With Euro 2012 just three days away England begin their final preparations ahead of their opening game against France next Monday. Recent injuries in the midfield department mean England will have their work cut out containing an explosive French side oozing flair and creativity.
Laurent Blanc prefers to adopt a 4-1-4-1 formation with a holding midfielder and Karim Benzema spearheading the attack. Support to the striker comes from wingers Nasri and Ribery as the two drift from wing to wing linking up with the Real Madrid striker.
Diarra looks set to play as the holding midfielder with Yann M’Vila’s recent injury. He will need to be disciplined and solid sitting in front of the two centre halves allowing the full backs to bomb forward at any given chance. Just in front of Diarra will most likely be Newcastle’s Cabaye, pulling the strings in the middle of the park Cabaye will be the heart of France’s attacking play feeding the more creative players in Benzema, Nasri and Ribery.
For all France’s positive attacking options, defensively they are iffy. Laurent Koscielny and Philippe Mexes are their two main centre halves but are both prone to injury and costly mistakes. Therefore they will have to be sure not to over commit when going forward which would leave them exposed at the back as it could prove costly.
Karim Benzema is definitely France’s key player. If he plays well then France will succeed. His relationship with Ribery has blossomed recently and Blanc will be hoping for it to continue as the tournament draws nearer. The French striker may not be the deadliest finisher but his willingness to lead the line is fundamental in Blanc’s tactics, and if England are to have any success against the French then they must tame the striker.
Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa could be a potential star at this year’s Euro 2012. The attacking midfielder enjoyed a fantastic season for Newcastle as they narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot. The former Lyon and Marseille midfielder joined Newcastle in the summer of 2010, but had a slow start to his Magpie’s career after suffering a broken leg, just months after his Newcastle debut.
This season the Frenchman has been a breath of fresh air scoring five goals and providing six assists in 26 appearances from the wing. Despite his injury, the 25 year old has bags of pace and is blessed with fantastic skill. When dribbling he keeps the ball close making it difficult for opposing players to deal with. Matching his pace and skill, Ben Arfa is gifted with a sensational left foot, his final ball is deadly and his strike is as good as they come, given the chance Ben Arfa will shine!
What can England do?
It is clear to see France possess a number of attacking threats, therefore Roy’s men have to sit deep and soak up the pressure and attempt to hit the French on the break, utilizing the pace of Young and Walcott. Playing the ball direct to Carroll could cause problems to France’s iffy centre halves. But for England to have any realistic chance of getting a result they have to be defensively astute, with John Terry leading from the back. England’s biggest weakness will be the right back position, in which France will most likely target. Therefore Roy may be tempted to start James Milner on the right hand side of midfield. The youngster has bags of energy and is capable of providing defensive cover if Johnson is under pressure.
Monday’s game is destined to be attack verses defence as France will enjoy the majority of possession meaning England will have to be patient and organised. It has a draw written all over it.