Tuesday 10 June 2008

Magnum PI or useless manager?

There have been some very strange selections so far in the Euros, for me Raymond Domenech's utterly inept management of the French side stands out head and shoulders above anyone else. This is despite Aragones playing Xavi ahead of the marvellous Fabregas, but here my opinion is probably a bit more contentious.

Firstly how on earth Domenech can leave both Clichy and Sagna out of his squad is beyond belief. I have seen Abidal in action several times this year and he's been pedestrian at best, dodgy defensively and lethargic offensively; both Clichy and Evra are miles better. Sagnol in his prime would not half the player that Sagna is, so playing an ageing Sagnol ahead of Sagna is indefensible.
Flamini should be in the French squad, he was one of the best players in the Premiership last season; so how the mediocre Toulalan, who I barely noticed on the field of play in France's bore draw with Romani, can be starting while Flamini is not even in the squad is again well beyond me.
France have some great individuals but collectively were a very lethargic bore, and this has invariably been the case under Domenech's command. The man even admits that astrology affects his team selection, it certainly doesn't appear to be down to who is best at football. They played with no tempo and no drive, it was all so very predictable and drawn out.

If the likes of Flamini, Clichy, Evra and Sagna were involved then France would have a little bit more tempo, a little bit more zip and they might just be able to have a crack at winning it. As it is they look but a shadow of their great world cup winning side, admittedly they do not have the quality in the centre of their team from the front to the back, however they should be blooding their young players ahead of the likes of Sagnol, Thuram, Makelele et al. Maybe France will prove me wrong, I doubt it though, and even if they do they are certainly not preparing well for future championships.


Anonymous said...

no s*** sherlock. this article is useless. you are just stating the obvious.

Anonymous said...

I follow the France squad and while I have little love for Domenech, your commentary is just like a lot of the commentary all over the net about Domenech's selection: not entirely knowledgeable of the facts. You also judge players based on one or a handful of games. Anyone who's actually watched Toulalan for a season or more knows he is one of the world's finest DMs, I'd love to see him paired with Cesc but Lyon will never sell him.

That said, Flamini goes forward more than Toulalan does (who's very much like Makelele) and France could've used that against Romania. Except that Domenech would've told Flamini NOT to do that, he suffocates the life out of his very talented squad.

I agree that France could definitely benefit from Sagna and Clichy. However, there's a very good reason why Sagna was not chosen. Domenech explained that he is not entirely fit from his injury. Mexes' omission is another sore point, he's a terrific defender, but Domenech omitted him because of his horrible knee injury a couple of weeks ago at the Copa Italia final.

I agree that Clichy should've been selected. Clichy, however, is behind the older and more experienced Evra, who is just as good. The complaint about Abidal is a good one, and one shared by many in France. His inclusion rests on his past performances in the squad (don't equate country and club performances), and his experience in int'l tournaments. But it's been a long time since he's impressed. Evra should be first choice and Clichy behind him.

What you don't seem to appreciate is that an int'l manager has to find a good balance between youth and experience. That's how Italy won the last wc. That's what Domenech has been struggling to find, plus dealing with injuries. Remember that the French squad have the highest number of players (at the Euros) who were at the top European clubs participating in all major competitions to the very end of their seasons. They're very tired. Perrin at Lyon basically ran Benzema into the ground.

Abidal has far more experience than Clichy so Domenech--a very defensive, conservative manager--goes with experience ahead of risking youth and energy. At the last wc, it was the Vieira-Makelele pairing in midfield that was crucial in getting France to the final. That's why he prefer Toulalan, who's very much like Makelele.

What France lack, however, is the leadership and creativity of Zidane, their midfield general. Ribery can provide that but he has to let him loose and find the right pairing up front for Ribery to connect with. Domenech has young, talented players in his squad (Gomis, Benzema, Nasri, Ribery) but the veterans have yet to do what they did in Germany (it's still only the first game yet, ffs).

In Germany, the Zidane-Vieira-Thuram-Makelele veteran axis grabbed the team by the scruff of the neck and forced them to the final after a couple of awful games in the group stage. But Zidane's gone and Vieira's injured. Who knows if these remaining veterans are capable of doing the same thing.

France traditionally start slow at these tournaments, as they did in Germany.

Ted said...

Why won't Lyon sell Toulalan? They sold Essien and Diarra. Plus half the Lyon squad is trying to get a transfer to an English club if you believe the tabloids - Fred, Benzema, Ben Arfa to name but a few.

I also seems that whilst Mr Anonymous says that this post lacks understanding, Mr Anonymous' conclusions are ultimately the same - the French team could do with Clichy / Evra / Sagna and lacks creativity in midfield.

Sounds like pots calling kettles black to me.

However, my spin on this is that I have some sympathy with Mr Domenech to the extent that I think its up to the players to perform on the day. The team he sent out against Romania should have won but played poorly. We are sometimes too quick to blame a manager - virtually the same French team looked good against England in Paris a a couple of months ago.

I only saw the "highlights" of the Romania game, but perhaps we should also be a little more praising of a fine defensive performance by a Romanian side that was expected to be the whipping boys in the group of death.

France did create some chances, but all the French attacking players seemed absolutely determined not to pass to each other. The few occassions when Anelka or Malouda (who were both generally poor) found an opportunity in or near the box, they shot at goal, usually from ludicrous angles, when a well placed pass along the six yard box would have given a team mate a tap in. Anelka was particularly guilty.

1979gooner said...

as ted says I don't think the responses have really added anything much,

Domenech is a poor manager evidenced by his poor selections, and by the fact that France have so many good players and look so very mediocre

Toulalan and Makelele playing together is far too defensive, especially with two full backs who hardly got forward

So Toulalan is one of the world's finest DMs? What's this based on? Lyon haven't been a great force in Europe in the last year or so, and he's hardly done much outside the French league which is hardly the stiffest test. Flamini has proven himself in Europe and in the Premiership, and in my opinion is a much better player than Toulalan.

Abidal is very very over hyped, I'm sure it's no coincidence how Barca have been leaking goals this season left right and centre

There was no cohesion in the team selection and I have not seen France play well as a team, as well as they should given their player quality, for many years

There was no link between defense and attack, there were too many defensive players and the attacking players were very unsupported

I do take ted's point that the players must take some of the blame as they were far too slow at moving the ball, there was a lot of dwelling on the ball and slowing down of attacks needlessly

However a lot of this was down to Domenech's poorly though out selection, the team did not function as a cohesive unit because it was so badly constructed

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why I got such a hostile response from Ted to my post. My point about you not knowing all the facts was your issue with Domenech omitting Sagna (injury)--and also your failure to understand why Domenech would go for experience ahead of inexperience. I'm not defending his choices of certain players, I'm explaining his reasoning only. Also Ted, your claim that all of Lyon's players want to come to England is utterly ludicrous and simply inaccurate. That is simply not the case. Benzema has said time and time again that for now he'll stay in France and that the only foreign leagues he'd play in would be Spain or Italy, he's not interested in England at all. Ben Arfa has said he prefers to stay in France and wants to go to Marseille. Why wouldn't Lyon sell Toulalan? Simple, they value him too highly, anybody who follows Lyon knows that. You apparently don't follow French football too closely, many Lyon fans consider Toulalan their player of the season ahead of Benzema. Lyon just gave Toulalan a large increase in salary.

Also, 1979, I agree completely with your analysis of France in the Romania game. However, to say that you haven't seen France play well in years is an exaggeration. They played extremely well against Italy in their Euro 08 qualifier in September 2006 (they won 3-1), they played very well against Spain and Brazil at the world cup in Germany. And their recent friendly against Colombia was a fantastic game for the neutral, with both teams going for it, non-stop action up and down the pitch. Last year they also had a friendly against Argentina (they lost 1-0) that was also very entertaining.

That said, I do agree that generally France have not been as consistently good as they were in the late 90s/early 2000s --- and certainly not as good as their fantastic mid-80s team.

Ted said...

Thanks for the response Mr Anonymous. I wasn't trying to be hostile.

However, I didn't say that "all of Lyon's players want to come to England". Instead, if you look at my first comment, I said "half the Lyon squad is trying to get a transfer to an English club if you believe the tabloids - Fred, Benzema, Ben Arfa to name but a few."

I think that is a fair comment and hardly merits your attack as being "ludicrous". Also, didn't Lyon sell Abidal and Malouda last year?

I guess the point comes down to this - are you really saying that Lyon wouldn't sell Toulalan for big money, say £50m? If you are, then you are wrong. Every player has a price.

1979gooner said...

I see your point, it does seem that France have underperformed in recent years though.

It's just a shame in my opinion that they didn't start blooding a lot of their great young players a few years earlier, they have kept too many of their ageing stars in the side for too long.

It's what England have also failed to do. Players like Young, Agbonlahoor, Richards et al should be getting more games so that they can develop.