Tactics: How Didier Deschamps and the Blues ended up adopting the 3-4-3

November 17, 2019: the first successful test

Immutable 4-4-2. Antoine Griezmann in support of Olivier Giroud, as an evidence. The recipe was a winner in 2018 after taking the Blues to the Euro final, so why change it? However, in November 2019, the new dimension taken by Kylian Mbappé, and his attraction for the axis, forced DD to test something else. Facing Albania (0-2), it’s a small cultural revolution: never since 2004 the Blues had aligned three central defenders at kickoff.

The result is attractive: Griezmann is having fun as a playmaker, Giroud is watered in centers and the defensive shortcomings of the blue side are less visible. At the time, the 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 was seen as a possibility of adjustment during the match more than as a starting system. But the story will change.

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Antoine Griezmann against Albania

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May 18, 2021: Benzema’s return to the Blues

The rumor had arisen during the day to be confirmed in the evening: after six years of absence, Karim Benzema returns to the France team. The balance of the Blues is definitely upset. World champions thanks to an irreproachable defensive base, the Tricolores aim to march on Europe with their fiery attack, symbolized by the Griezmann-Mbappé-Benzema trio. It remains to find the appropriate formula.

Deschamps gropes, sometimes takes Griezmann away from the axis so as not to sacrifice his defensive balance. The performance of the trio suffers. The talent of Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema hides the shortcomings for a while. Then comes the sinking.

Karim Benzema and Wissam Ben Yedder

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June 28, 2021: suicidal DIY

Three systems in three matches. Before challenging Switzerland in the round of 16 of the Euro, the Blues are wandered around according to the systems but still do not find the right fuel. Central defenders become side (Koundé), central midfielders become corridor players (Rabiot, Tolisso) and the attacking trio still does not understand each other. The worst is yet to come.

Against Switzerland, Clément Lenglet, in great difficulty, came out of formaldehyde for a decisive match. He is not helped by the three systems used… in the first period. In reality, Deschamps is trapped. His list of 26 for the Euro had been designed for a defense of 4. The change to three imposed by circumstances (injuries to Lucas Digne and Lucas Hernandez) nevertheless highlights the major shortcomings in key positions (pistons in particular). From now on, if DD wants to impose this 3-4-3, he will have to build his lists accordingly.

Didier Deschamps after the defeat against Switzerland

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August 26, 2021: Théo Hernandez called and the story that rocks

The summer has passed, the idea has germinated. For his left side, where Adrien Rabiot will have long served as a bandage, Didier Deschamps decides to call up an impressive volume Théo Hernandez with AC Milan. In a corridor where no strong man has been able to take over from Blaise Matuidi, Lucas’ little brother bursts the screen.

Is it a coincidence that the victory against Finland (2-0) was when the Griezmann-Benzema relationship came to light? No, because Hernandez changed a lot of things. Determination, commitment, taking initiatives, crazy races with the ball: his match was the harbinger of what was to come. The one where he is an irremovable part of the tricolor starting lineup.

October 2021: The coronation in the League of Nations, system adopted, eleven incomplete

Nothing like a Nations League Final Four for a life-size test. Determined to test this system which finally maximizes the offensive potential of the Blues, Deschamps launches it from the start against Belgium with an eleven close to the typical team (Editor’s note: N’Golo Kanté is missing). Bingo.

If the defense suffered martyrdom against Lukaku and others in the first period, the Blues are doing well, carried by their front trio. The icing on the cake is a Theo Hernandez far from being impressed by the stake which seals the victory (3-2) on a mule strike. Against Spain, it was less clear but the victory was still at the end (2-1).

The victory in the League of Nations has changed destinies. Jules Koundé and Théo Hernandez have won starting stripes. Conversely, the sinking of Benjamin Pavard in a position that is not his forces Deschamps to rethink his eleven.

The Hernandez brothers after the Nations League victory

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November 14, 2021: Coman right piston, the revelation

He never hid: Deschamps is an unconditional Kingsley Coman fan. Despite recurring injuries, the coach of the Blues has never stopped calling a player whose speed on the first supports and the quality of elimination makes the coach’s mouth water. The attacking trio of the Blues having left to last, DD racks its brains to succeed in integrating the Bavarian into the tricolor animation.

Coman right piston? The temptation is great and materializes against Kazakhstan (8-0). It’s a carnage for the opponent and a revolution for the Blues. Never have the tricolor wings seemed so menacing. In this position, the titi arrives launched and makes systematic differences. The comparison with Benjamin Pavard hurts the 2018 world champion but the sense of history now carries Coman in the position.

“Coman ringardisé Pavard in half time”: Has Deschamps found his right piston?

March 17, 2021: Clauss’ summons

Deschamps chooses to push his logic to the end: why keep Pavard as the right piston of recourse when the Bavarian is in difficulty in this position? The choice is made: by calling Jonathan Clauss for the first time, right piston in verve in L1, certainly, but far from the logic put forward so far, the French coach acts the great changeover and confirms that Pavard integrates the brigade central defenders rather than that of the pistons. The Bavarian’s package, affected by the Covid, further accentuates the big change since his replacement, William Saliba, has no history with the position of classic right side except for some painful performances in Marseille and Saint-Etienne.

Nothing says that Clauss, who will discover the very high level, will keep his place until Qatar but the composition of the tricolor list for these two friendly matches leaves little room for doubt: eight months from the 2022 World Cup, it is in 3-4-3 that Deschamps imagines his Blues. After a long tactical journey that seems to be coming to an end.

The Clauss rocket had taken off in the Coupe de France: his exceptional goal with Avranches in 2017

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