Monday, May 24, 2010

France Hopeless Without Lassana Diarra

Some­one who walks with an uneven spine is sure to have an awk­ward gait.

With­out recently ruled-out cen­tral mid­fielder Las­sana Diarra, France will sim­i­larly be unable to engage their core cor­rectly. It is the final damn­ing fac­tor prov­ing their march through the 2010 World Cup will likely be an uncom­fort­able one.

Any side’s most impor­tant player

At times, Diarra is the best player on his club team. This is no small feat con­sid­er­ing he plays at Real Madrid with both Cris­tiano Ronaldo and Gon­zalo Higuain —the sec­ond and third best attack­ers in the world dur­ing the 2009/2010 season.

Lass’ approach to mid­field gen­er­al­ship relies on bal­ance. Not nec­es­sar­ily his own phys­i­cal bal­ance but the aver­ag­ing of both his offen­sive and defen­sive acu­men, and his equal tim­ing and mea­sure­ment of each one’s application.

Defen­sive mid­fielder” describes his posi­tion but does not define his effect on matches.

He goes for­ward and back­wards, rarely over-committing in either direc­tion.  His blunt and oblong fore­head leads his taut, but small frame, eagerly into tack­les. But it’s his impor­tant dis­tri­b­u­tion, his abil­ity to use either foot to drib­ble or pass, and pen­chant for a nice-looking through-ball that really makes his mold unique.
The guy makes Michael Car­rick look like Nancy Reagan.

There are very few play­ers even like him among Europe’s elite: Roma’s Daniele De Rossi, Man United’s Dar­ren Fletcher, Barcelona’s Keita, or even Liverpool’s Stephen Gerrard.

Like Diarra, their pres­ence almost solely enables their respec­tive clubs’ attack to flourish.

Yet in Europe, year after year star for­wards gar­ner more glory and trans­fer fees, while the true foun­da­tion of each side remains largely unheralded.

His pri­vate sickness

And so the Real Madrid mid­fielder was the per­fect foil for France play­maker Yoann Gour­cuff in South Africa, but now he’s out of the tour­na­ment with an inter­est­ing stom­ach ailment.

Appar­ently, the sick­ness is severe enough to know that a stom­ach ache won’t heal in 17 days. The French fed­er­a­tion was alarm­ingly coy in their reac­tion Sunday.

Fur­ther to his intesti­nal pain con­tracted on the glac­ier in Tignes, check-ups have detected evi­dence of an unpre­dictable ill­ness which jus­ti­fies rest for an inde­ter­mi­nate period. Con­se­quently Las­sana Diarra will miss the World Cup 2010 in South Africa,” a state­ment from the FFF read.

After Diarra, of the just six mid­field­ers left, only Alou Diaby has the com­bi­na­tion of grit and skill to weigh down his team’s core. How­ever, his lower cen­ter of grav­ity and slightly over-buccaneering approach to attack­ing make the replace­ment hardly like-for-like.

Although Diaby’s style isn’t wholly dis­sim­i­lar to Diarra’s, and he gamely ful­fills his cru­cial role for Arse­nal, the gen­eral dis­par­ity in class between the two French­men is a marked one.

It’s very improb­a­ble that Diaby will slot in and do bet­ter than Diarra would have on the basis that the lat­ter is bet­ter at every­thing.

Domenech pro­poses poorly

But hell, Diaby might not even play, nor might not any­one else with mani­a­cal man­ager Domenech at the helm.

If a cold and con­fi­dent Jose Mour­inho didn’t recently remind every­one to the value of a coach in form, let the dither­ing, hope­lessly roman­tic French man­ager remind you to the effect of the opposite.

He’s been so appallingly ner­vous and dim-witted over his three-year tenure, the FFF, on May 16, hired for­mer Bor­deaux coach, ven­er­a­ble Man United leg­end, and famed for­mer France defender Lau­rent Blanc to replace him after the World Cup. Not exactly a show of confidence.

And that was before the maligned coach Domenech unfor­giv­ably omit­ted Samir Nasri from the final 23-man squad.

After also snub­bing the incon­sis­tent but prodi­gal Ben­zema from the team, bust-ups with almost every player, and gen­er­ally mediocre results through­out prior tour­na­ments and qual­i­fy­ing groups,  the con­clu­sion through­out France appears to be that Domenech never quite grasped the plot through­out his sur­pris­ingly long six-year tenure.

Now, Same old Post-Zidane France

Should be more let­down for France this year. If the FFF really had balls, they’d have just replaced Domenech with the younger, fresher, and more cere­bral Blanc out­right before the tournament.

If they had even big­ger balls, they’d have just signed him to play for ‘em. They could use Blanc’s sag­gys, because sadly the French defense is too small, and none are real center-backs. Gal­las is likely to start. Full stop.

The wing-backs are awe­some, and the wings as well, but with­out Diarra to act strongly both in front of and behind them, play­ing off Sagna and Evra, releas­ing play­ers like Gour­cuff, Mal­ouda, and Ribery to feed into Henry or Anelka, the French side have no base. Besides, their goal­keep­ers are usu­ally a bit squir­rely too.

In the classy but only semi-fit Ribery, a steady­ing Anelka, an impres­sive Mal­ouda, and even an off-form Gour­cuff, France have plenty of options going forward.

Despite that, with such a poor tac­ti­cian at the helm as Domenech, with­out their under­rated handy­man Diarra plug­ging holes cen­trally, France will fall awk­wardly against so many other more bal­anced sides strid­ing past them through­out the tournament.