Arsenal trio aiming to help French
09:00 11 June 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
Wenger men called by Les Bleus
France won their solitary World Cup title on home turf 16 years ago, with Arsenal midfielders Patrick Vieira and Emmanuel Petit helping to defeat Brazil in the 3-0 in the final.
And three Gunners have been included in Didier Deschamps 23-man squad for Brazil this year, in the shape of striker Olivier Giroud and defenders Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna, along with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who captains the side.
The 27-year-old Giroud ended the domestic campaign with 22 goals to his name for Arsene Wenger’s side and has a big admirer in former Gunner Perry Groves.
“I’m a big fan of Olivier Giroud. He reminds me of Alan Smith and has played up on his own nearly all season,” said Groves.
“He occupies two centre-backs, he backs in, brings others into the game and if you’re a midfielder you want a striker like him to hold it up and give the team a bit of a rest.
“He’s had a very good season up there on his own.”
Centre-back Koscielny, 28, has made great progress at the Emirates since joining the club in 2010.
He netted vital goals on the final days of the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons, against West Brom and Newcastle, to help Arsenal clinch a place in the Champions League and popped up with their equaliser in the FA Cup final against Hull last month.
First capped by France in November 2011, he played at the Euro 2012 finals and Groves added: “Koscielny has improved immeasurably and apart from the games at Manchester City and Liverpool, him and Per Mertesacker were the most solid pairing in the Premier League last season.
“He’s got decent pace, is comfortable on the ball and will come out from the back. He is also marshalling other defenders and is more vocal, which is down to confidence.
“He’s a good age, an old fashioned centre-back in the Tony Adams mould and is becoming an important senior player.”
Attacking right-back Sagna, 31, appeared at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa but suffered two leg fractures on Arsenal duty during the 2011/12 campaign and missed the Euro finals.
He has made close to 300 appearances for Wenger’s side over the past seven seasons, but his club future remains unclear.
“Sagna can’t be running up and down the wing relentlessly like he does with Arsenal,” said Groves.
“Wenger likes his full-backs pushing on, but he will have to pick his runs better.”
After their triumph in Paris, the French reached the final again in 2006 but lost on penalties to Italy.
However, they failed to get out of the group stage in 2002, when they were beaten by Senegal and knocked out without scoring a goal in three matches, and suffered the same fate four years ago, when a draw with Uruguay provided their only point after losses against Mexico and hosts South Africa, amid much squad disharmony.
Groves does not expect them to be among the frontrunners this summer, adding: “They should reach the quarter-finals but they do have a propensity to implode.
“It was a bit of a debacle last time, but they’ve left Samir Nasri out this time and need a more harmonious squad.”
Speaking of his reasons for leaving former Arsenal midfielder Nasri out of his 23-man squad, Deschamps said: “The aim was to build the best, squad, not necessarily to take the top 23 French players, but to build a squad to go as far as possible.
“He is a great player whose performances with France are not on a par with his club performances at Manchester City.
“At City he is a regular. Samir said he couldn’t stand to be a substitute. It’s the reason why he has not been selected.”
As for Lloris wearing the armband for his country, Deschamps added: “Hugo is captain because he is exemplary.
“He takes on the role well, even if his position means that his preparation is different on match day. Hugo is admired and respected within the squad. He has his character, he doesn’t say much, but when he has something to say or a message to get across, he does it.”