Why has nobody tried to copy France’s World Cup winners?

Date published: Thursday 6th September 2018 8:41 - Daniel Storey

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Why has nobody tried to copy France’s system?
So France recently won the World Cup with a very distinctive style of play. They left the ball a lot to their opponent and got very good on the counter. And no other team got really close to effectively cause them problems. I wonder why no coach in the EPL is trying to replicate this. What would they need?

– A classic back 4 – 2 central defenders, left back, 1 right back who would occasionally go forward but not that much.

– 3 defensive midfielders – I think that’s the first thing that differentiated them from others. Matuidi, Kanté and Pogba had defensive duties first and foremost – yes even Pogba.

– 1 roaming attacker / playmaker – Griezmann, which made him less effective as an attacker than he is at Atletico. Interestingly Griezmann is not necessarily that great at creating (definitely not in Zidane’s league) but he is fast, nimble and dynamic and that’s what Deschamps wanted.

– 1 target striker – the non-scoring striker but who was very effective at winning headers, recycling the ball, giving it to Mbappé and also being the first line of defence.

– 1 electric attacker, fast, a good dribbler, someone who will scare defenders.

So for this you need:
– “normal” defenders – not hard to find.

– holding midfielders, including one that will fill the “Pogba” role as a box-to-box midfielder – again, plenty of those.

– a striker that will accept his role as a non-scoring striker – again, I’m sure that’s not that hard to find.

– now the 2 that are hard to find are a creator (the Griezmann role) and a pacey striker that can get past his opponents (Mbappé).

So the two specialist positions this game plan demands is a creator and a striker. In the EPL, for creators, we have De Bruyne, Mata, Hazard, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Alli, Eriksen, Arnautovic and others.

For feared, pacey strikers, it is more of a problem, there aren’t many people as good as Mbappé. Mo Salah surely would, Mané too, Rashford could be, Vardy too (although he might be getting old for this) but guys like Morata, Lukaku, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Kane, Lamela, Mitrovic, Barnes aren’t really cut for this. Not sure about Firmino. But there must be some more abroad and I wonder why we haven’t seen those come to the EPL.
Mike, Auckland Blue, CFC

It doesn’t matter how you play until the end of the season
At the beginning of the season they are not fully fit or not got the system perfected

Mid season during the fixture pile up it’s all about winning with so many games over this period

Towards the end of the season it’s all about winning and getting to the finish line

Basically it seems people always find an excuse throughout the season to say it’s good to win when playing badly.
David (I think only at the end of the season does playing badly and winning matter) Morris


Thoughts on Chelsea strikers
Being a Chelsea fan, I’ve got to say I’m jealous of the striking options of the other top 6 teams. How I’d love one of Lukaku (damn you Mourinho!), Kane, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Aguero, Jesus, Firmino or Salah. We have Giroud (who I enjoy and offers energy and hold up play without actually scoring any goals) and Morata (who seems like a nice guy but the whole game seems to slow down when he gets involved – and not in the way it did with Zidane who seemed to be able to control time when he had the ball). Morata is a player that doesn’t offer much if he isn’t scoring, and doesn’t score much unless Azpilicueta is crossing onto his head.

There have been suggestions that Sarri might convert Hazard into a false 9, but I feel you lose too much by pushing him further up the pitch where he isn’t as involved in the build-up play. Maybe I’m not the first to suggest this, but why not experiment with RLC up front? He is big and strong but has incredibly quick feet. He very rarely loses the ball even in the tightest of situations and then manages to find a positive attacking pass when it seemed there weren’t any. My only question would be his finishing, but would that really be any worse than our other options?

I’d love to see him given the opportunity which would allow us to keep the likes of Pedro, Hazard, Willian and Odoi free to roam the field, create opportunities and feed off a striker that can be relied upon to receive the ball and have the composure to either take the strike or see the run and make the final pass.
Ed (hoping we don’t lose RLC like we did with Salah, Lukaku and de Bruyne!)


Eddie Howe for England
Got to take issue with Chaz (Essex).. please leave the Cowley’s alone, they’re ours forever!! Joking aside, he’s absolutely spot on (apart from saying Big Matt Rhead was signed by The Cowley’s – nope, he was already here and upon their arrival asked to be transfer listed to be closer to home!). Eddie Howe is fantastic, I’ve always been a huge fan of his. I actually have a ‘note’ in my phone that says “Eddie Howe to be England manager within the next 10 years” – I wrote it 30th May 2015!

As much as I like Sir Gareth, there’s no doubt that one day Eddie Howe should be given the opportunity, assuming he wants it. The only obvious downside to his ability is as Storey mentioned – he does struggle in the transfer window! However, in terms of philosophy, tactics, man-management etc, he seems almost faultless.

Sarah is also spot on. Welbeck, Lallana, Delph and Rashford have absolutely no reason to be in that squad. Gareth was praised before the World Cup for stating he’d only pick payers who playing and in good form. The aforementioned four players are either not playing, not in form, or both. This was a fantastic opportunity to include the likes of Ryan Sessegnon (who has actually been quite underwhelming but is still a young lad – and is playing!), Callum Wilson, Will Hughes.. heck, even Glenn Murray has more merit of an inclusion than Welbeck!

Although Southgate did tremendous at the World Cup, this latest team selection has set some alarm bells ringing. Nevertheless, I questioned Southgate when he announced the WC squad, and we reached the Semi Finals so who am I to quibble?
Ricky (Up the Imps).


Away goals can work out well
Like Garey Vance, I’m very much sick of the away goals rule. I particularly remember his example of United v Bayer Leverkusen which denied Alex Ferguson a Champions League final in his hometown of Glasgow. I’ve also never understood why the away team in the second leg gets an extra half an hour to score if the game goes into extra time.

However, my away goals sliding doors moment is a positive one. In 2002-03, Celtic played Basle in the qualifying rounds for the Champions League. I arrived late to Celtic Park for the first leg and, unable to see a scoreboard from my seat, went home delighted that Celtic had won 3-0. It was only when I bumped into some Basle fans in the pub later that night that I found out the score was actually 3-1 as I’d missed an early goal.

Celtic lost the away leg 2-0, knocked out on away goals by the goal that I’d missed. The good news was that they dropped into the UEFA Cup and reached the final, famously beating Blackburn (men against boys according to Graeme Souness, how did that one work out mate?) and Liverpool on the way.

Although Celtic lost 3-2 in the final to an epic performance of sh*thousery from Porto, managed by the then unknown Jose Mourinho, that season’s European run and the 80,000 strong following that went over to Seville for the final has gone down in Celtic folklore. It also led to the unforgettable memory of an Ibrox away end full of sombreros and beach balls for the final derby of the season, and it all began with an away goal.
J (‘while you’re watching The Bill, we’ll be in Seville’) Glasgow


With the current discussion on away goals I thought I’d add my thoughts. As a Liverpool fan there hasn’t been an awful lot of ties decided by away goals over the last decade or so. There was one that sticks out though and it is a bit of a special case. In 2010 Liverpool played Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Europa League. The first thing that made this special was the disruption to air travel caused by that Icelandic volcano I’m not going to even attempt to spell. Liverpool were forced to travel for over 24 hours and looked very lethargic while losing 1-0 in Madrid. Out of the four European matches impacted the away team didn’t win once with only Fulham even getting a draw against Hamburg. Barcelona who travelled by coach for 10 hours lost 3-1 to Inter and never looked at the races either.

But this is about away goals and not volcanoes. In the second leg Liverpool played very well and were 1-0 up to go into extra time. Benayoun scored but Forlan (of all people) equalised on aggregate and Atletico were through on away goals. The annoyance here is away goals counting more in extra time. I’ve always disagreed with this even before this match and still do to this day. I can see the argument that the home team in the second leg has home advantage for 30 extra minutes but the away goal advantage is considerably more. You only have to score a goal to leave your opponents needing two. That’s massive compared to not having as many fans there. So I would scrap that immediately.

Since I’m here I may as well give my opinion on normal time away goals. I don’t really have an issue with them, there’s little evidence that home teams sit back so as not to concede one, most home teams see that game as their opportunity to win the tie. And the drama of a single goal being able to swing the entire tie really does add something to the spectacle.

I remember in 2005 when Gudjohnsen’s volley missed by inches in the last seconds (Chelsea fans may remember that match for the referee cruelly not sending-off Petr Cech and awarding Liverpool a penalty in the 4th minute) which could have put Liverpool out instead of going to extra time. We don’t get that winners to losers in an instant feeling domestically and it makes for gripping sport.
Jim (**** you Eyjafjallajoekull, **** you), Norwich


Extra-time is worse than away goals
In response to Garey Vance, MUFC – I agree that away goals are a rubbish way of deciding the winner of a 2-legged European tie. The worst thing about it is that is has led to a widely-held mindset that sees 0-0 at home in the first leg as a good result. It leads to a weird situation where you get a cagey 1st leg 0-0 in which the away team attacks more than the home team, then the exact opposite happens in the return fixture with the roles reversed. Essentially this means that in both games, the home side plays more conservatively than the away side for fear of conceding an away goal. Under the current system the best thing that can happen in a 1st leg is for the away team to score early, which tends to open the game up.

Perhaps more controversially, on top of binning away goals I would also scrap extra time. For every thrilling 30mins of action, I guarantee you will see 10 periods of extra time played at walking pace, with both sets of players wasting time whilst desperately trying not to get injured or concede a goal. I took the liberty of checking the stats for World Cups: since 1978 there have been 150 knockout games. 51 have gone to extra time, and 30 of those have also gone to penalties. In other words, over half of the time the game goes to penalties anyway.

This year’s tournament was even more extreme – there were 5 games that featured extra time, and 4 of them went to penalties. (The only team to lose a match during extra time? England against Croatia). Of the remaining 4 games, only 1 of them even saw a goal scored during the extra time period: the admittedly entertaining Russia v Croatia game. But can anyone honestly say they enjoyed watching the goalless extra time periods of Croatia v Denmark or England v Colombia? I thought not.

Scrapping extra time would have several advantages. You keep the drama of a penalty shootout, without having to endure the often soul crushingly boring 30 minutes of extra time. It would also level the playing field during the knockout stages – at the moment one team can be at a significant disadvantage by having to play a far fresher team in the final.

Just look at this year: Croatia played 3 periods of extra time within a 10 day period. Their French opponents didn’t play any. You could argue that France would have won the final anyway, but it can’t have helped the Croatians with their preparation. Most importantly, it means England would have a better chance at tournament glory – we’re good at penalties now, right?………….right?
Rob, NCFC (60% of the time, penalties work every time)


The Denmark situation is really messy
We are heading into an international break with a rather large elephant in the room for one group of teams. Because the Danish team are fighting about international payments, they are going to have to field a vastly weakened team (including Futsal players) in their qualifier against Wales. Yet, by the time they play the 3rd team in that group, Rep of Ireland, they expect their problem to be sorted and the full first team to be available again.

Of course, I’m biased (I’m Irish), but this hands a massive advantage to Wales, yet nobody seems to be hassling UEFA to level the playing field. If Wales can play a weak team, ROI should also have that advantage and play the same team. Denmark should not be given the luxury of fielding a strong team in the second game, because their problem is entirely of their own making. This means that Denmark will effectively be writing off this campaign, but as I said, it is their own fault.

Does anyone else have an opinion on this? I know similar issues have occurred many times before – largely due to illness within a team etc., but when it happens over a financial issue, the team involved should be punished in some way for fielding a weakened team.


Revealed: Two pet peeves
Can we all agree not to click on headlines with the word “REVEALED” in capitals!

And can commentators stop calling a shot that hits the post “unlucky”. Just listen for it, they say it almost every time! It was no less lucky than a sliced shot that ends up in row Z by the corner flag!
Ed (I’ve got a lot more of these, and the list gets longer as I get older)


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