A Statistical Analysis of the French National Team’s Latest Call-up

In a period in which many important national federations are jumping ahead to revolutionize and rejuvenate their teams, France is choosing to undergo a slow but steady change, at a pace proper to the likes of Deschamps. It is true that the conservative coach has called a quite young squad compared to his Euro squad, however that is only due to the emergence of world class talents such as Mbappe and Dembele, and other emerging stars who enjoyed breakthrough seasons, such as Mendy, Sidibe, Thauvin, Lemar, and Rabiot. There are still some questionable names that have been called up, however the only players that are seriously out of place are 34 year old Cristophe Jallet and Moussa Sissoko. Many interesting right-backs enjoyed great seasons, like Sebastien Corchia and Youssouf Sabaly. As for Sissoko, so many other great midfielders could have been called up, like Tiemoue Bakayoko, young Lucas Tousart, Vincent Koziello, Nabil Fekir or Morgan Sanson, the Ligue 1 assist leader.

Here is the full list of all 26 players:

GK:

Hugo Lloris, Benoit Costil, Alphonse Areola.

Defenders:

Lucas Digne, Samuel Umtiti, Laurent Koscielny, Djibril Sidibe, Benjamin Mendy, Raphael Varane, Kurt

Zouma, Presnel Kimpembe, Christophe Jallet.

Midfielders:

N’Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Paul Pogba, Adrien Rabiot, Moussa Sissoko, Corentin Tolisso

Attackers:

Ousmane Dembele, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Lemar, Kylian

Mbappe-Lottin, Dimitri Payet, Florian Thauvin.

Let’s take a closer look at each position on the squad.

GK:

Here are all 3 goalkeepers stats throughout the 2016/2017 campaign:

Stats/Game

(League)

Hugo Lloris Benoit Costil Alphonse Areola
Goals Conceded (p.g.) .70 1.06 .97
Goals Conceded 22 37 14
Saves (p.g) 1.88 2.11 1.32
Total Saves 59 74 19
Clean Sheets 15 12 6
Defensive Error Leading to Goal 2 1 1

(Who Scored)(Squawka)

Obviously, Deschamps’ first option is Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris. Mauricio Pochettino’s side had the most clean sheets in the Premier League (17), and the least goals conceded both per game (.7) and in total (24). Lloris ranks second among clean sheets (15), falling 1 short of Thibaut Courtois’s 16.

There have been numerous critics for the French manager, as fans and journalists believe Areola’s season is not worthy of an international call up, vowing for other options such as Yoan Cardinale or Stephane Ruffier. Deschamps however, has given the youngster a vote of confidence, due to his massive potential.

Defenders:

There are 5 central defenders and 4 full-backs in France’s list. Here is a comparison of all 5 CB’s on the list. Koscielny clearly leads the head-to-head, followed by Barcelona’s CB Samuel Umtiti, who enjoyed an incredible first season with the ‘blaugranas.’ The Arsenal stopper leads the list in tackles won, interceptions, blocks, and clearances per game. Kimpembe leads the list in passes per game with 71.3 passes, with Umtiti coming close with 67.1 per match. Raphael Varane has the most percentage of aerial duels won with 77.6%, while none of them are prone to yellow card tackles, aside from Kimpembe. Clearly the two CB’s that had the best seasons with their club were Umtiti and Koscielny, with Varane and Kimpembe possessing more secondary roles. Both did have solid performances whenever they had the chance. Zouma was injured most of the season, so his call up is more of a reassurance that Deschamps trusts him for the present and the future.

Stat/Game

(League)

Kimpembe Umtiti Koscielny Varane Zouma
Tackles Won 0.83 0.92 1.31 0.95 0.67
Aerial Duels Won % 60% 67.80% 62.29% 77.61% 75%
Interceptions 2.11 1.83 2.84 1.79 0.56
Blocks 0.11 0.29 0.69 0.36 0.11
Clearances 2.78 2.58 6.19 4.14 1.44
Cards for Tackles 0.33 0.08 0.13 0.05 0
Total Passes 71.28 67.08 50.84 47.36 13.11

(Squawka)

As for the full backs, there are clearly 2 starters and two secondary players. Both Monaco full-backs Sidibe and Mendy had phenomenal seasons, winning Ligue 1 and reaching the semifinal of the Champions League.

Total Stats

(League)

Sidibe Mendy Jallet Digne
Games 29 25 12 17
Minutes 2,327 2,058 1,004 1,172
Interceptions 47 42 11 22
Blocks 2 3 3 4
Duels Won % 42.14% 50.38% 55.17% 47.06%
Total Passes 1,279 837 728 822
Key Passes 22 20 16 10
Chances Created 27 25 18 10
Assists 5 5 2 0

(Squawka)

Logically, the two ‘Monegasco’ full-backs are miles better than Jallet and Digne when it comes to statistics. Sidibe and Mendy lead their competitors in every single crucial statistic, with minutes, games played, interceptions, and goal involvement marking the most substantial differences. It is important to say that Jallet and Digne possessed secondary roles in their respective squads, so there job was merely to help compete, rather than to make a difference. An interesting statistic nonetheless, is that Digne has nearly the same amount of passes as Mendy does, while the Barcelona full-back accounts for just over half of his teammates minutes. This statistic can be justified with Barcelona’s style of play, however it does show that Digne is comfortable on the ball. Digne also surprisingly leads the “Blocks” category.

While the two favourites to start as full-backs for France in their upcoming international matches are pretty obvious, Deschamps could have called up new players that could be used in the following international games, helping them gain minutes for future tournaments. Jallet should not have been included, and Digne’s selection is somewhat questionable.

France do have a completely different look compared to the EURO’s, and with modern football shifting towards wing play, Sidibe and Mendy are perfect for France’s offensive style. They are a massive upgrade to Sagna and Evra, providing the youth and pace they illuminated their Monaco side with.

Midfielders:

Deschamps midfield call-up was fairly justified, other than Tottenham Hostpur’s Moussa Sissoko. The physical midfielder played a key role in last summer’s EURO campaign for the runner-ups, however a terrible season in England under Mauricio Pochettino saw him look at most of Spurs impressive season from the bench. In a side with so much depth, Pochettino utilizes squad rotation nearly to perfection, however he was never able to integrate Moussa Sissoko, who signed on Deadline Day for 30 million pounds.

Aside from Moussa, all the other midfielders on the list enjoyed fantastic seasons at their clubs, and have solid arguments to be called up to the National Team. The only midfielder who is definitely missing is Tiemoue Bakayoko, but perhaps giving the spot to Morgan Sanson or Steven N’Zonzi over Moussa would not have been a bad idea.

Here is a statistical comparison of the French midfielders:

Total

(League)

Sissoko Tolisso Pogba Matuidi Rabiot Kante
Games 25 30 30 34 27 35
Minutes 925 2,568 2,608 2,415 1,936 3,138
Total Passes 450 1,968 2,136 1,680 1,707 2,104
Key Passes 18 37 53 23 12 21
Assists 2 4 4 4 2 1
Chances Created 20 41 57 27 14 22
Total Duels Won % 41.94% 42.94% 53.37% 42.9% 59.12% 40.69%
Interceptions 7 36 42 31 37 83
Blocks 1 8 4 2 14 4
Goals 0 7 5 4 3 1

(Squawka)

While Paul Pogba is ahead in pretty much every passing statistic, Kante leads the comparison in games, minutes, and interceptions, nearly doubling the second on the list (83 against 42). Corentin Tolisso enjoyed a fabulous season in Lyon, however he will be looking to make a summer-move to a bigger club this summer. His 7 goals and 4 assists makes him the highest midfielder to be directly involved in goals (goals+assist) on the list, while his 41 chances created came 2nd to just Paul Pogba. Again, all the midfielders on the list have valid arguments to be called up, except Sissoko, who enjoyed just 925 minutes this season. When asked about Sissoko, Deschamps said that he “will do what is in the best interest of the harmony of the group,” meaning that he turned to Moussa because he believes he adds something more to the dressing room than just footballing skills.

Attackers:

Deschamps called up the future of French football in attack, with prodigies Mbappe Lottin and Dembele leading the next generations of exciting French youngsters. He also called up Thomas Lemar and Florian Thauvin, both who enjoyed break-through seasons, being categorised as two of Europe’s deadliest wingers in the 2016-2017 campaign. Lacazette and Griezmann had stellar seasons for their club’s with Lacazette scoring many goals and Griezmann evolving into one of the tactically smartest attackers in football.  Again, here are the attackers on a head-to-head comparison.

Total (League) Griezmann Lacazette Payet Thauvin
Games 36 30 33 38
Minutes 3,055 2,367 2759 2,959
Key Passes 49 43 102 53
Assists 8 3 9 8
Goals(Inside/Outside Area) 16 (11/5) 27(25/2) 6 (3/3) 16(10/6)

(Squawka)

Due to the high amount of attackers, I have decided to make 2 charts rather than one big one. Here are the remaining attackers on the list:

Total (League) Giroud Dembele Mbappe Lottin Lemar
Games 29 32 29 34
Minutes 1,209 2,037 1,519 2,610
Key Passes 14 51 23 60
Assists 3 12 8 10
Goal (Inside/Outside) 12(12/0) 6(6/0) 15(15/0) 9(7/2)

(Squawka)

The list of attackers is the most complex out of any position, for Deschamps possesses 8 footballers with completely different qualities who can give a different dynamic to the team. Florian Thauvin was in unstoppable form this season, scoring 16, leading in goals from outside of the box. He also assisted 8, and played in all 38 games this season. Griezmann had the most minutes this season among attackers, while Dimitri Payet made the most key passes out of all of them. Lyon’s striker Alexandre Lacazette leads the charts with 27 goals, with 25 of them being in the box. Out of all the forwards, Lacazette and Griezmann had world class seasons, while Mbappe broke-through to first division football, and already has the world at his feet.

Conclusion:

In a period where many important national teams, such as Argentina, Spain, and Germany are undergoing radical revolutionary stages, France has chosen to shift towards youth but in a ‘Deschamps manner’, or a conservative manner. Although he has called a young squad, there are still some changes that could be done to improve the squad for the next World Cup and other future tournaments. Sissoko, Areola, and Jallet are the most questionable, however the GK is there for the future, as he will surely improve in his second season with the Parisian giants. Bakayoko and Corchia could have been called up, while Yoan Cardinale also had a great season, and remains a future option for the French National Team. Benzema will continue to be excluded from the team.