Saturday, August 31, 2013

DD goes with many of the same faces with one new "old" one

Last week Deschamps unveiled his list of names for France as they head into the final stages of qualifiers for the World Cup in Brazil. The names on the list look very familiar to the ones that faced off against Belgium a few weeks back...with one notable new face. Gignac. First the list:

Gardiens : Mickaël Landreau (Bastia), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham/ANG), Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Défenseurs : Eric Abidal (Monaco), Gaël Clichy (Manchester City/ANG), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle/ANG), Patrice Evra (Manchester United/ANG),  Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal/ANG), Eliaquim Mangala (FC Porto/POR), Adil Rami (Valence/ESP), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal/ANG).
Milieux de terrain : Etienne Capoue (Tottenham/ANG), Clément Grenier (Lyon), Josuha Guilavogui (Saint-Etienne), Geoffrey Kondogbia (FC Séville/ESP), Blaise Matuidi (PSG), Paul Pogba (Juventus/ITA), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle/ANG).
Attaquants : Karim Benzema (Real Madrid/ESP), André-Pierre Gignac (Marseille), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal/ANG), Samir Nasri (Manchester City/ANG), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich/ALL), Mathieu Valbuena (Marseille).

As France look to resolve their goal scoring issue, Deschamps has called up an old face one familiar both to him as well as the French national team. Granted Gignac has already found the net 3 times for his club, Marseille, but he also has not worn the national team strip since the debacle in South Africa. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I am not sure that calling back Gignac is going to solve France's scoring woos. How are Gignac's skills so much different that what the likes of Giroud provides the team? Maybe Deschamps wants more options with that profile. But again I am not sure that bringing in a retread striker is going to suddenly solve the scoring malaise for Les Bleus. Especially not a striker of Gignac's profile. If Deschamps had available a player that could single-handedly create his own chances, and put the ball in the onion bag, then he would be a good option. To me a player like Remy offers this profile. But Gignac? Not sure.

Otherwise the list looks eerily similar to the one used to confront Belgium. I look for Abidal to partner with Kos at center backs again. Not sure who will be the wide defenders. On the left it is a toss up, but on the right DD seems to favor Sagna. Lloris in goal of course.

The midfield will look very different from one game to the next. Matuidi and Pogba being suspended for the first match will most likely both start in the second. Can we see the Guilavogui - Kondogbia tandem in the first match? Or could Capoue find his way into the starting line up? I think DD will stick with the two that started against Belgium.

Up front, no surprises. I think we will see Ribery on the left, Valbuena in the middle and either Nasri or Payet on the right with Benzema as the lone striker. It will be interesting to see if Deschamps is tempted to start either Giroud or Gignac in place of Benzema, since both center forwards have both already been scoring regularly for their clubs.

Let's face it, France should win both their upcoming matches, even with their lack of goals from their strikers. But that does not solve the problem Les Bleus have been suffering from - lackofgoalsitis....

Allez les bleus.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gignac or Deschamps really thinking of these retreads?

Ahead of this Thursday's French list to face Georgia and Belarus, Deschamps was asked about some old names - Gignac and Toulalan.

The latter since France face the possibility of a shortage in the midfield - Cabaye, Pogba and Matuidi are all facing suspensions. Not sure why the Monaco midfielder is back in the conversation. One area that France is not thin is defensive/holding midfielder. With the likes of Mavuba, Capoue, Guilavogui, Kondogbia and Sissoko not sure that Deschamps needs to really consider bringing back Toulalan into the mix. End of the day I do not think that Deschamps will bring back one of the key players from the South African debacle.

Mentioning the former is really more of a reflection of the continued malaise for Les Bleus when it comes to scoring goals. Hey why not look at calling back Henry or Anelka or Cantona while we are at it...the 800 lb gorilla in all this is the fact France have had issues scoring goals and what is behind this issue is that their "#1" striker has done nothing to help solve this problem. The Real Madrid striker has not scored for France in over ... well it does not matter that is well over 1300 is bringing back a retread striker the solution? How is Gignac's profile any different than Giroud? Both are pure #9 strikers, like to play on the last defender's shoulder and have some "fox in the box" characteristics. Their
France's answer for goals?
movements are good, but really confined to the attacking zone, which means you shouldn't expect either to pick up the ball deep and making mazey runs for goals. Maybe Gignac could give Deschamps another option off the bench...but I doubt he really is the answer. Figure that DD would start Benzema, because that is just what France does these days, and Giroud would be the first option off the bench. So Gignac would be the third option, when France rarely plays with more than one pure striker on the pitch at any time. Not sure that makes sense. Rather see a players of the profile of a Remy. Why - he can play center forward or on the wing. Makes more sense for a potential 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation.

The reality is that France and Deschamps are still struggling to find the right combination up front to score goals. As I had written in a prior post, maybe DD should think about leaning on the 4-3-3. Beef up the middle 3 and lean on the likes of Ribery, Valbuena, Nasri, Menez or Payet on the wings to provide the offense. Of course hope that Benezema realizes that he is center forward and does what he is suppose to do...score goals. Bringing back a Gignac is not going to magically solve this painful trend.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Winter World Cup coming...the farce that is the Qatar world cup continues

The latest from the "geniuses" that govern world football is that the World Cup in 2022 that was controversially awarded to Qatar will be played in the...winter. Really? I have ranted about this in the past, and stories such as moving it back to the winter only add to my anger. The very fact the tournament was awarded to the tiny middle eastern nation was a farce to begin with. Why?
  • Temperature issues - summer time in Qatar is not conducive to playing 90 minutes of international football and not suffering from heat stroke or worse.
  • Host nation pedigree - I realize that the World Cup was award to a nation like South Africa which is better known for rugby than football, they also became the first host to not emerge from the group stages. Care to guess where Qatar is ranked in the current FIFA world rankings? 111th. Even South Africa who I just called out is ranked higher at 67. Farce.
  • Other viable candidates - like the United snubbed. Really? Other candidates such as Australia would have been better for the games. When Qatar first announced it was a candidate I did not even give it a second thought, there was no way this tiny nation would get the World Cup, an Olympic game? Sure, that comes down to, in essence, one city being able to host the event.
I blame all those involved, including the likes of Platini and especially that joke of a president Sepp Blatter. We all know why the tournament found its way to Qatar - money. Plain and simple. Who knows how much each federation and their leaders lined their pockets with, but clearly they made off like bandits. Blatter will promote how he has expanded the game and the reach but all he has done is continued to demonstrate what a corrupt and unscrupulous individual he is. I am still holding out hope that somehow the tournament has to be moved to some other venue, similar to what happened in 1986 and the Mexico world cup (it was originally suppose to be in Columbia). Alas I fear the morons that run global football will force a winter world cup, in a nation that does not deserve to host the games to start with.

A complete FARCE

Monday, August 19, 2013

After day 1 - Arsenal is already desperate...sigh

After a brutal start to the season for the Gunners, we are once again finding ourselves in the midst of the August transfer panic for the North Londoners. Feels like every transfer season now with Arsenal. Do nothing of substance during the early days, try to wait out players and then panic.

The latest is that Wenger has made a bid for Newcastle midfielder Cabaye, too late? That he is interested in Pogba, who isn't? What about getting another striker? There are rumblings that he is interested in reopening his pursuit of Suarez. Again, no thanks on that Gustavo...wasn't he all but signed? Ooops.

Which team wouldn't want the U20 World Cup champion?

cancer. The reality is he had a chance to shore up his strikers with Higuain this summer, but didn't pull the trigger fast enough. Or was just too stubborn to spend the necessary money. He did not seem interested in other strikers that moved, Gomez and Cavani. Not that he would have been able to purchase either, but at least get involved. You have the money Arsenal! Oh and what about

So now all Wenger has to show for his massive transfer kitty is French U20 striker Sanogo. Fantastic. If you were Ligue 2 side Metz. Wenger and Arsenal are now behind the proverbial 8 ball, they are desperate and late to the transfer game, teams know this and will make them pay a king's ransom for players they could have had 2 months ago for more market friendly fees. Also, most of the players have already been moved. So now you are looking at trying to get players that were not really planning on moving, again driving up the price.  I do not think that Wenger will be able to do much before the window closes. He does not seem to have a real plan, just more of the same...and more of the same has not won silverware in a very long time.

Maybe he will surprise us all and use his entire transfer kitty to get Ronaldo to North London...oh and one more thing. Where is Kroenke in all this? Does he care about fielding a winning side in North London or is he more concerned about developing malls near Wal Marts? As the largest share holder I would expect more from him, like actually showing up at games and maybe pretending he cares about the product on the pitch. Say what you will about other American EPL owners, like the Glazers and Henry, but at least they give the appearance of caring.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Start of the letter to Mr Wenger

So we have another start of the EPL, one with some serious changes. This will be the first time Ferguson will not be part of the league. He managed every Premiership season for Manchester United (SAF got to ManU in 1986...the EPL started in 1992). Clearly the biggest change in this season. Of course we welcome "The Special" one back to London as well. That should be highly entertaining! But one change we are not seeing is - any major changes with Arsenal's squad! Ugh. So rather than giving my predictions of who finish where, let us face it the winner will come from the following trio: Manchester United, Manchester City or Chelsea, here is my open letter to Monsieur Wenger.

The start of a great run...can we go back to those days?
Mon Cher Arsene,

Welcome to the 2013-2014 EPL season, your 18th at the helm of the Gunners. With the retirement of your nemesis - Alex Ferguson - you are now the most tenured manager in the EPL. What you did with Arsenal was nothing short of fabulous. When you took over the club it had hit a rough patch of a few seasons. You institute new training, new dieting and a new mentality. A new winning mentality. You brought doubles to the club, invincible seasons and even European finals (unfortunately neither the UEFA Cup nor the Champions League found their way back to North London).

You introduced us to players such as Anelka, Vieira, Berkhamp, Overmars, Henry, Cesc, Van Persie, Pires, Wiltord, Ljunberg, Toure and even stealing the likes of Campbell from hated rivals Tottenham. Many of these players were vital to our success. The battles between Vieira and Keene were the stuff of legends. For a few seasons Henry could lay claim to being the greatest striker in the world.

Many of these players brought us titles and glory. Yet we have not tasted glory since 2005, when Vieira was wearing the captain's arm band. He is now retired...we have not even sniffed an FA Cup final since that 2005 win against Manchester United, let alone come close to winning the EPL...we did get to a Carling Cup final in 2011. But we lost to Birmingham...ugh. Oh yes we consistently qualify for the Champions League. Because the current structure rewards not winning! Don't forget Arsene that back in the good old days of three European cups, only the CHAMPION of domestic leagues would go to the Champions League. We would have been playing for the UEFA Cup. But yes we go every season, get out of the group stage, maybe get to a 1/4 final, collect our money and then go home. Without a trophy. During this time we have suffered through watching our rivals Chelsea and Manchester United collect their own "big eared" trophies. If there was a trophy given for getting to the Champions League, we would need to expand our trophy case. Alas, all that comes with 4th place in the EPL and Champions League is money. Which you don't spend.

Speaking of spending. Arsene, your frugal and fiscally conservative ways would be wonderful for a corporation. But you are not managing a business. You are managing an entertainment entity. While I am not asking for you to spend like a drunken sailor. Spend something. Please. We moved from Highbury to a larger stadium so as to be competitive with other clubs. Arsenal has the commercial and financial clout to compete with the largest clubs in Europen, not just England. Recent reports even demonstrate that we should be able to compete for wages with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United. We are rumored to be signing a large kit deal with Puma, which will infuse our coffers with plenty more cash. Yet who have we purchased? Who have we even been in the running for?

You want to spend, or at least rumored to want to spend, on the likes of Suarez (no thanks). We were supposedly in the running for Higuain, who would have been a great signing. But it feels like every season for the past few seasons..."rumored" to be looking at a big name player. Only to see them go elsewhere. Meanwhile we let our stars walk - Cesc and Van Persie come to mind. This is what a mid-tier club does. Not one of the largest clubs in the world does.

So what to do? Mr Wenger please remember what made you successful. Spend some money on a few proven players. When I say proven, I mean go out and be aggressive and get a Higuain or Mario Gomez type. Don't worry if they are over 30 and sign them to a longer deal if need be. When you target a youngster - sign them, regardless if you think you are overspending. I realize that Hazard might not have come, but you had your eyes on the youngster early in his Lille career. Make it happen. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish.

What you need to buy. A striker. Giroud is nice, but having another legitimate goal scorer would be nicer. I am not expecting you to purchase Zlatan from PSG but go out and close Higuain when you could have. Get another creative player in the middle of the park. I realize we have lots of creativity but I feel we need some new blood, new ideas in the middle of the park. A world class goalkeeper would be nice. Ever since "safe hands" Seaman left we really have not had a steady world class keeper. Please don't mention Lehmann. Finally get another "hard man" in the midfield. Since we let the likes of Vieira, Silva, Edu, Flamini et al leave, we have not really had a player in the midfield who provides the muscle and intimidation needed.

I understand that your Alsacetian stubbornness is a major factor. But as the saying goes - insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. We have not won a trophy in forever. We used to win silverware, we used to contend for Premiership titles we used to be a legitimate threat for European titles. Now we are content for 4th place. Unacceptable.

Please go back to your early day ways. Otherwise I will see you in Paris in a season.

Yours truly

Thursday, August 15, 2013

France - Belgium a goalless blah game

After a decent day of friendlies, where every game say some goals...except for Wales v Ireland and France v Belgium. Yuck. Granted the France game had plenty of opportunities for some goals. Watching the game just got me more frustrated with Les Bleus and scratching my head with regards to any solutions...but let me try to extract something from the friendly:

The Good:
  • Difficult to extract much good. Not losing their 4th straight game is one silver lining. France was on a terrible run of 3 straight lost matches losing to Spain, Uruguay and Brazil. Getting a draw is not the worst thing, especially on the road to the 10th best nation in the world (yes Belgium is 15 spots ahead of France!) Of course this is the 4th straight game France has failed to score a goal, more on this later.
  • Belgium...looked solid. I do like the fact Les Diables Rouge are relevant again in world football. They have some talent on this side. A midfield with Fallaini and Hazard, an up and coming world striker in Lukaku and a solid defensive back 4 anchored by giants
    Reason for Belgium's optimism
    Kompany and Van Buyten. Their remains a question in goal, although Courtois did the necessary to maintain his clean sheet. However it is far from certain this is the next JM Pfaff. There is some rumblings out of Bruxelles that this side could actually challenge in a year for a World Cup title...not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Based on how they are currently built I might see them as a dark horse and could seriously make a run to the semi finals of the World Cup (assuming they qualify and get a decent draw).
  • I have to said Abidal looked decent at center back. I am not ready to put him in the conversation for French center back, but he did not seem to miss a step. Good first step, but I rather see him on the flanks.
The Bad:
  • France might as well start all center or left sided players...because the right side is useless. I realize this is nothing new. But even I was shocked at seeing how much the French game leaned left. It was so ridiculous that there were a few times when Ribery found himself standing right next to either Benzema or Valbuena. At one point it felt like Payet, who had also drifted in that direction, realized that he was suppose to be the right winger and scampered back to the right side. It is as if there is some invisible force that pulls the ball and then all the offensive players for France to the left. There were a number of times where I saw Sagna, all alone, on the right flank, flapping his arms like a wild turkey...yet getting zero service. It got so bad that Belgium just overloaded that side, forcing the likes of Ribery to dribble at 2-3 defenders. Or at times he would run into his player...who was also on that left side. Bad bad bad.
  • Once again France gave up too many opportunities to Belgium, that fortunately they could not capitalize on. Kos makes a huge gaff in the middle of the penalty area where De Bruyne completely missed the frame, otherwise he seemed to have a goal sitting on his boot. Lukaku missed a couple of close range goals as well. France also gave up a 5 v 2 on the 25th minute...all terrible terrible gaffs. Belgium should have capitalized on at least one of these opportunities. These were correctable defensive problems for France...but they seem to have been the same issues Les Bleus have suffered for seasons. Unless France can somehow recover from these issues they will a)not go to Brazil b)if they do get there...wouldn't do much.
The Ugly:
  • Goals...or a lack thereof for Les Bleus. We are pushing 1200 minutes since the last time our #1 striker has put a ball in the goal. That is UGLY...not how a team wins anything. And it is not just him. France have not scored since they put 3 past Georgia, let's not get too excited. It isn't even that they are not scoring, but they do not seem to even get any real opportunities to scoring a goal! Listening to the game yesterday on ESPN 3, you would have thought that France had made themselves a handful of chances. Not sure. The one real "chance" I saw was late in the game when Giroud tried to one time a left footed volley from inside the penalty spot...only to kick it into row Z. Otherwise the few other "opportunities" came when Ribery, Valbuena or Benzema took on the entire Belgium defense to take a difficult shot on goal. But France never really threatened Belgium's goal...ugly.
  • Speaking of lack of goals...the offensive flow for France was ugly. Like what I mentioned earlier about the left side of the French offense this was just a small part of a greater lack of offensive flow. France seems to be looking for some consistency to their offense. Ribery is France's only real world class attacking player. But he is a left winger. There has to be a balance - someone to either bring more offense on the right side and or a true central midfielder. Someone who can pull the strings, hold the ball up or play faster...not sure Valbuena is that player. I think he would be better served on the right wing with a more classical central midfielder pulling the strings in the middle
    Probably missed this 1v1 as well...
    of the park. Not sure France have that player...Nasri? Martin? Gourcuff? None give me a huge amount of confidence. Grenier could be the next in be determined. France gave us a slight glimpse of a decent balance of attack when they had Ribery on the left, Nasri in the center and Valbuena on the right. But that only seemed to work for a game or two...not really a wonderful sample size. 
  • Okay this is an easy one, and is a continuation of the above but Benzema and his lack of goals is getting to be beyond ugly.  It has become so painful to watch and I think more than just for the player. Why? His teammates clearly know he is on a major scoring drought. There were situations where the ball should have been switched to the opposite field but instead it was forced to Benzema, to try and get him a goal. Of course it did not work. I feel as if the Benzema era is sliding into failure territory. No team can hope for success if their #1 striker cannot score goals! It might be time to sit him and give Giroud or a youngster their chance. 
  • Sagna and his crosses...once again left much to be desired. He had the space in his channel, but as usual his crosses were awful. Granted he didn't always have great options. But if there is no one there, don't cross it!!! Hold it and wait for options. Ugh.
So Les Bleus leave Bruxelles with a drab 0-0 draw and once again could not score a goal. Ugh. One take away from the match is France cannot function in a 4-2-3-1. Why? They do not have the discipline to stay in the channels - too often with the game leaning left you saw Valbuena drifting too far left, or even Payet finding himself there. This took out the entire right side as well as drawing the defenders to that channel. Benzema drifts back too much as well, adding more congestion. Because of this clustering, when the ball gets lost it tends to go back the other way in space. When your central midfielder, left winger and striker are all within 5 feet of one another there is space behind them that gets exploited. Not good. Add to this the strength France has in the holding/defensive midfield position and I believe Les Bleus should think about the 4-3-3 as the formation of choice.

The formation can also evolve into a 4-3-2-1. With the likes of Pogba, Cabaye, Matuidi, Capoue to name a few, you have a wealth of options of midfielders who can offer a strong defensive line in the midfield, but one that can also carry the ball up the pitch. It would also allow the three high line players more space. A line of Ribery on the left, Benzema in the middle (even thought I am calling him a failure he might do better in this formation) and Valbuena on the right would have the space to do their thing - meaning float around the pitch. Players like Cabaye, Matuidi and Pogba, to name a few, have the ability to jump up into the offensive end and contribute goals and opportunities. Now if France goes with this formation, it will also force the left and right fullbacks to be more offensively savvy - not sure Sagna gives you that on the right not does Clichy on the left.

Let's go Deschamps, muscle up your midfield, play counter attack football. That is the talent you have available, play to your strengths and stop trying to find different results from the same formation that is not working.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Les Bleus to line up with familiar faces...except for two key positions.

Deschamps will most likely roll out his usual 4-2-3-1 today in Belgium. And to no real surprise the faces that will occupy those spots are for the most part the ones we are used to seeing. The expected starting line up:

Lloris - Sagna, Koscielny, Abidal, Clichy - Guilavogui, Kondogbia - Payet, Valbuena, Ribéry - Benzema

No surprise in goal nor across the back 4. As it was rumored, the Monaco defender Abidal will be slotted at central defense. Clearly Deschamps is still trying to figure out who will provide cover or even potentially be the starter next to Kos. I have to assume that Varane will get the nod, or at least be the club house leader for the role once he is fully operational. Clichy and Sagna are back on the flanks over Debuchy and Evra. I have no issue at left back, but at right back I still have my doubts of Sagna's offensive contributions.

Will we ever see this again?
Up front it looks much the same as it has for a while: Ribery out on the left, Valbuena now in the center pulling the strings and Payet the latest right winger to be given another chance to take ownership of that spot. It will be interesting to see if Nasri is given time in that channel and what happens when Menez is back to full form. Up front is wonder kid Benzema. Yes that was tongue in cheek. I need not remind readers of how many minutes, games, months it has been since France's #1 striker has netted a goal. But trust me it has been a LONG time (1082 minutes...might as well be another life time ago). We keep saying it each time France rolls out their Real Madrid striker - "will this be the game he breaks back into form?" I am tired of asking this question and frankly tired of waiting for it to happen. I know strikers can be temperamental but this has gotten to a level of absurdity. I might even start calling Benzema a bust.

Of course in the holding midfield role we will see two newbies - Guilavogui (who did get his first cap away to Brazil) and Kondogbia. These two new members of the national team are getting a run out in large part due to the suspensions of Pogba, Matuidi and Cabaye for the next qualifier. Having said that, I think this is a good chance to see some of the depth France has at this position. Let us not forget that Capoue, Sissoko and Mavuba are also available, not bad options. I will be interested to see how the first of the U20 World Cup champions, yes Pogba has played for the senior squad already but he wasn't a WC Champ at the time, assimilates into the senior squad. One thing France have plenty of depth is in the holding midfield role, with Guilavogui and Kondogbia starting we are just seeing more of these riches on display. Now if we could only trade a few of these assets for a world class striker.

The Belgium Pele
So will this line up succeed against an up and coming Diables Rouge side? Belgium is starting to develop a serious roster of talent, reminds me of the teams I used to watch in the late 80s that were built around Scifo and went all the way to a 4th place finish at the Mexico World Cup in 1986. This version has Hazard and Fellaini in their midfield but also a solid
defense built around Kompany and some young talent at striker in Mirallas and Lukaku. This is a side that France could very well have to play in the qualifier play in round. Something I would not look forward to. Unfortunately for Les Bleus, I just do not see a way out of their recent malaise.  I do not see a solution up front when it comes to scoring goals. I am not worried about Ribery or Valbuena, but the right wing remains a problem and we might as well play with Nasri as the fake #9 like Spain does because he has a much better chance of scoring than does Benzema. I am concerned with our center backs - not sure I want to see Abidal there, just do not feel that his is best position. The two newbies in the holding spots will be something to watch. I doubt either will be overwhelmed by the situation but this is their first international match together and having to face the likes of Hazard is no easy task.

Prediction - the poor run of late continues. Les Blues fall to Les Diables Rouge

Belgium 2 - France 1...alas

Allez les Bleus

Monday, August 12, 2013

Abidal back as central defender?

Latest news out of Clairefontaine - Abidal will most likely get the nod in the center of the back four defenders. Hmmmm. I am still not sure why the Monaco defender got a call up to the national side. I am not saying that he should never get a call up, but he hasn't been able to get a decent amount of time back in his boots. But the fact that he might now be starting as a center back is a bit of a head scratcher. Why?

France have to focus on their remaining qualifiers and if, hopefully, they qualify for Brazil will Les Bleus be looking at Abidal as a viable option for central defense? I am not sure. I think that Deschamps needs to get his central defense in order...and not certain Abidal is a top option. Didn't we see this under Domenech during the disaster that was the South African World Cup? One of the last memories I have is of Abidal as a central defender getting carved up by Mexico. If he gets back to form, I do like him as an option on the left. But not in the middle. Especially when France have other options: Kos, Varane, Sakho, Yanga-Mbiwa, Rami, Mangala...of course Varane is injured so let us see what Deschamps does once the young Real player is back in the fold. I just don't see Abidal as a viable starting option if Les Bleus get to Brazil. So why not run out a young player like Mangala instead??

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Deschamps out with the old and in with the old - list for upcoming Belgium friendly

It is that time of the year again...back to school you say? No! The kick off for club footy as well as the international calendar. Whoohoooo!!! Granted most think this first friendly is useless, players are barely back in game form, some leagues will not have even started yet. But I am not one of those naysayers. I think internationals are great, and these vital with the remainder of the World Cup qualifiers taking place later this Fall.

What is interesting is that Deschamps has put out a list of players, that looks very similar to a list that Blanc or gasp...Domenech might have used when they were managers. Abidal, Evra, Ribery, Landreau, Nasri, Benzema??? Okay I realize that some of these players are in their prime...but just something I wanted to point out. So the list:

La liste des Bleus :
Gardiens : Landreau, Lloris, Mandanda
Défenseurs : Abidal, Clichy, Debuchy, Evra, Koscielny, Mangala, Rami, Sagna
Milieux : Capoue, Grenier, Guilavogui, Kondogbia, Mavuba, Sissokho
Attaquants : Benzema, Giroud, Nasri, Payet, Ribéry, Valbuena

Some observations:
  • Abidal has to be a bit of a surprise. The player has returned to Ligue 1 and Monaco after a very successful run with Barcelona. But after making an amazing recovery from a liver transplant just over a year ago.  He is really only now returning to top flight action, nothing short of amazing. But does that mean he is back in the plans for then national team? It feels a bit premature. And where is he to play? On the flank or as a central defender? Clearly with Clichy and Evra on the list, it would appear that he is most likely to see action as a central defender. Is that really who DD is going to lean
    Back in Ligue 1
    on? An interesting selection.
  • Where are the PSG players? Okay okay, I realize that players like Matuidi and Menez were not going to be called due to suspensions and injury. But what is a little surprising is that both Jallet and Sakho were not called up. The right back spot, in my mind, is not guaranteed for Sagna and Debuchy. I do think the Newcastle man has an edge to hold the starting spot, but I do not see a clear gap between 1 and 3. What is a real surprise, coupled with the call up of Abidal, is the absence of Sakho. Early in his tenure, it appeared that DD was going to lean on Sakho as one of his pillars in the central defender role.  Now it appears that there remains a bit of chaos at that spot. Is Kos one of those pillars? Seems that way. So who to shoulder him? Mangala? Abidal? One is very green and the other will be in his mid 30s once the World Cup rolls around. I guess we have to wait to see when Real Madrid wonder kid Varane gets back to form if he figures to be the second central defender.
  • Notice that Deschamps is rotating some serious muscle in his midfield? I guess as a defensive midfielder himself he knows the value of having a strong and defensive minded midfield. Mind you, Pogba is suspended for the next qualifier otherwise the new U20 World Cup champion would most likely figure in this mix. With Capoue, Grenier, Guilavogui, Kondogbia, Mavuba, Sissokho the only non-holding midfielder is Grenier! Granted, players like Ribery, Valbuena, Payet and Nasri I would consider as attacking midfielders more than strikers. It will be interesting to see what happens with Cabaye, Pogba and maybe even M'Vila come back into the equation (I realize the last mentioned is on a FFF suspension).
  • Speaking of the strikers....stop me if you have heard this, but Benzema has to start scoring again because Les Bleus seem to have a shortage of goal scoring options. With the retirement of the Petit Louis today, Louis Saha, it is another reminder of how
    The good old days for French strikers
    good we had it a while back! Remember when Saha was a third option behind Henry and Trezeguet...there was a time France could lean on the leading scorers of Ligue 1 - Cisse, the EPL - Henry or Serie A - Trezeguet. Okay enough nostalgia! But France had better hope that some of the freshly minted U20 World Cup champions such as new Arsenal man Sanogo or Thauvin can build on their success and start helping the senior club find some goals. Of course Benzema could rediscover his Lyon form and we would be all set...but how long have we been waiting for that?
Overall a relatively "stable" line up from Deschamps. No real surprises. We will see how he lines up against a very tough Belgium side, one that France might face if they go to a home and away playoff for qualifiers. Will DD give Nasri a start? And if so where? Ribery on the left, Nasri in the middle and Valbuena on the right? Or flip Le Petit Velo and Nasri? Right side seems to be a revolving door again for Les Bleus. What central defensive pairing will be used this time? Does Evra get the nod again on the left and what about the right?

Many questions ahead. I will be interested to see what DD does during training, will give us a glimpse of what is ahead.

Allez Les Bleus!