It has been almost a year since the France team last played with Paul Pogba or N’Golo Kante. And she is not performing so bad without this pair.
For more than five years, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante embodied both the tenacity and creativity of the France team’s midfield. From March 2016 until Euro 2021 the pair were untouchable in the Blues’ midfield. And rightly so, because it was very attractive, the culmination of this brilliant cooperation was the World Cup victory in Russia. But this period is over now. The fault lies not only in the competition, but also in the main parties involved.
More than a year without Pogba or Kante
Pogba and Kante have been on the cross for several months. Mainly due to physical disturbances, but it is not just that. Sure, La Pioche has suffered at least eight injuries since July 2022, the date of his commitment to Juventus, and Ng has been sidelined for 300 days in the past two years, but there are other factors leading to They’ve moved away from the blues. For example, personal concerns. Everyone has these, not just the little ones.
While they have 144 caps between them, Pogba and Kante have not appeared in the tricolor shirt for over a year. More precisely from June 3, 2022, during a match against Denmark in the Nations League and during which the former Caen player played his first full 90 minutes at international level since the Euros last summer. How did Chayan behave after this double defection? The answer is: very good. Sure, there have been three setbacks in the meantime but none of any real significance (two in the Nations League, and the match against Tunisia at the World Cup). And on balance, positive results abound, including an almost spectacular performance during the Qatari World Cup.
Deschamps had to review his strategy
So the Blues were able to recover from the loss of those who once belonged to them. And there are two reasons for this. The first is the system change made by Didier Deschamps since the World Cup. The French boss abandoned his asymmetric 4-4-2 for a 4-3-3, without meanwhile testing other configurations with relative success (the Euros’ 3-4-3). A new plan, not necessarily more reliable than the previous plan, but one that has paid off.
During the global coronation four years ago, Kante and Pogba were the guarantors of collective balance, sometimes helped by left midfielder Blaise Matuidi. Today, protecting the rearguard and serving as a launching pad for attackers is not the job of just two players. The Sentinel is played by Aurelien Tchoumeni and is flanked by two torchbearers, in this case Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann.
Griezmann’s commendable sacrifice
Strategic development took place, but people still had to perform well. And besides, Deschamps has nothing to complain about. All three were completely satisfactory and also looked very complementary. This certainly didn’t happen overnight and they had to try other options, but once the mayonnaise took hold it became clear that the French team once again had a very solid foundation.
Chouameni and Rabiot should be saluted for the progress they have made. Match by match, he is proving to be more and more valuable in the French eleven. But, perhaps most of the credit should go to Griezmann. As a true team player, the latter knew how to “sacrifice” himself by giving up part of his offensive desires in order to be able to provide some more connection between defense and attack. With his technique and his taste for combat, he immediately proved brilliant in the role. One has to wonder if he hasn’t played his entire career in this position. Obviously, facing clustered defense and in a 4-2-3-1 system, he still occupies a high position on the pitch, but this hybrid midfield responsibility fits him like a glove and DD has found him It will be difficult to see the removal. But now.
Tchoumeni establishes himself as boss
Last Friday’s match against Ireland perfectly illustrated the usefulness of this three-way midfielder. Tchoumeni was also named man of the match, having put in a solid performance with one goal. His coach liked the aiming, but he particularly appreciated his hitting, which touched at least 126 balls and worked heavily on recoveries. Grizou and Rabiot were slightly less prominent, but equally important. Always available, regularly on the move and constantly trying to pass the ball in the best situations.
Everything is going well with the Blues and we are hoping that this improvement can be sustained. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t happen, even if Griezmann doesn’t have too many years left in the national team. And even if one element is missing, France today has other talents in its reserves capable of meeting the coach’s expectations. We think especially about Eduardo Camavinga, even if the latter has been used mainly as a left back in the national team so far.
The door is not closed for the old
And then, it is not impossible to believe in the return of Pogba and Kante in the future. Both have just returned to competition with their respective clubs. Kante is now performing in Saudi Arabia (at Al-Ittihad), but according to Deschamps this is not prohibitive and it is entirely possible that he will return if he regains his former level. So the door is not closed for this pair and nothing is certain. The only certainty is that even without them, France has managed to remain efficient. And that’s good.