Posts Tagged ‘Yoann Gourcuff’

Tactics: Ligue 1’s leading lights find diamonds in the rough

James RodriguezParis Saint-Germain and Monaco may have stockpiled all the money in Ligue 1, but the playing fields of the French top flight have been awash with diamonds this season.

Over the past few months, a 4-4-2 formation with a midfield diamond – known as a milieu en losange in France – has become the must-have tactical system for the league’s leading teams, with Lille, Monaco and Lyon successively enjoying improved fortunes after adopting the tactic and Marseille potentially poised to follow suit.

Lille were the pioneers, with coach René Girard installing the system within weeks of his arrival from Montpellier during the summer. Having initially declared an intention to persist with the 4-3-3 formation favoured by his predecessor, Rudi Garcia, he jettisoned the tactic after only 45 minutes of the club’s first friendly match, a 3-2 win over Dijon in July.

The system he introduced was designed to get the best out of Marvin Martin, who operates in the number 10 role ahead of a three-man midfield. Once seen as France’s answer to Xavi, he endured a disappointing debut season after signing from Sochaux but has spoken positively of the “freedom” afforded him in the new system. It is a set-up with which the 26-year-old is familiar, having come to prominence at Sochaux by supplying the bullets for Brown Ideye and Modibo Maiga as the club from eastern France recorded a surprise fifth-place finish under Francis Gillot in 2011.

Continue reading »

Floundering Gourcuff handed unlikely France reprieve

From the outside, the striking thing was the fact that it was headline news at all. Gourcuff named in France squad. Yoann Gourcuff, heir apparent to Zinedine Zidane, darling of Bordeaux’s 2009 title-winning side, was this week selected in Laurent Blanc’s preliminary squad for Euro 2012. And it was the biggest story in town.

Anticipation of the squad announcement had centred on whether or not Gourcuff would get the call, at the end of a season in which injuries and poor form have restricted him to just 13 league appearances for Lyon, culminating in a sending-off for violent conduct against Ajaccio on Sunday. “It’s not anecdotal,” said Blanc of the red card, which Gourcuff received for an off-the-ball altercation with Ajaccio’s Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi. “It proves that the boy isn’t in top form, both physically and mentally.”

Gourcuff’s inclusion in the 26-man squad therefore came as something of a surprise, but how has a player for whom such a bright future was predicted fallen so far?

Continue reading »

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.

Continue reading »

Top ten Ligue 1 transfer targets

Ligue 1 has proved a fertile hunting ground for Premier League sides in recent years – not least for Newcastle United – and as the January transfer window opens, several names from the French top flight find themselves linked with clubs from the English elite. Football Further runs the rule over the players making the headlines and identifies which of them are likely to be on the move.

1. Eden Hazard (Lille)
Unless unforeseen misfortune befalls him, Hazard will leave Lille this year and, when he does so, he will join one of Europe’s most famous clubs, but he is unlikely to depart this month. Rudi Garcia’s side may have gone into the winter break four points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain, but their performance in the 0-0 draw at Parc des Princes on December 18 proved that they are PSG’s equal and they remain the most cohesive outfit in the division. With their title defence on track and no European distractions to contend with in the second half of the campaign, Lille will not yield Hazard in January unless they receive an astronomical bid. The player himself is in no hurry.

2. Yoann Gourcuff (Lyon)
Mention of Gourcuff’s name in the United Kingdom tends to conjure up memories of the match-winning performances and magisterial goals that characterised his performances in Bordeaux’s 2008-09 title-winning campaign, but Ligue 1 observers will attest that that player has not been seen for the best part of two years. An exhausted bystander as Bordeaux’s title defence crumbled in the second half of the 2009-10 season, Gourcuff endured a wretched World Cup and has failed to settle since joining Lyon in a €22 million deal in August 2010. Lyon are looking to recoup as much of his original transfer fee as possible but, despite rumours of a €12 million offer from Zenit Saint-Petersburg, a loan switch looks more probable. Arsène Wenger is a known admirer but, as he admitted recently, even with Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby injured, Arsenal are well stocked in the centre of the pitch.

Continue reading »

Report: Cole on target as Lille fightback floors Lyon

“PARIS — Joe Cole capped a Lille fightback with the third goal in a 3-1 defeat of Lyon on Sunday that allowed the defending champions to steal a march on their rivals in the nascent Ligue 1 title race.”

To read my AFP round-up of the weekend’s Ligue 1 action, click here.

La semaine en France: Week 32

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
With an inevitably that feels like it has been building for about two months, Marseille returned to the Ligue 1 summit after a 4-2 win at Mediterranean neighbours Nice on Wednesday night.

Lille’s 1-1 draw at Lorient last Sunday – a magnificent game of football – had given the champions an opportunity to sneak to the top of the pile that they duly took, thanks to a hat-trick from André Ayew and a first league goal of the season for his younger sibling, Jordan. Four days on from their victory over Montpellier in the Coupe de la Ligue final, Marseille are exactly where they were at this stage last season – top of the table with a trophy in the bag and the finishing line in sight. Lille’s hopes of overhauling the leaders may well depend on Lyon’s ability to do them a favour when they host OM on May 8.

Lyon galvanised their grip on third place with a 3-2 defeat of Montpellier. Claude Puel reacted to Souleymane Camara’s 84th-minute equaliser for Montpellier by sending on Yoann Gourcuff in place of Bafétimbi Gomis, much to the disgust of Lisandro López, but three minutes later the Argentine headed down a high ball for Gourcuff to slam home his most important goal to date in Lyon’s colours.

OL are now three points above Paris Saint-Germain in the battle for the last Champions League place after a truly wretched performance from reserve goalkeeper Apoula Edel saw PSG held to a 2-2 draw at Brest. Rennes are without a win in six matches after going down 1-0 at Monaco, who leapt up to 15th place. Marseille’s Coupe de la Ligue win means the team that finishes sixth will now qualify for next season’s Europa League and Bordeaux moved into pole position with an impressive 2-0 victory over Saint-Etienne that suggests their season might not be over just yet.

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

Continue reading »

La semaine en France: Week 28

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
And then there were four. After defeat at Auxerre and a draw at home to Montpellier, Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 loss at Marseille in last Sunday’s ‘clasico’ effectively ended their hopes of pipping Lille to this season’s title.

A lively encounter at Stade Vélodrome saw OM prevail through a header from the irrepressible André Ayew, after Gabriel Heinze’s 16th-minute free-kick had been cancelled out by Clément Chantôme. It left PSG 10 points behind Lille and five points below the Champions League places. PSG’s fatigue was plain to see during a second half in which they never quite managed to put Marseille under pressure and Antoine Kombouaré was quick to point out that it had been their 11th game in five weeks. Worryingly for the Coupe de France semi-finalists, the last five of those have all ended in defeat.

With 10 games to go, Lille are four points clear of second-placed Marseille after coming from behind to win 2-1 at Brest. Their new-found ability to grind out results, as opposed to blasting teams off the pitch like they did in December and January, only strengthens the conviction that the leaders are not about to collapse with the finishing line in sight.

An 87th-minute header from Kévin Théophile-Catherine earned Rennes a 1-1 draw at Lyon that left the visitors third and the hosts fourth. Lyon are now six points off the pace and Théophile-Catherine’s goal could have far-reaching ramifications for the 2002-2008 champions, with Monday’s L’Équipe openly speculating that this season will be Claude Puel’s last.

Lens stunned Montpellier 4-1 at Stade de la Mosson but remain second-bottom, four points from safety. Monaco, one place higher, are also in serious peril of sliding into Ligue 2 after a 1-0 defeat at home to Nancy left them three points beneath 17th-placed Auxerre.

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

Continue reading »

Tactics: French sides flock to worship at altar of 4-2-3-1

A peculiar tactical phenomenon has been witnessed in France in recent months. In a microcosm of global trends that have shaped the game over the course of the last decade or so, Ligue 1’s top sides have all – without exception – begun to ditch their preferred formations in favour of a 4-2-3-1.

Marseille, whose title and Coupe de la Ligue successes last season were founded on a pragmatic 4-3-3 shape, were the first team to make the switch. For the crucial Champions League group game at Spartak Moscow in November, Mathieu Valbuena was moved infield from the right flank and allowed to adopt the central playmaking role that he covets. Didier Deschamps wanted to capitalise on the fact that Valbuena “is very accurate with his shooting” and the France international proved as much in the 18th minute when he put OM ahead with a precise, curling effort into the top-right corner. Marseille went on to win 3-0, in what was their most coherent performance of the season to date, and their 4-2-3-1 continues to emerge for high-pressure encounters, such as Sunday’s 2-1 defeat of Paris Saint-Germain.

Another team synonymous with the 4-3-3 in recent years has been Lyon. Towards the end of the first half in their 4-1 win at Saint-Etienne last month, however, Yoann Gourcuff was allowed to advance a little further forwards and occupy the role of the classic number 10 that was his at Bordeaux. With Jérémy Toulalan and Kim Källström retreating into deep, central positions, it meant Lyon were playing a 4-2-3-1 and Claude Puel reflected that it gave the team “a certain balance”.

The switch brought the best out of Lisandro López, moved to the left flank in support of central striker Bafétimbi Gomis, in much the same way that André-Pierre Gignac’s best form for Marseille has coincided with the times when he has played from the left in support of Brandão. Occasionally isolated when used as lone strikers, both López and Gignac appear to relish seeing more of the ball and both men are particularly adept at cutting inside and shooting at goal with their stronger right feet.

Continue reading »

French football quotes of the year 2010

The World Cup

“As I’m an optimistic person, I’m going to say that I have a 100 per cent chance [of going to the World Cup].”
– Pride comes before a fall for Patrick Vieira

“I read the letter. I don’t think the players wrote it. It was typed out on a computer and there were no spelling mistakes.”
– French Football Federation general secretary Henri Monteil lets the world know exactly what he thinks about the intellect of the average footballer after reading the statement released by the France squad explaining their training boycott

“Go on Yoann, you’ll be alone on the pitch. Everyone will see you and you’ll be a media star.”
– What Franck Ribéry allegedly (emphasis on the allegedly) told Yoann Gourcuff on the France team bus after he threatened to break the training strike

“He sullied my name without trying to find out what happened. Lilian thinks he’s the new coach, the president of the federation and the president of the [French] Republic… Walking around with books on slavery in glasses and a hat does not turn you into Malcolm X.”
Patrice Evra on Lilian Thuram, after the France 1998 stalwart called for him to be banned from the national side for life

“They’re real clowns, these people. I’m dying with laughter!”
– Nicolas Anelka pours scorn on the unprecedented 18-match international ban handed to him by the FFF

Foreigners

“You should see him in the changing room: he sings French rap. He’s even learnt the song the Bordeaux fans chant to wind me up: ‘Oh, Diawara, go fuck yourself/You have got no loyalty!’”
Souleymane Diawara on Lucho González’s successful integration in the Marseille changing room

“The baguette. It’s amazing how good it is, the baguette.”
– Lyon’s Argentine attacking midfielder César Delgado, when asked what he would remember most fondly from his time in France

“Steve makes me laugh with his fake Marseille accent. A black guy from Normandy with a Marseille accent – it sounds wrong to be honest!”
Guillaume Hoarau upbraids former Le Havre team-mate Steve Mandanda for his efforts to blend in at Marseille

“We don’t talk. We played one year at Arsenal without talking. There were other people who didn’t talk to him either. The collective cause was more important, though, and we got on with things.”
Samir Nasri lifts the lid on his (non-)relationship with former Arsenal team-mate William Gallas

Continue reading »

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.”

Continue reading »

La semaine en France: Week 9

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
The Ligue 1 table has a slightly more familiar look to it ahead of the 10th round of matches, after victories for all the big teams last weekend.

Paris Saint-Germain climbed to third with an impressive 2-0 win at Toulouse on Saturday. Mevlüt Erding claimed only his second goal of the season to seal the win, finishing a neat move involving a typically ornate flick from Nenê and an astute through-ball by Ludovic Giuly. Paris are above Marseille on goal difference after the champions edged Nancy 1-0, with Loïc Rémy claiming his first OM goal – and taking a swipe at Damien Gregorini’s face in the process – to cover up an unconvincing display from Didier Deschamps’s side.

Bordeaux are now seventh thanks to a 1-0 win at Auxerre. Anthony Modeste claimed the game’s only goal, but the major talking point of the weekend was the dismissal of new France captain Alou Diarra for reacting to a yellow card from referee Wilfried Bien by shoving him in the chest. He has been provisionally suspended until November 10, when the Professional Football League (LFP) will announce their decision on his punishment.

The game of the round was unquestionably Lyon’s 3-1 win at home to Lille on Sunday night. Lisandro López claimed a brace for the hosts, with Yoann Gourcuff netting his first goal in Lyon’s colours and Moussa Sow replying with a spectacular overhead kick. OL are up to 14th, four points short of third place, and Claude Puel’s crunch meeting with Jean-Michel Aulas on October 28 suddenly looks a much less daunting prospect.

Rennes held onto top spot despite drawing 0-0 at second-bottom Lens, while second-placed Saint-Etienne fell to a 2-1 defeat at Nice after losing Gonzalo Bergessio to a harsh red card in the 22nd minute. Arles-Avignon claimed their first point of the season in a 0-0 draw at Brest, but they’re still bottom (and still going down).

Continue reading »

Report: Rémy, Gourcuff see France past Romania

“PARIS — Substitutes Loic Remy and Yoann Gourcuff struck late goals to give France a 2-0 win at home to Romania on Saturday that sent them top of their Euro 2012 qualifying group.”

Read my AFP match report here.

La semaine en France: Week 8

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
Visitors to Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Saturday would have been forgiven for wondering if they’d somehow stumbled back into the 1970s, as Saint-Etienne’s famous ground played host to a sold-out clash between champions Marseille and the table-topping home side. OM took the lead in fortuitous circumstances after the ball struck referee Stéphane Bré and landed kindly for Lucho González, who dinked the ball into the penalty area for André-Pierre Gignac to volley in his first goal for the club. Dmitri Payet and Blaise Matuidi combined to set up Laurent Batlles for a 59th-minute leveller, but results on Sunday saw ASSE concede top spot.

Rennes led Ligue 1 going into the international break, topping the standings for the first time since 1970 after a 3-1 win at home to Toulouse. A sweet, rising shot from full-back Romain Danzé set the hosts on their way shortly before the interval before Kader Mangane and Sylvain Marveaux made the points safe, but coach Frédéric Antonetti (pictured) chastised his team for their sloppiness and said they would need three seasons of stability to mount a serious title challenge.

Lille moved into third place with a 3-1 win at home to Montpellier. Paris Saint-Germain could have finished the weekend on the podium but were frustrated by David Ospina (see below) in a 0-0 draw at home to Nice. Lyon clambered out of the relegation zone by winning 3-2 at Nancy, but only secured victory when an error from Gennaro Bracigliano allowed Jimmy Briand to volley in his second goal of the game in the 75th minute.

The week’s biggest story, however, occurred off the pitch. France’s Professional Football League (LFP) announced on Thursday night that away fans would be banned from both the matches between Marseille and PSG this season over security fears, drawing condemnation from fan groups and club officials.

Continue reading »

Tactics: Can France play without a playmaker?

The team that Laurent Blanc aligns against Romania on Saturday may herald a significant change of direction in the tactical evolution of the French national side. Teams representing the country have long been built around a single, richly talented creative player, from Raymond Kopa in the 1950s through Michel Platini in the 1980s to Zinedine Zidane at the turn of the last century. But that could be about to change. 

The basic shape of France's midfield and attack in the 2-0 Euro 2012 qualifying victory against Bosnia-Hercegovina in Sarajevo in September 2010

France’s 2-0 victory over Bosnia-Hercegovina in Sarajevo last month was probably their most impressive performance in a competitive match for four years and they achieved it without a playmaker in sight. Instead, Alou Diarra anchored a muscular midfield with Yann M’Vila alongside him and Abou Diaby operating slightly further forward. Florent Malouda and Mathieu Valbuena were deployed on the flanks, in support of lone striker Karim Benzema.

Diaby has long been typecast as a defensive midfielder, presumably because of his height, his build and his physical resemblance to Patrick Vieira, but against Bosnia he was given the freedom to express his attacking gifts, embarking on lolloping runs into opposition territory and making a number of incisive passes. A playmaker, however, he is not. 

Yoann Gourcuff, the heir apparent to Zidane, and Samir Nasri missed the game in Sarajevo, through suspension and injury respectively. Both are now back in the fold, but Blanc has promised that the players who starred against Bosnia will be given an opportunity to stake a claim to a first-team place. 

“Nothing forces us to play with a number 10,” said Blanc this week. “In Bosnia, because we couldn’t do anything else, there wasn’t one. The train had passed, the team was put in place and it did a pleasing job.”

Blanc has admitted, however, that “players who are capable of making the team play better [i.e. playmakers] are always useful” and he has also expressed a conviction that Gourcuff and Nasri can be fitted into the same starting XI, most probably with Nasri playing wide on the right and Gourcuff in the centre.

The prototype 4-3-3 that breathed new life into the French national team’s play in Sarajevo was a world away from the stodgy, unimaginative football associated with the 4-2-3-1 of the Raymond Domenech era, but Blanc’s stated mission to create a side that “imposes its style upon its opponents” would perhaps be best served by a team containing at least one playmaker. In any case, Diaby’s ankle injury suggests at least one of Gourcuff and Nasri will make the starting XI against Romania.

Nevertheless, the performances of Diaby, M’Vila and co against Bosnia proved that France can function perfectly well without a number 10. The team-sheet at the Stade de France on Saturday could give the clearest indication yet that France’s love affair with the playmaker is about to be put on indefinite hold.

La semaine en France: Week 4

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
Week 4 saw Yoann Gourcuff’s Lyon debut turn into a decidedly damp squib as his side were beaten 2-0 at Lorient, while Bordeaux snatched a last-gasp 1-1 draw at home to Marseille and Toulouse extended their 100 percent record to open up a four-point lead at the summit.

All eyes were on Gourcuff at Stade du Moustoir, and although he began the game on the bench he was pressed into action in the 30th minute against the side coached by his father when César Delgado had to go off with a thigh injury. Lyon already trailed to an eighth-minute penalty from the impressive Kévin Gameiro and although Gourcuff’s introduction gave the visitors’ attacking play much more cohesion, their chances of a comeback were dealt a fatal blow in the 66th minute when Lorient debutant Lynel Kitambala slammed home.

Lyon have four points from their first four games – the same as Bordeaux and Marseille, who fought out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Chaban-Delmas on Sunday night. Lucho González expertly swept OM into a 12th-minute lead after a superb charge down the right flank from Brandão, but Edouard Cissé was harshly dismissed in the 33rd minute and Marseille’s resistance finally crumbled two minutes from time when Anthony Modeste (pictured) got across César Azpilicueta to head in Jaroslav Plašil’s inswinging cross.

A marvellously assured goal (see below) from rumoured Barcelona target Étienne Capoue set Toulouse on their way to a 2-0 victory at Nancy. TFC are four points clear of Rennes and Montpellier, while Sochaux climbed to fourth after exploiting the huge cracks in the Paris Saint-Germain defence to record a 3-1 win over Antoine Kombouaré’s men at Stade Bonal. Caen’s unbeaten run came to an end when they went down 2-0 at home to fellow promoted side Brest.

Continue reading »

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Archives
Wikio - Top Blogs - Football