Posts Tagged ‘Yann M’Vila’

Blanc’s France still searching for an identity

For a team protecting an unbeaten record that now stretches to 543 days, France will approach Wednesday night’s friendly against Germany in Bremen with a surprising degree of uncertainty.

Since going down 1-0 at home to Belarus in Laurent Blanc’s first competitive game in charge in September 2010, France have qualified for Euro 2012 – without recourse to the play-offs – and enjoyed friendly wins over England, Brazil and the United States (as well as some forgettable draws against Croatia, Chile and Belgium).

Viewed from the outside, and against a backdrop of the self-inflicted humiliation of the 2010 World Cup, Les Bleus are turning things around. Bubbling beneath the statistics, however, are a multitude of concerns about the team’s style of play and a lack of both experience and leadership within the squad, while an ongoing contract dispute between Blanc and French Football Federation president Noël Le Graët suggests Blanc’s employers remain to be convinced by the direction the team is taking.

Blanc pledged to introduced panache and risk-taking to France’s football following his appointment in the aftermath of the infamous Knysna training ground mutiny, but although France have become solid and difficult to beat, their play has not captured the imagination since the first game of their current 17-match unbeaten run – a 2-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo that came four days after the setback against Belarus.

Then, a team anchored by a midfield pairing of Yann M’Vila and Alou Diarra, driven forward by the lolloping raids of Abou Diaby and centred around the new-found efficacy of Karim Benzema had hinted at a glorious future for Blanc’s France. Now, although Benzema has gone from strength to strength at Real Madrid, the team has lost its way.

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La semaine en France: Week 20

A bite-size round-up of the week’s events in French football, for anyone who wants to keep up with what’s happening in Ligue 1 but hasn’t got the time (or the French) to do so.

Ligue 1
There were few signs of post-Christmas hangovers as Ligue 1 resumed after the winter break, with wins for all the serious title contenders.

Leaders Lille immediately hit their stride with a 2-0 win at Nice, before Eden Hazard and Gervinho inspired Rudi Garcia’s side to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Nancy in their re-arranged home game on Wednesday to send them four points clear of their title rivals.

Paris Saint-Germain, Rennes and Lyon head the chasing pack on 34 points, after all three kicked off 2011 with victories. PSG had the most difficult return to action, falling behind at home to Sochaux but equalising almost immediately through stand-in skipper Mamadou Sakho and securing a 2-1 victory thanks to a neat finish in the 23rd minute by Ludovic Giuly. Rennes, with new €3 million signing Razak Boukari spearheading the attack, put four unanswered goals past Arles-Avignon (including a delightful chip from Alexander Tettey and Yann M’Vila’s first ever Ligue 1 goal).

Yoann Gourcuff made his first appearance for Lyon since injuring his Achilles tendon at Schalke in November, but Bafétimbi Gomis was the star of the show with a brace of goals (the first an absolute stonker) in a 3-0 win over Lorient. Marseille had plenty of reason to cheer after beating Bordeaux 2-1. André-Pierre Gignac’s volleyed opener was his first goal at Stade Vélodrome since his summer move from Toulouse, while victory ended a run of five league games without a win and kept the champions within two points of PSG.

Toulouse climbed to sixth by beating Nancy 1-0, with Montpellier seventh after a late fightback saw them down Valenciennes 2-1. Saint-Etienne led 1-0 with 10 minutes to play at Lens but a Sébastien Roudet penalty quickly followed by a Loïc Perrin own goal saw Les Verts snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, dropping them two places to eighth.

Ligue 1 results
Saturday: Auxerre 1-1 Monaco, Brest 1-3 Caen, Lens 2-1 Saint-Etienne, Lyon 3-0 Lorient, Montpellier 2-1 Valenciennes, Nice 0-2 Lille, PSG 2-1 Sochaux, Rennes 4-0 Arles-Avignon, Toulouse 1-0 Nancy; Sunday: Marseille 2-1 Bordeaux; Wednesday: Lille 3-0 Nancy

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Tactics: What should England expect from France?

The press pack accompanying the France squad to England may have been slightly miffed at the lack of attention given to Les Bleus in Fabio Capello’s pre-match press conference, but Laurent Blanc’s side will have plenty of opportunities to make themselves headline news when tonight’s match at Wembley kicks off.

France lost 2-1 to Norway in Blanc’s first game in charge and were then stunned 1-0 by Belarus in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier at the Stade de France, but have since recorded consecutive 2-0 victories against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Romania and Luxembourg. Upon taking the reins following the World Cup debacle, Blanc spoke of his desire to create a France team “that opposes its style upon its opponents”, and although we are still in the early days of his tenure, his vision for the national team is beginning to emerge.

In France’s last game, a rather laboured 2-0 defeat of Luxembourg in Metz, Blanc set France out in a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield supporting Karim Benzema and Guillaume Hoarau in attack. He occasionally used a similar system during his time at Bordeaux, but against strong opposition his preference is for a midfield configuration that makes sure France cannot be outnumbered in the centre of the pitch.

“Playing with two strikers does not allow us to have numerical superiority in midfield,” Blanc explained in September. “You can use it against weaker teams. Against strong teams it’s vital to win the midfield battle. You have more options with two strikers but you can only play with one holding midfielder. That can weaken your team.”

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