Phillipe Bergeroo’s three years of improvements and failures

Back at the end of the Euro 2013, he took over from Bruno Bini and was tasked to win medals and title with France WNT. And the result is sadly negative.

At the time, France was an all attacking ball possession orientated team that was lacking power and something in the strength and conditioning side of things to rival with the top teams. This was Bruno Bini’s philosophy to attack, outplay the opposition by being creative and not to fight on the physical side. Because if you are good enough at football, you don’t need the physical battle to win games.

Phillipe Bergeroo came in and instill some more “professionalism” with a strong coaching staff and a bigger budget probably to improve the team.  He brought in Fred Aubert for the S&C side who did an excellent job and the French players are certainly fitter and stronger, and they can fight shoulder to shoulder with the top nations on that side.

Bergeroo also started using 4-4-2 as his main system from 2013 to 2015, using three forwards in Le Sommer, Delie and Thiney. He rigidly kept this system only moving to 4-1-4-1 when the situation on the pitch required an extra defensive midfielders.  Then after the World Cup 2015, forward options became scarce with Delie out of form and Thiney no longer selected and he moved on to a 4-2-3-1 system with a lone forward.

In those three years, the team changed slowly but surely becoming more pragmatic and less romantic.  This turn of things was needed as France started to play more friendlies against top quality opposition with wins over Germany and the USA en route to the World Cup.  That improvement in fitness, power and strength led to those success and a best ever third place in the FIFA rankings.

In the end, when we look at the results the manager brought they are disappointing : quarter-finals exit at the World Cup and Olympic Games.

Certain sections of  France fans vilified and abused Bruno Bini ( and still do today three years on) for being a failure to led France to win a medal or a title. They also blamed him for not using their favourite players or not selecting them at all. Funnily enough when Bergeroo applied to Thiney the method Bini used with Bompastor, they were nowhere to be heard. Another section of France fans then started to blame Bergeroo for Thiney’s unwanted exit. 

What goes around comes around. Those kind of problems happen frequently in international teams unfortunatly. 

Regarding Henry, everything has been said, some have the views that players should be selected regardless of the problems they create inside the squad and some don’t. And obviously the squad was very polarized under Bini between two factions and that problem kind of disappeared with Bergeroo removing one of the faction progressively.  Saying that there is no guarantee that the squad was working and living well together under Bergeroo but those problems happen in every team.

In the end, the team sustained the same finishing problems that prevented the players from winning anything or a medal. The quality of the attacking play also declined slowly but surely after the 2015 World Cup. Less creativity and more rigidity was seen in some of the Euro qualifiers and also in friendly tournaments.

That shift in philosophy did bring some success and that should not be forgotten but at the end of the day, the end product did not improve. And the manner of the defeat against Canada with long balling and nearly no creative passing and movement to find space and time was like a denial of France attacking football DNA.

So two quarter finals defeat is a failure on the targets set by the FFF and I would expect Bergeroo to resign or be dismissed in the days and week to come.

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France 3 New Zealand 0 : squad rotation day

Phillipe Bergeroo took the calculated gamble to rest many players and give four players their first start in the competition in order to keep everybody fresh for the quarter-final and give important minutes to those who had not played so far.

Delannoy, Karchaoui, Lavogez and Thomis got their first start in the competition and Gerard the back-up goalie is now the only players without a minute on the pitch.

Those are the most likely starting 11 number:

It’s good to note that only 3 players have played 100% of the 3 matches game time : Renard, Houara and Bouhaddi.

In third, fourth  and fifth place Henry at 93.6%, Cadamuro at 92.5%  and Bussaglia at 91.4% of the maximum game time.

Then there is a clear drop in the number of minutes played : Abily 69.2%, M’Bock Bathy and Majri at 66.7%, those two players were under threat of suspension had they been booked against New-Zealand.  Diani comes next with 62.9% and then Le Sommer with 51.8% who will be therefore well rested before the Canada game.

For the remaining seven subs

Delie post a similar number of minutes played than Le Sommer coming off early in the last game due to injury with 50.3%

Thomis played 44.5% of the maximum game time, she seems to have been moved to the super-sub role for the tournament.

Lavogez with 41.4% is also a regular sub and saw the pitch in the three games.

Karchaoui and Delannoy got a game in the squad roatation keeping them sharp if needed at any time during the knock-out stage with 33.3%

Hamraoui with 9.6% is a tactical sub at defensive midfield to help the team in certain situation, but can also be a starter on the day if Henry is injured and a pure defensive midfield profile is needed.

Gerard the back-up goalie has 0% game time as expected even if, she might be a better goalie than Bouhaddi.

With a short turnaround of two days between games that squad rotation was needed and with a tough tough game against a strong Canada team who topped their group, Bergeroo did the right thing to keep some players ut of yesterday’s game.

 

The race for the Champions League ep 2

We are now entering the business side in the race for the Champions League places with the top three teams in the last furlong with five or six games remaining to play.

Manchester City are nearly there as they have a nine points lead over Arsenal and need seven points out of their last five games to qualify for the 2017/18 edition of the top European competition.

Chelsea have a two points lead over Arsenal and a game in hand which means they need 14 points out of their last six games to make sure of a Champions League place at the moment.

Arsenal are now hoping for Chelsea to slip up or for City to collapse to have a chance to catch those two teams.

Here are the remaining games :

11.08 Doncaster v City

28.08 City v Reading, Birmingham v Chelsea, Notts County v Arsenal

01.09 Chelsea v Notts County

11.09 Arsenal v Man City, Reading v Chelsea

25.09 Man City v Chelsea

06.10 Doncaster v Arsenal

30.10 Arsenal v Doncaster, Man City v Birmingham, Chelsea v Reading

06.11 Liverpool v Arsenal, Notts County v Chelsea

 

In term of League title, City need to reach 40 points to make sure at the moment ie get 11 points from 5 games. Should they loose against Arsenal and Chelsea, but win their other three games, the would reach 38 points, a total that Chelsea can only reach by winning ALL their remaining games.

So City need to beat Doncaster, Reading and Birmingham to be 98 % champions.

 

France likely to run out of steam in knock-out stage again

Providing that Les Bleues manage to go through to the quarter-final round, fitness is likely to cost the French team dear as it has done in previous competitions.

Beating New-Zealand should happen for the FIFA number 3 ranked team and therefore would set up a quarter final tie against either :

a) Group F winner (  Canada/Germany) should France finish runner-up in group F with USA likely to beat Colombia

b) The third placed team from Group E/F ( potentially China/ Sweden/Germnay/Australia) in the unlikely event of France winning the group

c)  The Group E winner ( very likely Brazil) if France go through as one of the two best third placed team.

The biggest problem for France, besides being unable to score goals when it matters, is the fitness level. For some reasons that are difficult to explain, the French players never seem to be able to compete with a team like the USA on fitness level.

The gap was huge between the two countries  around Bruno Bini’s time as the philosophy was an attacking one with France trying to outsmart the opposition with attacking play rather than enter the physical side of the challenge.

Then Phillipe Bergeroo came in,  changed the set-up and managed to reduce the fitness gap with an excellent trainer in Fred Aubert, but it was not enough as seen at the World Cup in Canada.

Those who witnessed the quarter-final game against Germany saw the drop in physical performance from the French players from the 60th minute onwards until the end of extra-time. Note  that the indoor Olympic Stadium pitch in Montreal was responsible for unusual physiological parameters apparently and France played two consecutive games there.

The reason for this energy level drop was explained as a lack of squad rotation during the Group stage because of the defeat against Colombia. It is nothing new as we seem to always do the same kind of squad rotation throughout any tournament, be it U17/u19 Euros or U17/U19 World Cup.

It is a regular pattern for France’s squad. Rotate to rest and protect. All the winning tournaments for France at youth level saw that kind of squad rotation with every player involved.

That defeat against the USA on Friday means Phillipe Bergeroo is likely to keep the same 11 save for Le Sommer to replace Delie and maybe another change in midfield, but no wholesale change that would have had happened otherwise.

So if France manage to beat New Zeland tonight, the team will have a tough quarter-final game and might run out of fuel should they make it to the semi-finals. And as we all know, deploying an expensive attacking game, need sharpness and technical accuracy, which is incompatible with tiredness. Not to mention the finishing problem that is well know to everyone.

Let’s hope we can score early enough and multiple goals against New -Zealand and save some potential tired legs tonight.

Can France WNT finally win a  tournament medal at senior level ?

We all know the story, quality football to watch but no end product when it matters. Can France finally make the next step? 

Well, the latest results following the World Cup in Canada have not been exceptional at all. The football quality has left a lot to desire in many games unfortunately with pragmatism in order rather than attacking football.

The squad has seen some transformation with Boulleau and Georges missing through injury, Thiney no longer being selected and a new player arriving last month who will retire after the tournament : Cadamuro.

There are two centre forwards listed in the squad Le Sommer and Delie and both have been around when the team failed to score enough in the knock-out stage in 2011, 12, 13 and 15. No one knows if they can provide the crucial goal when it matters.

The back-up centre forward is Diani who has been mainly used as a right winger in the warm-up games but the same question mark applies. Can she do it in the big games ?

So we are left hoping that the midfielders and defenders will provide goals. Thomis, Abily, Henry, Lavogez, Bussaglia, Cadamuro and Renard are the possible scorers and they will need to contribute strongly like the men’s team did in 98 when none of the forwards scored in the knock-out stage on the way to victory ( Blanc, Thuram, Zidane and Petit scored in those 4 games).

Qualifting from the group won’t be easy. Colombia beat us 2-0 at the World Cup exposing a  mental weakness after going behind. 

Then the US WNT game will be another tough one if we are not clinical as in the past. You would actually expect Bergeroo to rotate a bit against Colombia to have his best 11 ready against the USA but that WC defeat might mean best 11 against the South Americans.

New Zealand will be a physical game and probably a must win as well depending on the two previous results. 

Then in the knock-out stage, who knows if we can score goals when it matters? History says no and it has to change. Especially as it will be the last competition for certain players. 

Bergeroo has now moved away from his 4-4-2 system that did not produce enough in big matches to 4-2-3-1 / 4-1-4-1 and we will see if that slight adjustment, removing a forward and adding an attacking midfielder will pay off. 

The FA WSL2 promotion race EP 5

Things are getting clearer at the top of the table between the four teams till chasing promotion. Last week-end saw Bristol, Yeovil and Durham win while Everton drew. It might go on the last day if Everton and Durham manage to win their games on hand.

As of today the table looks like this

1 Yeovil 29 pts + 20 (13) maximum points 44

2 Bristol 27 pts +12 (13) maximum points 42

3 Everton 21 pts + 12 (11) maximum points 42

4 Durham 20 pts +6 (11)  maximum points 41

Durham goal difference might come back to haunt them if they finish level with other teams.

We can also note that the FA  WSL 2 season is tighter than in previous seasons. in 2014 top and runner-up finished with 47 and 45 points respectively while last year they both finished with 45 points.

 

Here are the remaining games for the top 4 teams ( in bold)

14.08 Everton v Durham

27.08 Bristol v Everton

28.08 Durham v Oxford, Sheffield v Yeovil

10.09 Bristol v Watford

11.09 Millwall v Durham, Everton v Oxford, Yeovil v London Bees

24.09 Bristol v Durham

25.09 Yeovil v Everton

09.10 Durham v Everton

29.10 Everton v Bristol

30.10 London Bees v Yeovil, Watford v Durham 

06.11 Durham v Millwall, London Bees v Everton, Oxford v Bristol, Yeovil v Sheffield

 

There is all to play for the four sides with six head to head games between the teams that might be decisive. Hopefully it will go to the final day.