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[av_heading heading=’France offensive strategy at Euro 2016′ tag=’h3′ style=’blockquote modern-quote modern-centered’ size=’46’ subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=’custom-color-heading’ custom_font=’#ffffff’][/av_heading]

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Author: Flavio Fusi

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The 2015/2016 season was Karim Benzema’s best since he has been with Real Madrid. He scored a goal every 83 minutes in la Liga, in addition to the 4 on the path toward La Undecima. Under normal circumstances, after a year like that, Benzema would no doubt have been the star of the home Euro 2016 for the favoured French team. Unfortunately for Didier Deschamps and all the French fans, the president of the French Football Federation, Noël Le Graët, decided to exclude him from the roster because he is being investigated for complicity in the extortion attempt on his national teammate, Valbuena.

Aware of Benzema’s probable absence, also preventively suspended for two months, Deschamps experimented with some alternative solutions, especially in the phase approaching Euro 2016, where France did not need to qualify as it is the host nation.

Arsenal centre forward Olivier Giroud, who scored 16 goals in Premier League, will probably start in their opening match against Romania . Giroud does not provide the same mobility and all-round game as Benzema, who, with Real, often looks for space and the ball in midfield, sometimes even on the wings, but he can be important in possession too.

Thanks to his physicality, he is able to shield the ball well and he is particularly useful in helping his team gain territory or as a reference point in lay-offs.

The former Montpellier forward gives the best of himself in the penalty area, where he exploits, not only his excellent finishing skills, but also his physical build to make headers. Considering his height, Giroud also has good technique, which has allowed him to score acrobatic goals as well, not the least of which is the one during the recent friendly against Cameroon.
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Giroud’s goal against Cameroon: the French forward slipped between the centre backs with excellent timing, staying onside and scoring an acrobatic goal, taking full advantage of Pogba’s great play

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Giroud’s back-up, both because of technical characteristics and what has been seen in recent matches, should be André-Pierre Gignac: the former Marseille forward, emigrated to Mexico last season, scored 27 goals in 38 matches with Tigres, which allowed the club get to the finals in Copa Libertadores.

With numbers like this, even from thousands of kilometres away, Deschamps could not ignore Gignac, who is also the perfect alter ego for Giroud: powerful, just as strong in headers and with excellent finishing skills. As he said himself, Gignac is “probably less talented than Giroud”, but he has “a lot of heart”.
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Against Germany, left-winger Martial dribbles first around Rüdiger and then Ginter, before providing an assist for Gignac, who did an excellent job getting into the penalty area, ready to score

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However, the solutions Deschamps has available to him for the centre forward role are not limited to Giroud and Gignac: Griezmann and Martial are also on the list of the 23 players called up. The French manager has used both primarily as wingers, but that does not mean that they cannot be lined up as strikers.

At Atlético Madrid, Antoine Griezmann now plays consistently as a deep lying-forward behind Fernando Torres. For the second consecutive season he has scored 22 times in la Liga, bringing his total numbers with the Colchoneros to 57 goals in 107 matches played. Simeone changed his position, but he still moves wide sometimes, especially when Atlético switches from the 4-4-2 formation to a 4-5-1, with Griezmann dropping to the right-winger spot.

With France he has a role that is closer to the one he played at Real Sociedad, since he plays as right inside-forward, where he can cut toward the centre of the pitch and collaborate with the manoeuvre, having a significant impact when his team has the ball, always ready to create the play that can shift the balances. It is precisely his creativity, combined with his technical skills, that makes him very important in deeper zones and in the midfield, so I do not think that we will see him as France number 9.
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Griezmann’s goal against Armenia scored with a typical deep-lying forward’s move: the Atlético striker plays the ball to Benzema with his back to the goal and then moves forward to complete the lay-off. After receiving the pass he goes slightly wide to exploit the space on the right side of the Armenian defence, before getting the best of the opposing goalkeeper

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Anthony Martial showed his stuff last season at Monaco where, thanks to his speed and dribbling skills, he was the perfect striker in Jardim’s system. As we know, last summer Martial transferred to Manchester United for a shocking fee (the potential amount, between the fixed and variable part, should be somewhere around € 80 million). Under Van Gaal he started off the season as a forward and was then gradually moved toward the wing, where he can use his one-on-one skills more often.

At just 20 years of age, Martial has been playing on the National team for almost a year and he completed his first year in the Premier League scoring 11 goals on a team like United, which struggled to create scoring opportunities all season.

With France he has also played primarily as a left winger and this is probably the position where we will see him at work when he is called onto the pitch in Euro 2016: if Deschamps wants a quicker centre forward, however, we might see him playing in place of Giroud and Gignac.
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Starting wide on the left wing, Martial can take advantage of his speed and dribbling skills. Against England he out manoeuvres Clyne as he cuts toward the centre of the pitch, to then finish in the goal defended by Hart

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For the moment, Deschamps has preferred to line up his 4-3-3 formation with a pure centre forward in offence, but in a competition like Euro 2016, it is important to have several options available, both to make changes on the fly and to have alternative strategic solutions. In this sense, even without Benzema, France will be able to rely on several offensive options.
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Flavio Fusi
Flavio Fusi studies economics and writes about tactics on his blog Trovaspazi. He is an author for l’Ultimo Uomo
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