PARIS, France — “What are you doing? This isn’t what now we have requested you to do earlier than the sport. You aren’t executing the gameplan in any respect.”
Thierry Henry isn’t comfortable. It is half-time of the Cyprus vs. France U21 recreation final month, and the younger France gamers are getting an earful from their head coach. Henry is calm. Not loud, however agency and difficult. He is additionally disillusioned by his gamers’ obvious disrespect of his gameplan and the prematch directions. You wouldn’t assume that Les Bleuets are main 4-0!
That is Henry, the supervisor. As a coach, he makes it clear he won’t compromise on his concepts, and he won’t be complacent.
This phrase, “complacency,” is one which comes up rather a lot in our dialog. At a younger age and with out a lot expertise, some gamers would possibly let themselves go a bit.
When it’s straightforward, prefer it was in that first half in opposition to Cyprus, they performed their very own means, assured of their superiority and considering they’d win no matter whether or not or not they adopted their coach’s gameplan. Henry hated it.
The second half was a lot better, by the way in which; France received 9-0 in the long run. And whereas the 2 halves regarded related by way of scoring, they could not be extra totally different by way of efficiency.
Henry desires the trouble, not the outcome. Once we met, his first query was what I had product of the beginning of his tenure. My reply was that I appreciated the trouble of his groups throughout matches. “Effort,” the Arsenal and France legend says together with his finger pointed up. “That is what I like to listen to!
“Crucial factor is what is going on on the pitch as a staff in the course of the video games, and what our intentions are. The outcomes are secondary, and they’ll doubtless come as a consequence of what we do along with, and with out, the ball.”
Within the afternoon following our chat at coaching, watching him put together the U21 squad for his or her journey to Bosnia and Herzegovina is fascinating. The hosts will play with a again 5, so the entire session is about discovering methods to beat that defence, shifting the ball rapidly and discovering the additional man between the strains.
The coaching drills have been deliberate collectively together with his assistants, Gael Clichy, his former France and Arsenal teammate, and Gerald Baticle, the previous Auxerre striker and Angers supervisor. Henry insists what he desires is easy.
“Positional play in a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield and Rayan Cherki because the No. 10, two strikers, a excessive press, and a build-up part in a 3+2 form,” he says.
There was a time in his managerial profession, particularly at Monaco his first head teaching function from October 2018 to January 2019, when Henry the supervisor was actually nonetheless Henry the participant. He’d solely retired in December of 2014, and maybe felt he was nonetheless higher than 99% of these he was teaching. This time, it feels totally different. He’s older — 46 now — and wiser.
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Listening to him give directions and recommendation, repositioning gamers, repeating what he desires, and making the boys begin over once more when it is wanted, feels excellent. He’s actually higher outfitted tactically, however greater than that, he is aware of what he desires and specific it.
“I realized a lot from my earlier experiences, at Monaco and at Montreal Impression,” he says. “I’m a distinct individual and a distinct coach. Am I higher? Time will inform, however I really feel prefer it.”
After two-and-a-half years and not using a top-level teaching job — albeit working as Belgium’s assistant till February 2023 — this felt proper for him. There’s a very proficient France era at U21 stage, with the likes of Lyon playmaker Cherki, Lens ahead Elye Wahi, Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Warren Zaïre-Emery [now promoted to the senior side], and the remaining.
“I’ve the identical codes as them, the identical language, I come from the identical background as them too,” Henry says. “The connection is there. I need to educate the gamers in order that they get higher of their careers. Instructing them about professionalism, about enchancment. That is what I like about this function. I need them to grasp that it is best to all the time be demanding, whatever the opposition. I’m attempting to transmit some messages to them and I’m actually having fun with it.”
Simply seeing the gamers say ‘good day’ to him, you’ll be able to really feel the respect, the admiration and the bonds he is created with them. The way in which they have a look at him is telling. You possibly can really feel his aura across the squad.
Up to now, the trouble has led to outcomes: wins in opposition to Denmark (4-1), Slovenia (4-0), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2-1), and Cyprus (9-0), with Austria arising on Friday and South Korea on Monday. The Olympics shall be occurring in Paris in 2024 and the Euros in 2025. The Olympics are another excuse why Henry is on the bench.
“It is going to be a dream to be a part of that unbelievable expertise. I used to be comfortable earlier than, however now I really feel alive,” he says with sparkles in his eyes.
Henry received trophies and accolades at nearly each membership [Monaco, Juventus, Arsenal, Barcelona and New York Red Bulls] in his glittering profession and his intention is not any totally different with this France staff: the gold medal in 2024 and to raise the trophy in 2025.
“After all, you must win. Even when solely as a result of your messages are simpler to move on if you win.” he says.
This can be a job supposed to place him again into the conversations when high golf equipment are on the lookout for a supervisor. That is him displaying what he can do. Up to now, the rebirth of Henry the supervisor goes effectively.