Eurozone: Could M’Vila Hold Key to French Success?
Tonight sees France take on the possession machine that is Spain, and Laurent Blanc faces the same crucial dilemma which has faced countless managers over the last few years. How much do you sacrifice your own game in order to counter the death-by-passing game which has brought Spain (and Barca) so much success? The answer could lie with Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila.
M’Vila missed the England game with an ankle injury, but after a 22-minute sub appearance against Ukraine and then 83 minutes in the Sweden defeat, the man who has been described as a combination of Vieira, Makélélé and Yaya Touré is ready to show Europe what everyone in France already knows.
Physically, he has the leggy demeanour of Vieira but with the powerful bursting stride of Touré. Tactically astute, he can easily play the anchorman role but, like Touré, his talents could be wasted by the shackles demanded by that position. For the past two seasons, M’Vila has been Ligue 1′s top passer, both in attempted passes and successful ones, meaning he is often the man at the heart of Rennes’ attacks.
Spain will play their usual game, with del Bosque only needing to decide whether to go with their midfield-tastic line-up or actually do the unthinkable and play with a striker. Much of the talk in the French press has centred around the supposed bust-up in the changing room following the Sweden game. Rumours abound that main playmaker Nasri will be dropped as a punishment for apparently instigating the row. Dropping Nasri for such an important game would be a brave call by Blanc, though Martin, Valbuena, Menez or Ben Arfa are all able deputies.
If Blanc does choose to drop the City man, it could be to accomodate the returning Cabaye and play a deeper 3 in midfield to try and get close to Spain’s passmasters. This would mean Alou Diarra keeping his place alongside M’Vila, but this would prove problematic given the former’s lack of mobility.
The more likely outcome is that Blanc will persist with a two-man defensive midfield, and Diarra being the one to make way. M’Vila and Cabaye are technically equal to Spain’s midfield, though if the midfield becomes tight, as Spain will try to instigate, the French will be outnumbered as the central attacking midfielder (whoever that may be) will be less likely to drop in to support.
Whichever line-up Blanc chooses to go with, this evening’s game will be a true test of French credentials. Are they as good as this blogger thinks they are? Time will tell. Either way, surely this skillful, technical and pacy team are a more interesting alternative to Spain’s Chinese water-torture style of football. Variety is the spice of life, so for the sake of football, and anyone else a bit tired of watching teams being slowly killed off like a Spanish bull, let’s hope M’Vila can power the French through the game and into the semi-finals.