Saturday, 23 June 2012

Menez: La clé pour Les Bleus?

"I see myself in Renaud, whom I respect enormously. He's a single-minded character who stands out. One feels that he is on the edge and that speaks to me."

The words of Jeremy Menez, talking to the official PSG magazine about his favourite singer, the French rapper Arnaud. Compared to his team-mates, who list the likes of Jean-Jacques Goldman, Vasco Rossi (me neither) and, er Justin Timberlake as their top chanteurs, you'd have to say Jezza has reasonable taste. Sort-of.

He and the rest of the France squad will be hoping they are on-song tonight when they Les Bleus take on the mighty Spain in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012. According to those in the know, manager Laurent Blanc will choose either Menez or Samir Nasri to join Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema in the France attack, and I believe that it's imperative that Larry White goes with the PSG man.

In fact, I'd argue that Menez holds the key to France's hopes of progression. So far in the tournament he's started one match, scoring a goal and missing a couple of good chances as his side beat Ukraine 2-0. In the other two games, when he was confined to the bench, Les Bleus laboured to a 1-1 draw with England and were beaten 2-0 by Sweden.

Without Jezza in the line-up, I feel France lack penetration. They play some lovely stuff at times, but it's all in front of the opposition which, as we saw in the England game, can be very easy for defences to deal with. You need to be able to up the tempo and go fast and direct when you get the chance, especially against a team like Spain where you don't see much of the ball, and I think those are both qualities the former Monaco man has in abundance. Benzema's link-up play is top notch, and with Ribery and Menez either side of him France look a real threat, especially on the counter-attack.

The problem with Menez is that he's always a stupid foul waiting to happen, and indeed he was lucky not to be sent off in the first half against Ukraine. A moment of madness in tonight's game would probably be disastrous. Blanc may lean towards the safe option and go with Nasri, who is of course a great player in his own right, but if France are going to win the match I think he needs to select the man who, like Arnaud, lives on the edge. Allez Les Bleus!


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