Truth behind £10m West Ham star Alphonse Areola and his uncertain status at the World Cup after strange snub.
If some West Ham fans have been left scratching their heads over Areola’s status as number two at club level, they may be positively baffled by his standing in the France squad.
Although Areola is clearly going to be West Ham’s long-term number one over the next four or five years, he is having to be patient with Lukasz Fabianski rarely putting a foot wrong.
Areola has also had to accept his place in the pecking order with France, understandably playing back-up to Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris.
Hammers News reported at the weekend that Kylian Mbappe had given the West Ham goalkeeper a huge World Cup chance for his first ever minutes on the biggest stage by helping France to qualify with a game to spare.
As a result Didier Deschamps was expected to ring the changes and rest key players – including Lloris – in the final group game against Tunisia – just as he did in the previous World Cup.
He duly did. But 37-year-old veteran Steve Mandanda – who was only called up to the France squad as a late replacement for the injured Mike Maignan – was given the nod ahead of West Ham man Areola.
It appeared to be a cruel snub for Areola, who was in the World Cup winning squad in 2018 but did not play a single minute as Mandanda got the nod for their dead rubber group game then too.
However, while undoubtedly hugely frustrating for Areola, it appears to be anything but a snub.
Truth behind £10m West Ham star Alphonse Areola and his uncertain status at the World Cup after strange snub
This is the truth behind £10m West Ham star Areola and his uncertain status at the World Cup after the strange snub.
Not starting regular games for the Hammers had pushed Areola down to third choice ‘keeper until AC Milan goalie Maignan was ruled out of Qatar through injury.
Given Mandanda had only been drafted into this France squad as a last minute replacement, the assumption was that Areola would be number two to Spurs star Lloris.
West Ham fans tuning into the game might have expected to see Areola get his first ever minutes on the biggest stage.
But his wait goes on after Mandanda was selected ahead of him for the defeat to Tunisia.
The “snub” was actually a back-handed compliment from Deschamps, though, and confirmation that Areola is indeed his number two.
Lloris and a host of other key stars like Mbappe were rested to save them for the last 16 knockouts.
But given Lloris’ recent injury history, Deschamps is understandably cautious. If he had played Areola against Tunisia and lost him through injury then it would have left France relying on their third choice ‘keeper for the most important games of the tournament should anything happen to Lloris in the coming weeks.
The decision was clearly taken that Mandanda, as third choice, could be risked because if anything were to happen to him, France still had their number two to fall back on if Lloris were to be ruled out.
It is extremely risk averse management from Deschamps. And it may be of little consolation to Areola.
But if France go deep in the tournament as they look to retain the trophy and Areola is needed to step in for the serious stuff he will not be in the least bit bothered about missing that dead rubber group game.
And it will be hailed a masterstroke by Deschamps, who has been scarred by a ridiculous number of injuries in his squad both before and during the tournament.