Raymond Domenech Should Be Fired
The French participated in Euro 2008, but only in name. Their performance was a still, lifeless damp squib. The blame lies with one man, Raymond Domenech.France missed their renowned number 10, but, more pressing was the lack of any number 10 in Domenech’s formation. The French used a depressed 4-4-2, with two holding midfielders and two forward wingers. Because Makelele and Toulalan offer virtually nothing going forward, they had a wide gap in the middle of their attack, allowing the opposition to clamp down on the wingers with impunity. The strikers never settled in up front, and barring a few brilliant nutmegs, their service was cut off completely.Domenech had alternatives. He could have switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation, replacing a striker with a playmaker in the middle to direct traffic. Both Franck Ribery and Samir Nasri are ideally suited to that role. Liverpool play a similar way with Steven Gerrard playing behind Fernando Torres. He played this part of the time against Holland, and despite the scoreline, it was the one match where the French looked like they were going to score a goal.Even if the French manager wanted two strikers, he could have subbed either Makelele or Toulalan for a midfielder that offered anything going forward. Patrick Vieira had he been healthy (and five years younger) could have provided that dynamism. Unpicked Arsenal man Matthieu Flamini would also have pushed forward without sacrificing defensive integrity.The formation doomed France’s attack from its inception, and, more damningly, it did not keep the opposing team from scoring, which was its intention. This was largely thanks to Domenech’s relentless tinkering with the back four. In the first match, he chose the tried and tested quartet (Abidal, Thuram, Gallas, Sagnol). Against the Dutch, Domenech reversed course and started Evra instead of Abidal. In the final match, he went batty, dropping Thuram and Sagnol in favor of Abidal (at center half) and Clerc on the right. We all saw how well that worked.The nadir of the French failure was Domenech’s shameful performance during the Italy match. After Abidal was sent off, France were down 1-0. They needed to score two goals to win, yet Domenech takes off an attacking player, Nasri, to bring on a “defender” Boumsong. If you want another defender, take off a holding player, but why, when you need to score two goals, is your primary action to shore up the defense? Where is the heart? Where is the ambition? If not in a must win situation in a major international tournament, then when?Most international managers could only dream of the talent at Domenech’s disposal. How many managers have Henry, Benzema, and Anelka to call on? How many managers have Ribery and Nasri in attacking midfield positions? How many managers have so much depth at every position that Arsenal stalwarts Gael Clichy and Mathieu Flamini would not even make the squad? That team had the talent to win the tournament and did nothing. Their performance was gutless and inexcusable.The French Football Federation announced that they will wait until July to determine Domenech’s fate. But, why wait until July? The question is not whether Domenech should be fired. It is what redeeming quality he has that makes him worth keeping.Look at that stache!