If some still imagine Didier Deschamps as a rigid technician in his tactics, the national coach has found a new way to make them change their minds. After France-Eire’s half-time adjustment at Euro 2016, the overhaul of the tricolor attack with the return of Karim Benzema in recent months and the attempted three-man defense, Deschamps seems to have been inspired of his magic method of 2018. But by reversing it completely. During the World Cup in Russia, the coach of the France team had bet on Blaise Matuidi in an astonishing role of false left winger, far from his usual positioning, in the offensive phase. A paying asymmetry and now revisited in Qatar, when the opponent is in possession of the ball.
These tactical fantasies have become increasingly common in recent years, like the role of full-backs, João Cancelo in the lead, under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. But rare are the iterations without swelling in the feet. Against Denmark on Saturday, Didier Deschamps successfully innovated by changing his Blues when they lost the ball. The world champions evolve in 4-3-3, with Antoine Griezmann in an advanced midfielder role, but much lower than his usual role in the national team, and with an attacking trio Mbappé – Giroud – Dembélé. His first edition during the victory against Australia had been satisfactory, but still perfectible, and too dependent on the weight of his offensive assets.
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Dembele transformed, Griezmann more liberated
Facing the Danes who had beaten them twice in the League of Nations in 2022, “DD” adjusted without transforming everything. And yet that changed everything. The 4-3-3 is still in place, with the only real development that is not linked to an injury – return of Varane, Théo Hernandez to replace his brother Lucas who has withdrawn for the rest of the World Cup – Jules Koundé in place of Benjamin Pavard in the right corridor of the defense. The real change lies in the positioning of the Blues when the Rød-Hvide had the ball. And he has as main instruments the uses of Ousmane Dembélé and Antoine Griezmann.
Tireless presser, the Atlético de Madrid player could have been restrained by his new place in the eleven. His place in the middle of three should theoretically prevent him from coming to close the axis of the field in the first tricolor defensive line. Except to compensate for his overflowing activity with a new asset from Didier Deschamps’ tactical palette. Enter Ousmane Dembélé. The tricolor winger is much more famous for his technical arabesques than for his science of withdrawal. Deschamps, however, entrusted him with a leading role in the defensive balance of the France team.
The former Rennais forced himself to go down more than usual, approaching the pair Adrien Rabiot – Aurélien Tchouaméni to reform the line of three midfielders. And rather than glue the touchline, Dembélé was used to cover inside the pitch on the right side, limiting the impact of the Danish midfield and the options for its architects Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. If the flank is a little more depopulated, the tenure of Jules Koundé as right-back, him the central defender by trade, offers more guarantees of coverage.
A new necessary adaptation
This new version of Les Bleus, hastily prepared following Karim Benzema’s withdrawal and without any preparation ahead of the World Cup, responds to Didier Deschamps’ desire to make his assets available in the best conditions so that they contribute. to collective expression.
The Koundé – Dembélé tandem showed an astonishing complementarity, enhanced by the great efforts of the Barcelonian. The French team thus conceded only two shots in the first period against one of the most in-form teams of recent months, with more than two goals on average per match. Of the ten Danish strikes at the final whistle, none came from the French right third. “From the moment all the players are concerned without the ball and work together, regardless of the number of offensive players, we do the job and that creates this collective solidity.“, welcomed Raphaël Varane on Sunday at a press conference.
“Unlike 2018, the danger comes from everywhere”
While on the right, we slide, we block, on the left, Kylian Mbappé, he is relieved of part of the defensive responsibilities to be in the ideal position in order to accelerate from the recovery and project himself against. Antoine Griezmann, he rakes in the same area as Olivier Giroud to lock the central corridor of the lawn. After the offensive asymmetry on the left of 2018, the Blues seem to have found their balance by a defensive asymmetry on the right in 2022.
This Danish experiment could well be repeated against Tunisia on Wednesday, and for the rest of the competition. Kingsley Coman and his few encounters as a makeshift right piston seem no less willing than Ousmane Dembélé to this hybrid role. Antoine Griezmann and probably Kylian Mbappé should continue. Same causes, same effects… Same new certainties?
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