Impressions from Thierry Henry’s first match as manager for AS Monaco, the club where he made his professional debut as a player in 1994.
Strasbourg: Thomasson (17th), Mothiba (84th)
Monaco: Tielemans (90th+1)
Since his highly mediatized arrival at the club, Thierry Henry’s every movement has been under a microscope. It suffices to say that though 22 players took the field, most eyes were on the new skipper. The Monegasque side has struggled in this young season, winning only one of their first nine league matches. Many hoped that having the spotlight on the coach would free up the players to rise to their talent level.
Though the lights were perhaps a bit brighter than usual, Strasbourg claimed to not anticipate this match differently from any other. They made no changes to their preparation, however, Henry’s presence on the bench certainly amplified the atmosphere surrounding the Ligue 1 clash. Suspended for a match, an Alsatian midfielder admitted to being “particularly disappointed to miss this match against one of the league’s biggest teams, with one of the league’s most well-known coaches.”
In this case, as with the season thus far, Monaco’s reputation preceded and outshined them. The bright lights following Henry cast even darker shadows in his first effort as head coach.
The result was disappointing but not unfamiliar. Monaco lost 2-1 to sixth-ranked Strasbourg, dropping them to a lowly 19th on the Ligue 1 table. With Alsatian goals from Thomasson (17th min.), Mothiba (84th min), and a Monaco score from Tielemans (extra time) the match was certainly representative of the season’s woes suffered by Les Rouges et Blancs. In an unfortunate development, the team saw their star attacking player, Colombian international Radamel Falcao, carted off in the 37th minute with an injury to his left thigh. The player has a history of hamstring and groin injuries that have hampered his availability over the last few seasons.
Monaco will add Falcao’s name to an already long list of sidelined players in red and white: Willem Geubbels, Rony Lopes, Pietro Pellegri, Kevin N’Doram, Diego Benaglio, and Danijel Subasic – all of whom were deemed unfit to suit up for the game. Monaco’s nightmare took another turn for the worse as a red card was issued to Samuel Grandsir just two minutes after the player was substituted in (66th min.).
Aside from the apparent frustration with his team’s inability to capitalize on a small handful of scoring opportunities, Henry remained calm and composed, qualities he will have to lean on heavily as this season trudges on for the embattled Monegasque side. Traditionally, Thierry Henry is certainly not accustomed to losing. Coaching at the highest level, however, represents a new set of responsibilities. He will have to be bold and draw out the best in his side in order to reclaim a respectable position in Ligue 1 by season’s end.
Keeping one eye on today and the other on tomorrow, more strategic recruitments like the recent record signing of Russian Aleksandr Golovin should help the Monégasque side resemble the team who won the league back in 2017. Time will tell if Henry can bring as much flair and confidence to the bench as a manager as he did to the field while a player.