“Three minutes”is, watch in hand, the time necessary for Noël Le Graët to confirm Didier Deschamps as coach. Move around, there is nothing more to see, much less to discuss.
“I have infinite confidence in this man. There is no debate. He’s a winner, with a unique track record. He is a coach loyal to the federation and esteemed by his players, there is no break or end of the cycle ”, assured the President of the French Football Federation (FFF) to the Figaro, July 8, a little over two weeks after the elimination of the Blues by Switzerland in the round of 16 of the Euro (3-3, 5-4 tab).
As one competition is quickly chasing another, especially in a calendar turned upside down by the Covid-19, the France team has a week and three games ahead of it (against Bosnia, Wednesday 1er September, in Strasbourg, Ukraine, Saturday September 4, and against Finland, in Lyon, Tuesday September 7) to validate its presence in Qatar in fourteen months for an autumn World Cup (from November 21 to December 18, 2022) but air-conditioned .
With a margin of four points on his Ukrainian dolphin, the case is rather well under way. Didier Deschamps first apprehends this big international week as a nine-point equation (i.e. three victories to be assured) and, faced with questions bringing him back to the night of June 28 in Bucharest, warns: “The most important thing is what awaits us. “
A self-criticism just sketched out
His duty of self-criticism, the coach has just outlined in an interview with The team, August 20. In a perfect exercise of rhetoric, he assumed the failure, but avoided taking out the black box to find the reasons for what looks like an accident for the alleged favorite of this Euro 2021.
“I don’t feel like looking for excuses. I know that I am the only one responsible. My function wants that. I assume. But I also know that I have this ability to rock. When things are going well, all is not rosy; when things go badly, all is not black either. Our elimination is linked to many elements. But if I start to argue… ”
The failure of June, however, incites to discuss, when, basically, Deschamps especially pleads the thesis of deconcentration vis-à-vis the Swiss (“At 3-1, the match must remain at 3-1”) and passes a little quickly on the tactical broth taken by his team for almost an hour, with an organization (3 players in defense, 5 in midfield and 2 in attack) neither done nor to be redone.
The pragmatist had turned to the handyman, jumping from one scheme to another during the tournament, without any common thread or game identity, this trendy concept that he has always kept at a distance. Not sure the man – let alone the coach – has changed much in two months. “This Euro is part of our history. Now the important thing is what is in front of us ”, he evacuated, on August 26, at the headquarters of the FFF, just after delivering his first post-Euro list.
The thesis of the usury of power
But should we wait for a revolution from a coach first driven by his results? Since his debut, the Basque had experienced a constant rise, with a quarter-final at the 2014 World Cup, a final at Euro 2016 and then the world title two years later.
For some, power wears out, and the last Euro has given proof of this. The thesis was advanced by the Dutchman Louis van Gaal in the columns of The Team. “It’s a funny coincidence that the favorites that failed, such as Portugal, France or Germany, have had a manager in office for seven, nine or fifteen years. Santos, Deschamps or Löw have been leading their team for too long, they don’t touch anything ”, theorizes the one who has again since become the coach of the Netherlands, seven years after his first term.
In the case of the Frenchman, the problem may not be to be found on the side of excessive conservatism. After all, in the past he has shown some flexibility in choosing men. Shortly before the 2018 World Cup, he had downgraded the two installed side defenders (Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibé) to establish newcomers Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard. With the success we know.
In his group of 23 players, gathered since Monday, August 30 at the Clairefontaine training center (Yvelines), four men honor their first call: Theo Hernandez, Aurélien Tchouaméni, Jordan Veretout and Moussa Diaby. Never, Didier Deschamps had opened the doors so much after a big competition.
If the injuries or deferred resumes of some (Ousmane Dembélé, Adrien Rabiot, Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez) explain this wind of fresh air, the coach is looking for alternatives to positions like those of full-backs or even in the middle ground.
The French lost their Latin in defense
There remains the question of offensive animation. If Didier Deschamps assures the contrary, the absence of Olivier Giroud looks like a “goodbye and thank you for everything” for the 34-year-old striker with 46 goals for the France team. Barring any surprise, the trio of Antoine Griezmann, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappé should begin Wednesday against Bosnia.
At the Euro, Deschamps had done everything to put his three attackers “In the best possible conditions”, to the point of justifying certain baroque tactical choices, including this three-way defense against Switzerland with its two “pistons” (lateral defenders) which were not really (Rabiot on the left and Pavard on the right).
At the time, the boss of the Blues had thought that the forgiveness granted to Benzema would be enough to mask the shortcomings observed for several months. With his two goals scored against the Helvetians, the former ban had almost saved appearances and postponed the necessary aggiornamento, that of a world champion team on a simple idea: hermetism, individual talent and surgical realism.
But the recipe has probably lived. The French have lost their Latin in defense without being shimmering in attack. Didier Deschamps may not be at the head of a bankrupt selection, but in reconstruction, yes. And the work begins on Wednesday at the Meinau stadium.