Why France Made a Mistake Taking Eliaquim Mangala over Loic Perrin
When Didier Deschamps named his preliminary picks for the World Cup, he selected a 23-man squad with seven reserves. On Monday night the squad arrived in Brazil with three players missing from the original line-up. It has been far from an ideal preparation for Deschamps and Les Bleus.
One player who remains on the reserve list is Saint-Etienne’s Loic Perrin, and looking at the current squad, it now looks like a mistake that FC Porto’s Eliaquim Mangala was picked ahead of the captain of Les Verts.
Losing Franck Ribery was a huge loss for France, not just on the pitch—where the Bayern Munich player was looking to finally become that world-class player for Les Bleus—but what he brings off the pitch will be dearly missed.
France has lost a hugely experienced player, someone who is a big presence within the team and one of the elder statesmen of this France squad.
Although Mangala is one of the hottest young defenders in Europe, he is also fairly inexperienced—not just in terms of international football, but the years he has played the game in the top flight.
Here is why France made a mistake taking Eliaquim Mangala over Loic Perrin.
He Is Saint-Etienne's Captain and Leader
The 2013/14 season was Loic Perrin’s 15th campaign with Ligue 1 side Saint-Etienne. He made 34 appearances, averaging an incredible 87 minutes per game. This one-man club has come a long way since making his first-team debut one week after his 18th birthday.
Since that 2-1 win over Lorient in 2003 he has played 231 league games in the top flight and developed into Saint-Etienne’s leader both on and off the pitch.
Last season Saint-Etienne finished fifth, qualifying for the Europa League, and this season under the leadership from Perrin they went one better and finished fourth. It was an amazing achievement after selling the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Josuha Guilavogui in the summer.
Perrin led from the front, scoring six league goals—including a double in the last league game against Ajaccio as ASSE tried to pip Lille for third place—showing excellent composure and leadership to guide the sometimes erratic Moustapha Bayal Sall and young Kurt Zouma through the testing season.
There is little doubt that these leadership qualities would have been ideal within the current France squad this summer.
Experience over Youthful Exuberance
When France faced Australia in October of last year, AS Monaco defender Eric Abidal was part of the squad and started in the 6-0 win at the Stade de France. Part of his role was to add experience to the team; with over 60 caps for his country he was one of the most experienced players in the line-up.
Without Abidal and the injury to Franck Ribery, only Karim Benzema has over 60 caps in the squad that arrived in Brazil. Only two more players—Hugo Lloris and Patrice Evra—have won over 50 caps for Les Bleus.
If you can’t add experience through international caps, the next best thing is to add a player who has experience through his club form. That is something Loic Perrin could have added more than most of the other players in Didier Deschamps’ squad.
Eliaquim Mangala, 23, is an excellent defender, but with 77 games at Standard Liege, a further 51 league games for FC Porto and almost five years Perrin's junior, Perrin, 29 in August, would have added that extra level of experience while still playing at the peak of his game.
Increased Versatility in Important Areas
One criticism of this France squad has been the lack of versatility from some of the players in certain areas of the pitch. In the forward areas the attack has been very fluid and the interchange in play has been exciting to watch in the pre-World Cup friendlies.
However, elsewhere there doesn’t seem to be the same amount of players who can take up different roles. Back in 1998, France had the likes of Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly and Laurent Blanc who could play in different defensive roles and even change between the defence and midfield. The current squad doesn’t have that flexibility.
Good France squad. Slight shame they had to take eight defenders through lack of versatile players. Only six defenders when they won it 1998— James Eastham (@james_eastham) May 13, 2014
Loic Perrin would add a little more room for adaptation. Although he is a wonderful centre-back, he is also proficient as a right-back and a defensive midfielder. It is always useful to have players in the squad who can play in multiple roles. That is something Perrin would have brought to the squad that Mangala doesn’t offer.
No One Deserves It More Than Perrin
When picking his 23-man squad, there is little doubt Deschamps had one eye on building toward the 2016 European Championships. That decision backs up the selection of 23-year-old Mangala. He is part of a really talented group of players the same age, and in two years’ time, France will have a very exciting squad all reaching their peak at the same time.
However, if you are looking at a player’s form over the last 12 months, there are very few players who deserve a call-up more than Perrin. Lifting his side from the gloom of losing two of its players over the summer to then guide it to finishing fourth, it has been an exemplary year for the 28-year-old.
According to WhoScored.com, no one in Ligue 1 made more clearances than the Saint-Etienne defender, averaging 10.7 per game; overall he made 364 during the season. His performances led his club to the fourth-best defensive record in the league, and his leadership has had a huge bearing in the development of Chelsea’s new signing, Kurt Zouma.
Perrin would have been a wonderful inclusion in Deschamps’ 23-man squad. He would have added versatility and experience, and there are no French players more deserving to play for their country than Loic Perrin.