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Is the No. 9 dead?
I’m not one to ever agree with Arsene Wenger but think he may be right when he defends his faith in Giroud by complaining there are so very few world-class strikers around and certainly none at a reasonable price.
Just look at the Euros on two teams in whole competition only three teams taking part arguably have world-class strikers in the form of Sweden’s Ibrahimovic, Belgium’s Lukaku and Poland’s Lewandowski. Ibrahimovic didn’t even score and the other two had mixed performances. Not to say there aren’t other good strikers there but Morata, Pelle, Gomez and obviously Giroud have had good tournaments but are not of the same class however you look at it.
The two teams that got to the final were both fired there by wingers, Ronaldo and Nani for Portugal and Griezmann for France. Bale, Payet and Perisic also took on a goal scoring burden for their respective countries. If you look at world football this shouldn’t be much of a surprise as most top countries’ star player and main goalscorer is a winger, number 10 or false 9 not an actual striker.
Brazil Have Neymar, Argentina have Messi, Chile have Sanchez. Argentina are the only country with two world-class strikers in Higuain and Aguero but even with Messi this has not won them any trophies. Uruguay are unique in having an actual striker but Suarez is equally adept as a 9, 10 or on either wing and is good in the air. He is probably the best example of a modern attacker since the man who I feel started the slow death of the number 9, Thierry Henry. The Brazilian Ronaldo was the prototype for the noughties striker, strong, quick, skillful and could score bucket loads but you could hardly ask him to play on the wing or as a number 10 if it was required. The same would also apply to another recent great, Drogba. Both were truly world-class strikers but lack one thing required by top teams and their managers who want to win trophies in the game now, flexibility.
Henry could score and create goals in equal measure out of pretty much nothing in a split second and play all across the front while most other top ‘strikers’ merely scored goals created by others and chipped in with a few assists. Messi, Ronaldo and now Suarez have taken that art to another level. Relying on and paying someone 150-300k a week who just scores goals and little else so will just have to be subbed if the tactics aren’t working is old hat so is becoming irrelevant in modern top-level football.
It’s no surprise that just like Henry, Ronaldo, Messi, Neymar, Bale and the new pretender to join the elite players club Griezmann all started as wingers as the pace, power, flexibility and creativity required for that role just needs the last ingredient, lots of goals to make a complete world-class modern attacker. Managers need attackers who can play in different positions as the tactics require it throughout a game and a typical striker cannot offer this. No surprise why Barca and Real Madrid pay astronomical sums for converted wingers but sent Ibrahimovic and Higuain to pastures new. Sad if it’s true but once Ibrahimovic, Lewandowski and Higuain retire that’s probably the last we’ll see of that type of striker at top European clubs. Arsene noticed the shortage but never realised why, neither did the other top EPL teams in their never-ending search for a world-class number 9 which may explain their recent failings in Europe, myopic indeed.
Ramsey the striker?
I have the solution that will solve all of Arsenal’s problems in finding a striker. Aaron Ramsay needs to move up front. Think about it, he scores goals and creates chances. For Wales he was given licence to roam around at the front. He loves scoring goals. In a way it could be a bit like Alan Shearer moving from midfield to striker (like your article). Okay, maybe that would be a bit much.
Something Arsenal now have is an extraordinary depth of talent in midfield. Starting with the best, we now have Ozil (swoon), Santi, Xhaka, Wilshere (hopefully the Arsenal one, not the rubbish England one), Ramsay, Elneny, Coquelin and even Zelalem and Bielik to come through. Ramsay will struggle (as will a few others) to get serious game time now. He isn’t a defender so let’s push him to the front? He would even get the best out of Giroud and his trademark flicks etc.
Are there other players in similar predicaments that could convert to solve problems in other teams?
JazGooner (I wondered the same about Alexis, but he seems to like the wing)
About the Pog…
I am still not convinced about Pogba being a £100m player. Sure he is a very good and well rounded footballer for his age, but a world record fee? Normally such fees are reserved for players who have been the best in the world or thereabouts for at least one previous season. Ronaldo was a World POTY winner before his transfer and Bale had that outrageous season with Spurs where he demolished everyone that came up against him. For 100m, I’d expect an edge-of-the-seat talent who has taken the footballing world by storm. In my opinion Pogba hasn’t, yet.
Further, as a Man United fan, it really grates that he was one of our own who got away and we now are willing to pay astronomical sums to get him back. That truly is a c**k up of epic proportions. That being said, good box to box midfielders are a rare commodity these days and I really hope Jose and Ed Wood know what they are doing on this one.
Of course, I’ll sound like a total git if this whole ‘saga’ is nothing but an elaborate ruse created solely for filling Pogba and his agent’s already deep pockets.
This is what Blaise Matuidi does…
Like Waleed Makhdum this morning, I came into this tournament not really understanding Blaise Matuidi. What does he do? His performances though, especially in the knock-out rounds, have convinced me that he’d be the first name I’d put in France’s midfield if/when I get the France manager’s job.
It’s partly about his individual qualities: he is excellent in defence, looks dangerous when he goes forward and passes well (that move in the first half between him and Griezmann was beautiful). But as was pointed out, Kanté is a better defensive midfielder and Pogba (with the confidence that has grown in this tournament) is a great attacker and phenomenal passer. The reason Matuidi is in there is for what he brings tactically. It seems trivial but being left-footed is a big deal with the way France play; with Payet in front of him drifting in, Matuidi can compensate and offer the team width. He also gives the sort of box-to-box threat (with Sissoko mirroring him on the right) that Kanté just can’t(é). When France were being overrun by Germany after half an hour, the commentator last night (whose name has inexplicably eluded me now) replied to Martin Keown’s suggestion of bringing on Kanté that “you’d have a bit of a problem if 90% of your plan was just to stop the other team”. France are too good to do that. Matuidi brings balance to the team, and prevents the threat from being predictable – late runs into the box and creative through balls could come from any of their three midfielders.
Similarly, the way they’re set up now suits Payet’s strengths of drifting inside and creating more than Coman or Martial’s pace. I suspect you’ll get a few more mails about the ‘drop Payet’ suggestion…
They’ve found, after the initial tinkering of the group stages, a system that suits the team and makes the most of their best players (Griezmann and Pogba). There’s been a lot of introspection about England’s habit of crowbarring the ‘best’ 11 players into a team in the last 11 days; France are showing that the enabling players like Matuidi are just as important as the superstars.
Oli (Can we just bring Germany back for the final instead of Portugal? And bring Klose back for one last game too, they need him)
Kudos to Deschamps
When I saw the team last night, I instantly thought France were in for a long night. Leaving out Kante, their best ball winner, against a German team likely to try to dominate possession, seemed a massive oversight on Deschamps part. Coming into the tournament, he probably felt midfield was his strongest area, with Pogba, Matuidi and Kante his best players along with Lloris. The team that beat Romania was set up to be solid, but for this they sacrificed an attacking edge.
The unfamiliar scenario of being 1-0 down to Ireland at half time forced Deschamps to gamble. Three and a half games in, Griezmann had just one goal to his name but was brought into a central position and promptly broke Irish hearts, shattering the dream that Richard Keogh and Shane Duffy could be an international centre-back pairing. Kante’s suspension and Iceland being the opposition ment 4-4-2 was the obvious quarter-final formation.
In high pressure games, we are always told of the importance of having a defensive ‘screener’, that big games cannot be won without Claude Makélélé. Every pundit preaches “keeping things tight” in these type of games – I’m ashamed to say I had listened.
Last night Deschamps may not have picked his best 11, or even his best team – but he picked the best team to score a bagful. The team to get the most out of his best striker, rather than his best midfielders.
If France were to go down last night, they would have gone down swinging – kudos Didier.
Deschamps for Arsenal?
With the season nearing we will once again start the Arsene hokey cokey (in, out,in, out…).
However the usual question is who would you replace Arsene with? The names given are either fanciful (Simeone) or ridiculous (Coyle). But now we could see a genuine contender in Monsieur Deschamps.
His credentials go before him, Euro 2016 finalist (at least), league winner with Marseilles, Champions League finalist with Monaco.
Only issues not sure how much English he learnt in his one year at Chelsea.
Is it likely? Realistically I guess it depends on how long he wants to stay on with France, ideally for one more year then get sacked for bad results enough to put off Madrid (who will have sacked Zidane) and PSG. He could be tempted to go back to Juve or another Italian or Spanish club but surely the money on offer at Arsenal should win out.
I know he’s French but apart from that a world away from Wenger, we need a pragmatic coach with international clout who doesn’t mind shaking it up and Deshamps fits the bill.
Paul K, London
Couple of thoughts on France-Germany
– For all of Germany’s possession in the first half, they had very few chances. A half-volley from Can, a few corners, a long-range shot from Schweinsteiger… They seemed very limited up front, choosing systematically to try and pass it to the wings and cross, a tactic that was ineffective without Gomez. Muller never got the better of Umtiti and Koscielny in the air.
– France conceded that they were not going to be able to beat Germany at their passing game, and instead relied on trying to get an early goal. When that didn’t work, they focused on stopping Germany from being dangerous, lumping the ball up to Giroud and hoping that Payet and Griezmann could conjure up something on the counter. This could have worked much better if Payet hadn’t been abysmal yesterday. Not only did he completely ignore his defensive duties in the first half (I lost count of the number of times Kimmich was allowed to cross the ball completely unchallenged), but he also lost the ball by trying to dribble through the German defence on his own. His hero complex since the Romania game has been infuriating – especially when compared to Griezmann.
– The breakthrough came through a fortunate but stonewall penalty; fortunate because there was no immediate danger for Germany, but difficult to argue against unless you feel playing Superman and punching the ball away doesn’t deserve a penalty. As Rizzoli is pointing to the penalty spot, the already yellow-carded Can also goes in studs-up on Sissoko, so I don’t particularly feel the ref was a homer today.
– As soon as Boateng went off, Germany never looked like coming back. The long game against Italy, and the injuries to Gomez and Hummels had a huge impact on this game.
– Griezmann is amazing. He runs, he tackles, he heads the ball as well as Giroud, he dribbles, he scores. He also has a terrible, probably trademarked celebration, the sign of all great players.
– When Deschamps’ list was announced, most people thought Sissoko was included as a mascot. Yesterday, he humiliated Hector and Draxler, and was much better than Matuidi. Was he really that bad at Newcastle?
– Games between the big European teams always conjure memories of older games between players none of the current players were alive to see. So far, a few trends has been broken. The Germans had never beaten Italy in a tournament, yet won on penalties. France had never beaten Germany, but vanquished the demons of Sevilla yesterday. So, some context for the final: Portugal have never beaten France in an official competition, and haven’t won against them since 1975. The last time Deschamps was in a cup final, he led a much heralded French side who had beaten the overwhelming favorites to a 3-0 defeat against Portuguese opponents. What does this all mean? Nothing much probably, England have been terrible since 2002 and that trend has continued unabated.
I know you will probably be flooded with these, but reading Mat R’s classic sentence re: Dimitri Payet ‘Invisible vs Ireland (yes he created five chances but most of them were from set-pieces, besides a few good deliveries he was awful)’, obviously brought this to mind:
In fact from reading the letters page today I had to recheck that France had indeed beaten the world champions in a semi-final to reach their fourth major tournament final in 18 years. Because from what I read it would appear that apart from most of their team being rubbish, Deschamps had also picked entirely the wrong team as well.
Why la haine, people?
I am a little surprised at all the hate towards France and its players. We just beat the world champions. The most consistent performers in national teams. A team we had not beaten since ’58 in a major tournament. And people are complaining about goal celebrations (you scored six goals in a tournament, two against the best goalkeeper in the world, I’m sure you can do whatever the f*ck you want to celebrate) and time-wasting. Because no other team/nation does that, EVER. And to be honest, we barely did anything. Seems harsh compared to other teams.
Here are some of my conclusions:
* Payet did not have a good game because France did not have much of the ball. He is not a defensive-minded midfielder. However, just for set-pieces he is key. That is how we scored our first goal (penalty through a set-piece) and how we create chances. Dead ball situations are extremely important at this level, and leaving this ability on the bench would be folly.
* Matuidi might not seem to do much on the ball, but he was excellent defensively, and brings balance to the team. His assist for Iceland also shows he can do it with the ball. Kante is a wonderful player, but does have the same technique. Leaving him out was a mistake that ended up working.
* France did not steal the slow clap from Iceland guys, sorry. It’s been in France for years at multiple grounds. Rennes and Nice have been doing it for years.
* It has to be said, but what a defensive performance from France. Germany did not have a shot on target between the 25th and 90th minute. That is insane.
* You can’t help but feel for Ozil. One of the greatest creators of all time, and plays for a club team and a national team that have a history of world class strikers to offer caviars to. Unfortunately at this time the strikers are Gomez and Giroud.
* Going a little further, was this the most Arsenal performance ever in the euros. Complete domination of the ball, but sterile domination. Two goals conceded through individuals mistake (Including a goal gaffe). Ozil creating chances that no one gets on target. Lack of true leaders, and multiple injuries to the team. This is Arsenal textbook.
* I still can’t believe we beat the Germans. We never beat the Germans. and to beat them like this is amazing. Thank you Griezmann, you can keep dancing like a clown all you want.
Guillaume (qui ne sautent pas n’est pas Francais, hey) Ottawa
Moves like Antoine…
Sorry, but Will (yes I know Iceland pinched it from Motherwell but just…shhh) Wymant, EFC is completely wrong, there is nothing worse than Sturridge little dance, and I hate Greizmann’s celebration too.
Anto (Giggs and Ince’s routine was very cringeworthy too) Dublin
Would any player turn down an England cap?
The mailbox is probably going to be full of stuff about Euro 2016 so I’m going to leave all that to others because, due to the different time zones, I’ve found it hard to consistently get up in the wee hours to watch too many games live – especially after England went out – and it’s difficult to hog the TV of an evening to watch replays. Nonetheless, I’m fairly current with what’s going but, hopefully, you will appreciate something a little bit different in the mailbox.
One of the reasons I’ve not watched as much of the Euros as I would normally, is that I made an early decision to watch some of the Copa America for the first time which, as you know, is pretty much run concurrently with the Euros, at least in the early group stages of the European competition. During the final of the Copa America, the commentator mentioned that in the 2015 tournament, Messi apparently turned down the ‘Man Of The Series’ award because he didn’t think he deserved it. Something I didn’t know. Now what follows is just a question and not necessarily my own opinion because I’m still thinking about it. (Okay, I’m claiming neutrality because I think I could well get clobbered if I come down one way or the other).
So I was thinking that it’s not too far a jump from Messi turning down a personal award to any other player turning down a personal award of another kind. Let’s say his first international cap, for instance. Just as Messi said he didn’t deserve the ‘Man Of The Series’ award in 2015, is it such a stretch for the likes of Sterling to decline his first, offered cap on the basis that he doesn’t feel he’s ready? I mean, what are the possible repercussions? Does the manager pat him on the back and tell him his future progress will be monitored and well done for being honest or is his international career now a train wreck no matter if the managership changes hands every two years?
I can’t honestly see anyone turning down their first cap but I just think that maybe they sometimes should. Think Walcott and it might just be a little clearer. Sterling is frighteningly quick but doesn’t really bring much else to the table. Maybe a few more years in the Premiership would do him the world of good but, at the moment, he’s pretty ineffective.
But would any England manager understand a player’s reticence or would that player’s international career be in the toilet and just one for the history buffs?
Harry for England? Make it so…
There is a small part of my brain that once in a while, even when my reason, logic and plain common sense scream ‘no’, turns to me and says ‘I know, but what if?’
I know Harry is the wrong choice. F365 know he is the wrong choice. Most England fans know he is the wrong choice. Heck, tribes indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, with no concept of the outside world know he is the wrong choice.
But, what if? What if The FA let him take the reins? What is the worst that can happen? We don’t qualify? Given our performances in tournaments since well, ever, it matters little if we do or don’t. Could Harry, seeing it as little more than a well paid consultancy where input is minimal, take the pressure to perform off the players? Would the losses in qualifying to Slovakia and Slovenia (‘I thought they were the same team and we were just playing ’em 4 times. Easy mistake to make, innit?) be that damaging to anything other than our (fans and Journalists) overinflated sense of importance?
Of course not. But the fallout that follows our failure to finish above Scotland and the feeling of ‘we told you so’ from those of us in the Never-Harry camp would be magnificent.
Harry for England? Ah, go on then.
James F, BCFC KRO