ANALYSIS – The coach is deprived of his two major players in the middle before the World Cup.
Blank page. Two weeks after N’Golo Kanté, the French team loses Paul Pogba. Knowing that he had not played since March in selection and April in club, the Seine-et-Marnais had embarked on a somewhat desperate race against time to try to invite themselves to Qatar. Mother Nature won the game. Operated on the meniscus in September, back in training two weeks ago and hit in the thigh in recent days, La Pioche throws in the towel. “Paul Pogba will still need rehabilitation after his operation“, said his lawyer, Rafaela Pimenta, Monday in a press release. Game over. The Blues find themselves deprived of the doublet with which they gleaned their second star in 2018. Pogba is also a leader, a basic man for Didier Deschamps, always irreproachable in selection despite ups and downs in club. Holder at the 2014 World Cup, at Euro 2016, at the 2018 World Cup and at the last European champion, in 2021. Taulier.
«Not having it is one less force. He will be missed but we have to deal with it“. This is what Deschamps said a few days ago about Kanté. He can now say the same thing about Pogba and look for solutions to compose his midfield for the World Cup (November 20-December 18). Although, the coach probably did not wait for this announcement to rack his brains, as Pogba’s fight seemed lost in advance. The announcement of this package is also one less concern and one more certainty. “The player must first be cured. Afterwards, the athletic condition must be assessed. And thirdly, there is competition for the position“, explained still recently “DD” about the many wounded in the French ranks and their potential selection. And to add:The only thing that is certain is that I will not take a player who is not able to play at the start of the competition. Then it’s on a case-by-case basis. For Paul, that he has playing time before the competition, as much as possible, I say yes, because he is in deficit compared to the others.»
The rest, we know. It remains to be seen how to make up for the absence of these two strong men in the field. Because if the French reservoir is regularly and rightly praised for its depth, this is not necessarily the case in this sector of play. In any case, we cannot replace boys like N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba. We are talking here about the world gratin. Charge to Deschamps to decide.
The Tchouameni Evidence
In this case, a name stands out as obvious, that of Aurélien Tchouaméni. Certainly, the native of Rouen is only 22 years old and 14 selections (1 goal) on the clock. But according to absences, the former Bordeaux and Monaco has started seven of the last nine matches for the France team. Often brilliantly. Mature and solid, not clumsy either, he simply imposed himself, in selection as at Real, excuse me. “I am not surprised by his quick adaptation to Real, swears Paul Mitchell, sporting director of the ASM. He works every day to be better. That’s what I said to Real during the negotiations: “you take a potential superstar”. Not only the player, also the human being.Already essential. The native of Bordeaux will be part of the France group, no doubt. We can even already say that Didier Deschamps will establish him as soon as he has the opportunity, barring injury or suspension. With whom ?
You only have to look at the latest starting compositions of the France team to understand that the quest for the happy medium. Tchouaméni was associated with a different player each time he started (Kanté, Guendouzi, Kamara, Fofana). Under these conditions, Adrien Rabiot almost acts as a taulier at the height of his 27 years and with 29 selections (2 goals), even if it is on the left that he started recently. Like Tchouaméni, he had physical problems at the start of the season. The ex-Parisian should however be operational when the time comes, and perhaps as early as next weekend for Juventus’ match against Inter Milan. If he wishes to favor experience, Deschamps will turn to Rabiot. Youssouf Fofana (2 caps) obviously has a lot less. But he has for him to know Tchouaméni by heart after having played for a long time alongside him in the jersey of Monaco. The duo is working well, we saw it against Austria (2-0). It’s complementary and solid, interesting. Especially since Fofana, he continues the matches on the Rock.
If he is promised a great future, the young (19) Eduardo Camavinga (4 caps, 1 goal) has long seemed a step back in the mind of Didier Deschamps and therefore far from the Blues. The talent is there, that’s for sure. The former Rennais plays at Real. He has strengths. But the former Monaco coach has often preferred Boubacar Kamara (3 caps) to complete his lists in recent months. Which Kamara should soon resume training with Aston Villa, he who we thought was forfeited for a time. His former teammates at OM, Jordan Veretout (5 caps) and especially Mattéo Guendouzi (6 caps, 1 goal) are also in the race for a place in the group.
A surprise in Qatar?
In any case, all these players have been part of the selection in the last weeks, the last months. They have little experience, but they have it. And if Deschamps opted for a surprise, a newcomer? Some indulge in imagining Benjamin André (Lille) in the France team. Why not Kephren Thuram (Nice)? One thing is certain: boys like Moussa Sissoko (Nantes), Tanguy Ndombélé (Naples) or even Corentin Tolisso (Lyon) are out of the race, whether due to poor form or injury. To think of a return of the 35-year-old world champion Blaise Matuidi (Inter Miami) seems to be heresy. Although, the word is too strong. High odds, that’s for sure. Last but not least, Didier Deschamps could also opt for a change of system, like Christophe Galtier at PSG. In a three-man environment, couldn’t elements like Thomas Lemar (Atlético) and Houssem Aouar (Lyon) find a place? The most likely scenario remains to see Tchouaméni associated with Rabiot or Fofana in the midfield.
Unfortunately for Deschamps, the building site in the middle is not the only one to be resolved. In fact, there are still many questions less than three weeks before the start of the World Cup. Mike Maignan and Raphaël Varane have started a race against time to recover from their injury in time. Like Rabiot and Tchouaméni, Karim Benzema, Lucas Hernandez and Jules Koundé will quickly resume after their glitches. This is already the case for Theo Hernandez, Kingsley Coman, Hugo Lloris, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Digne and Steve Mandanda. It’s not all bad news…