French team: defense, the major project for Didier Deschamps before the Euro

Great titles are not won without great defense. The adage is not new and it has accompanied each of the French team’s epics at the World Cup and the Euro. Three months before the European Championship in Germany (June 14-July 14), the Blues are today very far from the mark in this area and Didier Deschamps is currently faced with quite a task in this sector of play, he who has always attached, historically, great importance to this defensive solidity when starting a major competition.

The victory obtained this Tuesday evening against Chile (3-2) certainly allowed the Blues to showcase their qualities on the attacking front, but above all it illustrated the deficiencies behind.

After conceding two goals against the Germans last Saturday, the Blues rearguard once again faltered twice on the Vélodrome pitch, notably showing significant laxity on the Chilean opener. Théo Hernandez, to begin with, completely let go of Mauricio Isla marking and Aurélien Tchouaméni was once again slow to wake up, forgetting to get on the ball carrier. Without necessarily being guilty, we can wonder if Mike Maignan could not have done better and pushed his legs more.

Not necessarily worried the rest of the time, Didier Deschamps’ men were on the other hand still spectators when Osorio came to reduce the gap. A porosity which did not please the coach before recognizing his share of responsibilities in this. “If we score three goals, that’s fine… But at the very highest level, we need defense as well as attack,” Deschamps conceded at the microphone of TF1. We scored three times, we had chances. But both goals we take are avoidable. The defensive rigor was not good in this rally. I didn’t do anything about it, either. I changed the four players behind each time to the detriment of the automatisms. »

Ten goals conceded in the last seven matches

Unfortunately, the observation is not from today: these Blues concede too many goals. Never since November 2015-May 2016 has France conceded at least two goals in each of its last three matches in all competitions. If we go back in time, the French defense has conceded ten goals in its last seven matches, keeping a clean sheet only once: against Gibraltar, a poor quality opponent.

“This situation doesn’t worry me, but as a defender, of course it annoys me to concede two more goals,” admitted Ibrahima Konaté, starting in the center alongside William Saliba. I hope that we will start again with the dynamics of qualifying for the Euro. It’s not just the defenders who defend, it’s the whole team. »

An observation shared by his evening colleague, William Saliba, equally frustrated to see his team being shaken up defensively. “It’s always annoying to concede two goals when you’re a defender, it’s especially the starts where we have to improve, be more aggressive and more concentrated,” pointed out the Arsenal player.

Ten different hinges in ten matches

How to explain such a lack of solidity at the back, when these Blues had managed to concede only three goals in eight games during the qualifiers for Euro 2024? The lack of continuity in central defense is part of the answer. Tuesday evening, Didier Deschamps had aligned a tenth different central hinge for the tenth consecutive match. A large turnover generally constrained by injuries to some.

This Tuesday evening, the Saliba-Konaté pair is not necessarily responsible for the two goals conceded but stability and automatisms are expected in such a demanding sector of play. In turn, Dayot Upamecano, Lucas Hernandez, Benjamin Pavard, Jean-Clair Todibo and even Wesley Fofana were brought to play in the axis of defense. Are new tests expected in order to find the winning formula?

“The central hinge will emerge for the Euro but you never know what can happen with everyone’s problems,” explained Didier Deschamps. Obviously, I wouldn’t change the hinge from one match to the next. »

If the problem lies in the axis, the French corridors do not provide many more defensive guarantees. A center by trade, Jules Koundé continues to display shortcomings in a right-back position which is not his and where he lacks benchmarks. On the other hand, Théo Hernandez continues to be more interested in what is happening in the other half of the field rather than in his own. The AC Milan player is a formidable attacker but his lack of defensive rigor continues to raise questions and could be costly in a major competition where you will have to be strong to hope to dream big. There are three months left to change things and find the right formula.


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