France national team manager Didier Deschamps has selected his 23-man squad for Euro 2016 on Thursday. While most of his selections are justified, the inclusion of the Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud ahead of Nice forward Hatem Ben Arfa has raised eyebrows.
In the absence of Karim Benzema, who will miss the tournament after receiving a ban for his involvement in an alleged blackmail scandal from the French federation last month, Deschamps has included as many six forwards to his squad but named the in-form forward Ben Arfa as a reserve.
Ben Arfa has enjoyed a prolific season for Nice where he scored 17 goals for the Ligue 1 club and has recently been linked with a move to La Liga giants Barcelona.
“Hatem has had a great season but he’s not the only one in that position,” Deschamps explained. “Giroud, that’s 25 goals in all competitions this season, for Griezmann it’s even more and Martial is on the same level,” he added. “My aim was not to pick the best 23 players but to go for a group capable of going very far in the tournament together.”
It seems like Deschamps has picked Giroud mainly on the basis of his overall statistics, and surely didn’t consider the player’s recent form. The Arsenal striker has scored only three goals in his last 23 games in all competitions and went through a barren spell of 15 league games (one league goal in nearly four months!) without scoring since January before finding the net against Manchester City last week.
Another notable absentee from the French squad is Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho, who is currently under the investigation from Uefa after testing positive for an illegal substance following Liverpool’s Europa League tie against Manchester United on 17 March.
Manchester United striker Anthony Martial has got a deserved national team call-up for his sensational 2015-16 campaign. The 20-year-old has scored 11 goals and further assisted three for the Red Devils, however, his fellow club team-mate Morgan Schneiderlin finds a place only in the reserve.
France Euro 2016 Squad:
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham Hotspur), Steve Mandanda (Olympique Marseille), Benoit Costil (Stade Rennes)
Defenders: Raphael Varane (Real Madrid), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City), Jeremy Mathieu (Barcelona), Patrice Evra (Juventus), Bacary Sagna (Manchester City), Lucas Digne (AS Roma), Christophe Jallet (Olympique Lyon)
Midfielders: Paul Pogba (Juventus), Blaise Matuidi (Paris St Germain), Lassana Diarra (Olympique Marseille), N’Golo Kante (Leicester City), Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace), Moussa Sissoko (Newcastle United)
Forwards: Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Dimitri Payet (West Ham United), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Andre-Pierre Gignac (UANL Tigres)
Reserves: Alphonse Areola (Villarreal), Hatem Ben Arfa (Nice), Kevin Gameiro (Sevilla), Alexandre Lacazette (Olympique Lyon), Adrien Rabiot (Paris St Germain, Morgan Schneiderlin (Manchester United), Djibril Sidibe (Lille), Samuel Umtiti (Olympique Lyon)