Hosts France are set to kickoff Euro 2016 on Friday against Romania, but manager Didier Deschamps will be anxiously trying to patch up the holes that have been left in the team due to injuries.
The greatest concern for the former World Cup winner with Le Bleus is their defence, which has been left depleted as centre-backs Raphael Varane and Jeremy Mathieu have been ruled out due to injuries, according to the BBC.
As both Varane and Mathieu have been left out of the French squad, Deschamps has to decide who to partner regular centre-back Laurent Koscielny of Arsenal. The 47-year-old has the likes of Manchester City defender Eliaquim Mangala and Lyon’s young defender Samuel Umtiti, but the BBC report suggests that Deschamps will go with the combination of Adil Rami and Koscielny in the heart of the French defence.
However, Le Bleus will try to make up for this deficiency in defence, with their midfield prowess. In the likes of PSG and Leicester City midfielders Blaise Matuidi and N’Golo Kante respectively, France have two players who will do a lot of running in order to get the ball back from the opposition.
Both Matuidi and Kante will need to work doubly hard however, to make up for any deficiencies in their defence. The majority of the playmaking responsibilities are set to fall on the shoulders of Paul Pogba, who has had a good season with Juventus, winning the Serie A and the Coppa Italia double.
According to the Evening Standard, Deschamps is set to go with Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud up front, in the absence of top marksman Karim Benzema, who has been left out of the squad due to ongoing legal issues. West Ham attacker Dimitri Payet may also be given a start against Romania, as the 29-year-old has had a great season with the Hammers, scoring nine goals and providing 12 assists in the Premier League.
Pogba’s role defined by Deschamps
With the kind of mastery Paul Pogba has shown over the last few years at Juventus, the fans are invariably expecting great things from the 23-year-old. However, France coach Deschamps played down all the hype surrounding Pogba by saying that he should keep things simple.
“People expect too much of him because he has above-average technique,” Deschamps was quoted as saying on UEFA’s official website. “He’s not there to make the crowd rise every time he touches the ball. I’ve told him that sometimes he needs to play in a neutral way. He’s a midfielder, not a No 10.”
These comments by Deschamps clearly betray the 47-year-old’s intention of playing a much more reserved form of football that what we may normally expect from the talented French side.
In fact, Deschamp’s comments on Pogba seem to denote that he prefers to play a reserved 4-3-3, rather than the more creative looking 4-2-3-1 formation, with Pogba operating as the attacking midfielder. This could be a very sensible move by Deschamps, as he is currently missing first choice centreback Raphael Varane, who is injured.
Deschamps needs to make sure that the rest of the team plays in such a way, so as to collectively plug any deficiencies in defence.
One aspect that looks like it would remain constant though is that Kante and Matuidi would have to do a lot of legwork in the middle of the park, while the creative impetus is left up to Pogba.