The international break began as Les Bleus hoped it would. A convincing victory after an early scare against a lesser team. However, the celebration seemed to have a short shelf life.
Deschamps, using language that appeared to be a tactical move in hopes to motivate the young Paul Pogba after a less-than impressive performance against Bulgaria. However, “La Pioche” seemed unfazed on social media in the days following, only to return to the pitch in war paint and ready for battle against the Netherlands. Pogba’s solo strike left Les Bleus flying home as winners, but what did we learn from this break?
1 | Deschamps is Getting the Most Out of His Squad
Deschamps’ decision making has been accused by some of “winging it” – making changes to formation and lineups as he goes without any real plan. Leaving us to wonder if this is the touch of a maestro or mad man? I have always believed that your squad dictates your formation and not the other way around.
In my opinion, Deschamps has done his best to follow this method. Deschamps’ decision to go with a 4-2-3-1 proves that he is not “winging it” and to quite the contrary, he is doing what he knows it takes to win. Deschamps will continue to make changes to the formation and starting 11; only taking the squad and opponent into account.
Does he have favourites? Of course, all managers do, but the good bosses get the best out of their players and Deschamps, in the main, does that. We have seen the Deschamps that defends his players and the Deschamps that pushes buttons when needed, as he did with Pogba. I believe the public campaign over inserting Payet into the squad before the Euros may have been a similar tactic. Deschamps waiting for as long as possible before picking the West Ham man so that Payet would be aptly motivated when his time came. He finds what motivates players and uses it effectively.
2 | Benzema is Not Coming Back Under Deschamps
It did not seem that long ago Benzema and Ribéry were the face of Les Bleus. That time appears to be long gone and not returning. Regardless of ability, Benzema has made arguably unrepairable relations with Deschamps.
I myself still find it hard to believe that the kid from Lyon who seemed to be the cornerstone for France is now no longer even in the immediate plans. Deschamps has made it clear that Benzema is out and not even injuries to Lacazette or Giroud will bring him back, as proved by this international break.
Even though most people believed Benzema’s international career was over, to many there was a hope after the Euro’s we would see him find his way back. Sadly, this chapter appears to be over for the player that once brought us so much hope and excitement.
3 | Gameiro is Not the Long-Term Answer
Without a doubt, the Bulgaria performance was exciting to watch. Gameiro and Griezmann clearly had plenty of chemistry which lead to a 4-1 victory over a weaker side. I myself did not have the same knee-jerk reaction to call for Gameiro’s sanctification as striker.
At age 29, he has reached the last quarter of his prime. He is a quality player, but at this stage, you know what he gives you at the position. The time should be now to select the striker of the future.
Even with Anthony Martial not having much impact when being subbed-in, his upside is much higher than Gameiro. With a little stability and confidence, I believe Marital should get a chance moving forward. If this international break showed us anything, it is that the number 9 position should be up for grabs.
4 | The Defence is Not a Weakness
A plague of injuries before the Euros marked the defence as the achilles heel of the squad. Even without the injuries, the attacking players of France have consumed the attention of fans and the media. However, with Varane back and in form, I do not believe the defence is the loose end it has been made out to be.
The defence being thinned by injury actually only helped give way to the emergence of Samuel Umtiti. This may also be true true for Djibril Sidibé, who has profited from absentees in recent squad call-ups.
Sidibé’s attacking ability adds to the French game and if he can improve defensively, he can be looked at as a true asset. The duo of Varane and Koscielny were very cohesive in the last pair of games, creating a strong front for the captain in both matches. If the duo can build on what we seen over the break, I believe that this can be a great partnership, possibly the best in the world.
The aforementioned myth was only further debunked with Kurzawa clearly staking his claim as the future of his position. Kurzawa did have some moments of sloppiness with his attacking play, but nothing to be worried about with the quality we have seen from him.
5 | The Youth are Here and Ready to Play
Despite the shortcomings of the U21s team, there are several youngsters on the coat-tails of their men’s team counterparts. With the shaky play of Giroud and Gameiro, the likes of both Dembélés and Jean Kevin Augustin will be looking to the future wide-eyed.
Even the beloved veteran Matuidi will face heavy opposition as the calls for Rabiot grows louder. If Thomas Lemar has anything to say about it, his name will also be in the discussion of players to consider at some point. Lemar oozes quality with a purely magical left foot. He is quickly becoming one of Ligue 1 stars that will only get brighter.
What we know is that the future for France is bright for years to come but what the break has shown us is that many wonderful footballers will have to be left out at some point: France is spoilt for choice.
It will take a manager like Deschamps to ignore the roar of France when she calls for her stars to be played front and centre. Deschamps has shown in every selection this year that he picks his players for what he feels is the betterment of the team. This fortitude and courage are attitudes he will need to continue to make bold selection calls in the coming year for the good of the long-term future of the team.