3 Potential candidates for France's stacked left-back position | Euro 2020 Watch
There are a few national teams that have an unbelievably talented pool of players to choose from for any given position on the pitch. While some nations have a few of these overloaded positions, a team such as UEFA Euro 2016 runners-up France have strength in depth all across the pitch. One of the many positions of such nature is that of the left-back spot.
During the build-up to the 2018 World Cup, it wasn't quite clear as to who would occupy the wide defender berths in the team in Russia. Benjamin Mendy was long touted to be one of the most excited left-backs in the world let alone the country but his unfortunate injuries all but demolished his World Cup hopes with just seven Premier League appearances in his first season with Manchester City. Despite boarding the flight to Russia, Mendy managed just 40 minutes of football at the tournament.
Then-Atletico Madrid defender Lucas Hernandez was eventually the man chosen to guard France's left flank and he did so in emphatic fashion, earning himself a big-money move to Bayern Munich as a consequence. The Frenchman did exceedingly well both in defence and in offence for Les Bleus and provided them with a superb option at left-back.
Options, though, are something that France have in plenty. With the UEFA Euro 2020 just around the corner, we take a look at 3 players who Didier Deschamps could choose as the left-back for France at the tournament.
3. Lucas Digne
LOSC Lille, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Roma, and FC Barcelona - it's safe to say that 26-year-old Lucas Digne has had his fair share of experience in different leagues and philosophies of football. Currently plying his trade with Premier League club Everton, the Frenchman has finally found a relatively stable spot in the first-team and sustained periods of game time.
As a direct result of that, Digne's superb performances have led to a steady rise in his stock. He has accelerated the phasing out of waning club legend Leighton Baines and Everton most certainly have a player who, if they manage to keep, could grow even further in stature.
Along with his set-piece ability and superb deliveries into the final third, his attacking output, on the whole, has endeared him to the Goodison Park faithful. With four goals and assists in his first season and as many assists in the ongoing campaign, Carlo Ancelotti has a full-back that he can rely on at both ends of the pitch.
As for France, he could prove to be a well-balanced choice at full-back for Deschamps particularly if the France manager once again opts for Olivier Giroud to lead the line. Digne averaged 2.4 crosses per 90 minutes in his first season in the English top-flight and was impressive at the defensive end as well, playing for a mid-table club. The former Barcelona man could provide France with a consistent option at the Euros.
2. Ferland Mendy
Ferland Mendy arrived at the Santiago Bernabeu last summer in the hope of being mentored by one of the greatest full-backs of all time in Marcelo. Due to his injuries, so far, Mendy has had a mixed start to life in Madrid.
When he has played, though, the defender has looked fairly impressive. His ambidexterity enables him to have a lot more options on the ball and also get past his man with ease. An uncharacteristically good dribbler for a defender, Mendy is skilled at functioning as an attacking outlet and can carry the ball forward from wide areas efficiently.
Another crucial factor is the amount of raw pace that Mendy provides along with his ability to beat his man which could also be extremely handy when France get caught out on the counter.
The fact that the Real Madrid man earned his first cap for France after impressing at Lyon without having represented Les Bleus at any other youth stage signifies his rise to prominence. Along with his technical ability, Mendy is a solid choice for Deschamps to consider for the Euros because of his mentality and determination, with the latter being something the 24-year-old has displayed time and again throughout his young career.
1. Lucas Hernandez
After a routine away win at the Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium against Olympiakos, it was revealed that newly-recruited Bayern Munich defender Lucas Hernandez is set to face a lengthy spell on the sidelines as he reportedly suffered an Intraarticular ligament crack in the ankle. At the time of writing, the 23-year-old's period of absence has clocked approximately 100 days and 15 matches.
With the Frenchman back in light training ahead of what is a challenging task for the German champions to reclaim their top spot in the Bundesliga, Deschamps could be a very pleased manager. Despite France's wealth of options at left-back, Hernandez is arguably the first choice for the position based on what he's achieved playing there for the World Cup winners in the summer of 2018.
One of the main reasons that the former Atleti man did so well is a combination of Deschamps' setup and Hernandez' prior experience playing as a central defender. Being a disciple of Diego Simeone's pragmatic philosophy, the Frenchman was moulded into a gritty, no-nonsense defender with excellent defensive awareness.
Given that structural rigidity is something that the France manager had focused upon in Russia, Hernandez fit into the left-back slot perfectly and even showed glimpses of his potential going forward on the biggest stage in football. He averaged 2.3 tackles and 2.6 clearances at the World Cup from this position.
His ability to whip crosses into the box at pace has proved useful to France in the past and has the distinction of having assisted fellow full-back Benjamin Pavard for the Goal of the Tournament.
If the 23-year-old does manage to gain full fitness and some valuable minutes in the ongoing season under his belt, there is no reason why Lucas Hernandez won't be France's go-to man at left-back come summer.
Published 15 Jan 2020, 22:22 IST