May 25, 2010 - Tignes, France - French National Soccer Team during their training stage prior to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. GAEL CLICHY.

So I watched some extended highlights of the France vs Belarus match. Sagna, Clichy and Diaby all started. Clichy played in place of Patrice Evra, previously the France captain, who is serving a suspension handed out by the French Football Federation. I was surprised to read that it was only the sixth time Clichy has played for the national side. Anyhow, it transpired that there was a reason.

He was at fault for the only goal in the match, which Belarus scored in the 86th minute, and according to the reports on francefootball and his error, and all round performance, merely served to reinforce the image he has cultivated in his homeland. Capable but not incredible offensively, fragile physically and prone to bad judgements positionally. Playing for us he has never quite lived up to the talent of the precocious teenager who we saw break into the side as Ashley Cole’s alternative in late 2005. He is a very good left back but not as good as Ashley Cole at Chelsea or Patrice Evra at Manchester United. It puts us at a disadvantage when compared to them but, then again, I am not sure there is a better alternative we could buy. The point is that he promised so much more. Watching him maraud and control the left flank Arsenal fans were convinced we had a future Lizarazu on our hands. His development hasn’t matched the potential. I even suspect that there was some truth in the rumours over the summer that Arsene Wenger was willing to listen to the offers from Juventus and Barcelona. I presume he weighed up the financial gain of selling Clichy to the risk associated with promoting Gibbs, and the concomitant effect selling Clichy, one of the established players in the squad, would have on the morale of the rest of the squad. Clichy’s continued presence is probable proof Wenger opted against selling him (perhaps he did accept but Clichy refused). Well, Traore ended up moving. Anyhow, watching the Belarus extended highlights I could understand why Clichy isn’t really appreciated in his native country.

Sagna, on the other side of the defence, was decent. He didn’t make any mistakes but he didn’t exactly do anything good either ( perhaps not making any mistakes constitues being good for some? ). Still, I presume his position as France’s first choice right back is rather safe for now, if only because of a scarcity of genuine alternatives. Diaby, chosen to start, was disappointing throughout. The game appeared to pass him by. He was supposed to offer attacking threat, swift movement, incisive passing, basically all the things you might expect of a French attacking central midfielder. He did none of these things and I would guess that by the time the next squad is announced Laurent Blanc will replace him in the team with either of Yoann Gourcuff or Frank Ribery. On the French football websites I read there doesn’t yet appear to be a generalised opinion about Diaby but a couple of more performances like this and I can imagine there will be.

All in all a very disappointing French performance, which is not a good omen considering their success is often a pre cursor to our own. Or maybe it is the other way round and when we start to play magnificently and win trophies, they will do the same. Yes, we control our own future. No determinism here.