Sacrificing flair for results: Deschamps the pragmatist

Didier Deschamps bases his selection on how France would function as a team.
Didier Deschamps bases his selection on how France would function as a team.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MOSCOW • Didier Deschamps has always been a pragmatist in his approach to coaching - he knows exactly the best way to get results, even if it means compromising exciting attacking play.

The France manager chose to pack his midfield and employ a low defensive block instead of going for an all-out attack in the team's 1-0 win over Belgium, but they were devastatingly effective.

That effectiveness has always been in his team, but it was down to Deschamps to find the right balance in his side.

Six years into his spell as the head coach of the national team and following a mixed spell in club management, Deschamps has well and truly made this team in his own image.

He did not necessarily pick the 23 most talented players available to him but a squad that would be wholly devoted to working for each other and for their manager.

When constructing this squad, Deschamps did not rely on past glories while turning out for Les Bleus (Mamadou Sakho), his own past loyalties (Moussa Sissoko) or players at a major club (Anthony Martial and Alexandre Lacazette).

This is a reflection of Deschamps' pragmatism. He based his selection not just on talent but on how France would function as a team.


He has not changed his ideas on becoming a coach: defensive solidity and counter-attack.

XAVI HERNANDEZ , former Spain international, pointing out that Deschamps' style of coaching is pragmatic instead of adventurous.

It is also part of his own evolution. Deschamps in the past would never have left out the experience of Sakho and Karim Benzema or call up the inexperienced Benjamin Pavard and Presnel Kimpembe.

More importantly, his strength has been in managing this young, almost untested squad.

The electric pace of Kylian Mbappe and the occasional flashes of brilliance from Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann have played their part in taking France to the final, but what has made them successful is their togetherness and doggedness.

This would have seemed unlikely for Pogba or Griezmann in the recent past - they are two proven talents and stars in their own right, and they are also hugely popular figures with massive commercial interests around the world.

Not only have they steered away from the odd ill-advised attacking move, but they have also worked hard, Griezmann pressing from the front and Pogba dropping deeper in midfield when required.

Deschamps has convinced these two to channel their own talents for the good of the side.

In the last two years, France have evolved from a sometimes ragged collection of individuals to a team approaching each match with a sense of total unity and pragmatism, in which the aim is simply to win.

It may not always be pretty, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to argue with Deschamps' methods.

As Spain great Xavi Hernandez pointed out in a recent interview with French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, it is simply that Deschamps has a style more akin to Diego Simeone (defensive) than Pep Guardiola (attacking).

"He has not changed his ideas on becoming a coach: defensive solidity and counter-attack," Xavi said.

Ultimately, the end will always justify the means, as long as Deschamps keeps on winning.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2018, with the headline 'Sacrificing flair for results: Deschamps the pragmatist'. Print Edition | Subscribe