In a bid to add more speed and urgency to his team, France coach Didier Deschamps could make tactical changes for Wednesday’s European Championship match against Albania.
France was sluggish for most of the 2-1 win over Romania in its Euro 2016 opener, and only really picked up the tempo midway through the second half when Deschamps replaced midfielder Paul Pogba and forward Antoine Griezmann with speedy wingers Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial.
Deschamps could rest Pogba and Griezmann against Albania and ditch his favored 4-3-3 for a more dynamic 4-2-3-1 formation, with Martial and Coman supporting striker Olivier Giroud. Attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet could then be shifted from the left to a No. 10 playmaker’s role behind Giroud.
Against an Albania side that is likely to sit back and counter attack, the 4-3-2-1 formation looks threatening because it allows France to play with a more direct approach. It also frees Payet to find central positions to unlock Albania with through balls to Giroud, or behind their fullbacks for the wingers.
On Tuesday, Deschamps would not give away who he would select, or the formation. But he did say that the team would need to use the flanks to break open Albania’s well-drilled defense.
“That is a solution when a team is very tight in the middle — you can use the flanks a bit more. That can be done by defenders, midfielders or forwards,” Deschamps told reporters at the stadium.
“Switching from one side to another is also important,” he added. “Being able to execute that causes problems for the opposition because they don’t have time to reorganise.”
Payet set up Giroud’s goal against Romania and then scored a late winner. In five games since being recalled for France, he has three goals and three assists, as well as being involved in two other goals. He is fast becoming the French hope the way Pogba — a huge star in Italy for Juventus — was expected to be before the tournament.
“He’s always had the technical ability,” Deschamps said of Payet, whose career blossomed in the last Premiership season in England. “He is able to be a lot more consistent and put more energy into the games now as we saw throughout the season with West Ham.”
Deschamps has made tough decisions before, dropping Pogba for the second group match at the World Cup two years ago after he was lucky not to be sent off following a wild challenge in the first game against Honduras.
France captain Hugo Lloris said he is confident Pogba will rediscover his form.
“Clearly we can expect a bit more from the player, but that was our first match, everyone was finding their feet,” Lloris said. “He, just like the rest of the team, is going to improve.”
But it’s not only Pogba who underperformed against Romania; Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Blaise Matuidi was also below his best.
“I could have had more influence on the game, got on the ball more,” Matuidi said. “I didn’t win the ball back enough, either, so there are lots of things for me to work on.”
Matuidi thinks France’s problems against Romania stemmed from an attempt to overcompensate by playing too safely, because the nervous players were alarmed following an early Romania chance that should have gone in.
“We didn’t keep the ball enough, we played the long ball too much at times,” Matuidi said. “We have to take more risks.”