of Gourcuff playing a deeper lying role? Odds 70% he goes.

Martin - The Sochaux play maker has struggled this season, while still showing well for France. Question becomes, if Gourcuff is kept will that make Martin's participation at risk? With Nasri and Gourcuff, Blanc would have his two main central play makers and might not see the need of a third.
Odds 50%.

A lot will depend on who recovers from injuries as well as how the friendly games go for Blanc and Les Bleus. It should be an interesting few weeks! 

Allez les Bleus!

PSG gets cold shoulder by Blanc - France domestic players for Euro

Well well well, Blanc announces his list from Ligue 1 that will head to Clairfontaine in order to prepare for the Euros. For the most part no major surprises...except for the strikers and one defender. First the defender - Montpellier defender Mbiwa gets the nod over PSG defender Sakho. On that decision, Blanc has stuck with what he has been saying all along - player needs to be a regular with his club and showing something. Sakho has found himself sitting on the bench recently and when he has played - he has not covered himself with glory (see red card and PK versus Lille). Hopefully Blanc will not need to do so, but if he has to play Mbiwa for any considerable time it will be a risk since the player has never been called up and has no time with the other central defenders. Even thought Sakho has not been playing for PSG, he has had time over the past year with the others...something to watch.

The list:

Gardiens : Hugo Lloris (Lyon), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Cédric Carrasso (Bordeaux)
Défenseurs : Mathieu Debuchy (Lille), Anthony Réveillère (Lyon), Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa (Montpellier)
Milieux de terrain : Alou Diarra (Marseille), Blaise Matuidi (PSG), Yann M'vila (Rennes), Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon), Marvin Martin (Sochaux)
Attaquants : Olivier Giroud (Montpellier), Jérémy Ménez (PSG), Loïc Rémy (Marseille), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille)

Will he be fit by June 11th?
The second surprise for me, are the strikers. He calls up Remy, but then also states that he does not believe the Marseilles striker will be able to make it to the Euros....hmmm...curious. Blanc did state that he will wait for a few weeks to determine how Remy is doing. What surprises me is that if Remy cannot go, Blanc will be leaning on two pure strikers - Benzema and Giroud. While he might lean on a 4-2-3-1 or even a 4-3-3 which both require one lone "pure" striker, only carrying two on his roster seems a little risky. What about Gomis or Gameiro? Having another healthy striker gives Blanc substitution options if he is chasing a goal or needs to deal with injury. As currently constituted he has two pure strikers, if one is substituted out and he needs to chase a goal late he will need to move one of his wingers/midfielders high up the pitch: Menez and Ribery could do so in a pinch, but why take them out of their wide positions? I would think that Blanc would have taken Gameiro as cover for Remy...something to be watched.

Something else that is to be watched, but not a surprise, is the inclusion of Gourcuff. Both Diarra and Gourcuff were instrumental to Blanc's run at Bordeaux and he has shown them loyalty since taking over the French national team, even keeping Diarra in the captain's arm band race...even thought the Marseilles midfielder was not a lock starter! As much as I like Gourcuff, I recognize that his game has dropped that he has been injured and that I am not sure he is any where close to his past form. I realize that in terms of pure #10s, Blanc is limited in what he can call upon. But I feel that he might be a little blind to his former protege. It will be interesting to see how camp goes and how the friendly matches are managed to give us some indication of who will make the flight to Poland - Ukraine.

Allez les Bleus!

Injury bug hits two more players for Blanc and Les Bleus

Laurent Blanc will have to deal with two potential forfeits - Kaboul and Remy. While neither is an unquestionable starter both could have impacts on Blanc's roster. The Tottenham defender was most likely going to act as cover for the two center backs while the future Tottenham striker was seen as a valuable player - one that could play central striker or winger for Blanc. This will open the door for Gameiro.

Without Kaboul, might Blanc decided to look at the youngster Varane from Real Madrid?

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Blanc's first list, no surprises

Blanc looks to his Foreign Legion...domestics next week
Blanc unveiled his first list, foreign based players, for the Euros. No major surprise.

Défenseurs : Philippe Mexès (AC Milan), Adil Rami (Valence), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Younes Kaboul (Tottenham), Patrice Evra (Manchester United), Gaël Clichy (Manchester City)

Milieux de terrain : Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle), Florent Malouda (Chelsea), Samir Nasri (Manchester City)

Attaquants :  Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle)

The one missing name is Mathieu from Valencia. Why? I thought that his ability to play both left back and on the left side of the midfield might make him someone that Blanc would want to look at. Without his inclusion, I have a difficult time envisaging any combo other than Evra/Clichy as the left backs for France. As well as Malouda being included in the final list as another left sided option.

While not a real surprise, still happy to see Ben Arfa being included on the list, his creativity must be look at as a serious need for Les Bleus. Let us see next week which domestic names round out the list.

Allez Les Bleus.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Villa and now Puyol...Spain road is bumpy

After Villa broke his leg earlier this year, now his fellow Spain and Barcelona teammates Puyol will be out of the Euros due to injuries. Add this to the fact that Torres is only slowly finding his form and the challenge for Spain at Poland/Ukraine has only become more daunting. For all the talent and depth for Spain, two of spots they cannot really afford to lose starters is at center back and forward.

Spain's goal scoring option?
Up front Spain should look to Fernando Llorente from Athletic Bilbao, The Lion King has been a huge reason behind Athletic's success. Especially during Europa League. Torres has started to show some of his goal scoring form again, while I would not expect to see the Torres of 4 years ago he might regain enough of his form to contribute for Espana. The real question is who can slot in next to Pique. You might see Real Madrid right back and center back Ramos slotted to the center, but that would take away an offensive option on the right side of the defense. A secondary effect would be the fact that Puyol and Pique are teammates for both club and country, this partnership was key for Spain's success. If Ramos is to slot back to the center of the defense, it will be interesting to see how the Real and Barcelona players would partner as well as the right side of the defense.

Winning back to back international titles is difficult - winning three has never been done. That daunting challenge only became more difficult for the current World and European Champions.

In, out and on the fringe - Les Bleus for the Euro

Laurent Blanc will start unveiling the list of the players he will be looking at for the Euros over the next week (starting tomorrow). With that in mind the Frog wanted to weigh in on who should go, who is on the fringe, who is out and who might be a surprise.

I think that Blanc will lean on a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation, he might even look to apply the "christmas tree" and go with a hybrid 4-3-2-1 that would morph from his 4-3-3. Blanc might also have his group games in mind, with the tasking of facing some physical strikers - Crouch/Carrol and their height or Ibrahimovic combination of height and power. France has always had problems with set pieces and international football is becoming a set piece type game.

Les Bleus will most likely take 3 keepers, 8/9 defenders, 8 midfielders and 4 strikers. There will be some players that could be mid/stk or play defensively or in the midfield.

Goalkeepers:

This is the one position where I think we know who will be heading to Poland/Ukraine.

Lloris is the undisputed #1 and team captain so fairly certain he is going.
Mandanda and Carrasso have done nothing to lose Blanc's faith. Look for Ruffier to get a pre-selection but I think that will be more for Blanc to get some competition and get a look at the keeper.

Defenders:

Rami, Mexes, Evra, Debuchy to me are all locks, and very likely going to be your starting back 4 with Debuchy slotting on the right and Evra on the left. Debuchy will be able to animate the right channel and re-balance the attack that has been very left sided in recent games for France. As I stated in my last post, I think that the Sagna injury, while terrible for the Arsenal man, might be a good thing for France. Makes Debuchy the likely right back, a more offensively skilled player than the former Auxerre right back.

The tricky question becomes who is the cover for the above 4?

Surprise selection for Real youngster?
Blanc will have to pick two amongst the following center backs: Sakho, Koscielny and Kaboul. The PSG man has been relegated to the bench in recent matches and his showing against Lille reminds us why he can be so maddening - poor positioning leads to his foul, red card and PK for Lille. Koscielny has shown well for Arsenal while Kaboul has not be consistent for Tottenham. I think the two center backs from London have the upper hand to get the call.

Now what about the outside backs? There is noise for PSG right back Jallet to get the call but I think that Blanc will reward Reveillere to play second fiddle at right back. On the left side look for Clichy to regain his spot with Les Bleus. Mathieu could make a last minute push, especially because of his ability to also play on the left side of the midfield in a pinch. Another wild card - the youngster from Real Madrid Varane. However, if Blanc had to leverage Varane, at center back I am not sure that he would want to put that responsibility in the hands of a 19 year old. Varane will be invited to Clairefontaine, but will not go to Eastern Europe.

Midfielders:

This is where it gets tricky...let us look at the holding spots first:

M'Vila and Cabaye are in. I also think that Matuidi and Diarra are the other holding players that will be called up. Blanc should lean on the Rennes and Newcastle midfielders to be the steel of the midfield. Matuidi and Diarra used as cover and tactical substitution. Mavuba and Gonalons might get a call to Clairefontaine but again not heading to Eastern Europe. The one big loss will be Diaby, a player that gives Blanc what he would want, a midfielder to link defense and offense.

Offensive midfield: Ribery will man the left...other than than not sure. Nasri will get the call up, whether he is the center midfielder or slotted out right will remain to be seen. That also means, who will called upon to animate the right channel? Menez or Valbuena? Both will be at Clairefontaine, but it might be where Blanc determines which player is given the right side. Ben Arfa should not only get the call but head to Eastern Europe. He is one of the few players that can turn a game on his ability to dribble and score. Also, his understanding with fellow Newcastle teammate Cabaye is something to leverage...





Players that have to prove themselves - Martin who has been a bit on the down side after strong showings for Les Bleus, Malouda who will most likely make it as 2nd fiddle on the left side, Amalfitano would offer more creativity...the big question is Gourcuff. The player that Blanc leaned on while at Bordeaux has not found that form...he has only started playing regularly again for Lyon. He has an outside shot...more because of Blanc's knowledge of the player not from what he is showing currently on the pitch. I would vote for leaving him home, but Blanc might surprise us.

Strikers:

There are some locks here as well - Benzema, Giroud and Remy are all heading to Poland and Ukraine. The question becomes does Blanc look for a 4th striker? Or does he push a Ribery or Menez higher on the pitch if he needs another offensive player? Gameiro and Hourau have been struggling with both form and health, for those reasons I think they are long shots if Blanc selects another striker. Gomis has had a decent season but also long shot. A youth player like Lacazette might make a surprise appearance as well.

We will find out more over the next week. Blanc's core will/should not be a surprise, what will be interesting is who he will take - Valbeuna or Menez? Gourcuff? Who will pull the strings in the midfield? Will there be 4 strikers?

Allez les Bleus!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Sagna out at RB for Les Bleus - Debuchy #1

After this weekend's Arsenal clash, France right back Sagna suffered a broken leg which will keep him out of the Euros for sure. This paves the way or at least makes it easier, for Lille's right back Debuchy to get the starting nod for Les Bleus. Lauren Blanc will be announcing his short list of players over the next few days, look for the Frog's thought on that in a later post, but the right back slot looks certain. Without Sagna in the picture, Blanc will most likely take Debuchy and Reveillere as his two options to man the post. The question becomes who will start, my vote is for the more offensive minded Debuchy. Sagna's injury could have another result, the Arsenal man might lose his spot as France's #1 right back if Debuchy has a good tournament as well as boost the Lille players value on the transfer market.
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