Is Ribery part of Domenech’s plan anymore?

Ribery%20werderIn 2006, we saw the emergence of the new French superstar. Little known Marseille attacking midfielder Franck Ribery made a splash on the international scene during the World Cup 2006. His speed and ability to create plays gave all French supporters hope that we might have already found a replacement for the retiring Zinedine Zidane.

But since those World Cup days, injuries have limited Franck Ribery’s playing time for the national team. And in recent months, even though he has been healthy, Ribery always come off the bench for France, but never starts.

I have talked to a number of French supporters about Ribery, and they are all baffled about why he isn’t seeing more time on the pitch. He is a quality player that needs to be out there on the field, but why does he rarely play anymore?

Simple, France don’t need him.

Yes, i’m going there. I did say it. Raymond Domenech and the French National Team doesn’t need Franck Ribery as their starter. I know many of you think that I am crazy for saying this, but let me explain.

Back in the 2006 World Cup, France had a pretty balanced midfield. They would run five midfielders, with Makelele and Vieira in the back, with Vieria pushing up. Up front at midfield, Zidane controlled the play in the middle with Ribery on his right and Moulouda on his left.

But even with Ribery on the right, he would always drift to the center toward Zidane and Henry. Moulouda does the same on the left. And even in the few games that he has played for France this year, Ribery usually finds his way to the center of the pitch. Being in the center is just Ribery’s style.

In the 2010 WC qualifying, France looks like a different team than they did just four years ago. Thuram, Wiltord, Sagnol, Zidane and Vieira are gone. And players like Jeremy Toulalan, Moussa Sissoko, Andre-Pierrie Gignac, and Karim Benzema were added. France is a different looking team than the great 2006 squad.

Therefore, as the team has changed, the way that Raymond Domenech has run the team has also change.

Instead of going with the traditional #10 player creating the play up the middle as we have been accustomed to seeing France do for the last 15 years, Domenech has now started moving the ball up the flanks. In addition, Domenech has made his defensive midfield stronger by adding Lassana Diarra, Jeremy Toulalan and Moussa Sissoko. And usually two of those three players are starting in the central midfield.

As a result of playing this type of system, Domenech doesn’t need Ribery, who seems to be more comfortable as a floating attacking midfielder in the center than he is at the flanks. And, as we all know, Ribery is no defensive midfielder.

So, why did Domenech move from a traditional attacking style of play to a predominate defensive style of play? Only Domenech knows that one.

Therefore, I will go ahead and take a crack at it. Here we go…he has too many strikers. Yes, France is loaded with strikers. Domenech has so many strikers, that he usually he has to put one on the bench. And, as of recent, the player that has been the victim of the bench has been Karim Benzema.

Andre-Pierre Gignac, Nicholas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Karim Benzema, Sidney Govou, Bafe Gomis…the list is endless. Therefore, Domenech has decided to take two of his best passing strikers, Henry and Govou, and put them on the right and left side, while playing Gignac (last year’s Ligue 1 leading scorer) and Anelka (EPL’s leading scorer) up front.

So far, this is all just an experiment. The first year of this format is slowing catching on. Remember, asking players to change the way that they have played for years is quite a hard thing to do. To adapt to a new style of play isn’t easy. And that is exactly what Domenech is asking his players to do.

But the last two games have shown that France can succeed with this formation. Not only did Gignac find the net a number of times, but Henry in that attacking right midfield position also found the next. This new formation has made France more unpredictable and stronger offensively.

On the other hand, the defense has improved as well. France has done a great job shutting down the opposition. France has only allowed nine goals in the 10 WC qualifying matches.

While the defensive line has looked quite impressive, the defensive midfield is playing great as well. I dare to say it, but Jeremy Toulalan is turning into the best ever ‘defensive’ midfielder for France. I know that people don’t want to hear that either, but the games he has played for both France and Lyon have been exceptional. He is the real thing, and will continue to prove himself year after year.

So, when all is said and done, the player that is left out of the equation is Franck Ribery. Yes, the player that many consider France’s best player might not find a place on this French team because he has too much of a tendency to work his way inside. And Domenech has shown in the last few WC qualifying matches that he doesn’t want a floater inside, but someone who can run up the flank, with discipline, and make plays from those positions, not the center.

And also, due to Ribery’s injuries, Domenech can’t rely on having a strong central attacking midfielder. Therefore, he needs to create a plan that doesn’t solely rely on Ribery. And having a #10 centered formation means that Ribery needs to be healthy 100% of the time, or they are screwed.

So, French fans, don’t get discouraged, as I had. I finally see what Domenech wants to do. And, if they can make this system work, they might just be better in 2010. I just say “watch out”!

Oh, and since we are talking about Ribery, there are rumors today that he might take the place of Robinho at Man City. As a City supporter, god I hope so!!!!!