Three tactical takeaways from AS Monaco’s recent resurgence

Having endured a torrid start to the season, where they went winless in their opening six Ligue 1 fixtures, it’s been fantastic to see AS Monaco record back-to-wins to give them some much needed confidence.

Emphatically defeating rivals OGC Nice in the derby 3-1 and then ousting Brest 4-1, Leonardo Jardim’s men are looking a revitalised team, who are once again playing with gusto. When recently speaking after the Brest triumph, their under-pressure manager spoke of how things are going.

“It’s a positive night, the team played well, we had a lot of opportunities to score a second goal. But in the second half, we managed to make things happen, I think that the victory is deserved,” he insisted. “When we talk about pressure, for me the victories bring more smiles but we continue to work on the next match.”

As Monaco Tribune reported last week, AS Monaco’s strong performances have come as vindication for the decision-making of club management under president Dmitry Rybolovlev, who rebuffed demands to sack Jardim and instead stood by his manager, being rewarded for his patience with two solid wins that have sent Monaco shooting up to 12th place in the Ligue 1 standings.

Having recently switched to a 3-5-2 formation and looking so much more dangerous offensively and more secure defensively for it, this has been a key catalyst for their upturn in fortunes. Undoubtedly, however, they’ve looked especially threatening going forward, as their seven goals from the last two matches aptly depict.

Flying Wingbacks

Providing vital width and depth to Monaco’s attacks, their flying wingbacks have given the Monegasques plenty of impetus going forward. Causing so many issues for opponents, they’ve effectively stretched backlines and exploited the often vacant spaces available out wide.

On top of embarking on some sharp underlapping runs, the likes of Gelson Martins, Fode Ballo-Toure and Gil Dias have relished bombing ahead on the overlap, where they’ve done the most damage. Relishing every available opportunity to surge forward, they’ve timed their runs astutely to gain an edge.

Underlapping wingback run by Martins

A key method used by Monaco to generate ideal conditions for the wide men to surge ahead has been the overload to isolate principle. By initially directing their attack and pushing numbers to one side of the pitch, which consequently forces the opposition to shift across, this has left oceans of space to be exploited on the far side. And Monaco have been doing precisely that by finding their wingbacks in advantageous 1v1s with some excellent switches of play.

Wingbacks providing width and depth after a quick switch

The most prominent example of the wingbacks’ offensive intent came when Martins broke forward aggressively to latch onto a through ball before calmly stroking home his finish vs. Brest. Indeed, this passage encapsulated what a weapon Monaco’s free wheeling wingbacks have been.

Fantastic forward surge by Martins before scoring

Ben Yedder and Slimani a dynamic duo upfront

With Islam Slimani having registered four goals and four assists and Wissam Ben Yedder notching five goals, Monaco’s front two have been in exceptional form. A key driving force behind their recent resurgence, the Algerian and the Frenchman have struck up a very promising relationship that defences are enduring huge issues coming to grips with.

To start with their complementary movement, and they’ve done a super job of creating space for one another by dovetailing cohesively. Usually when one drops deeper, one will stay higher and maintain depth. In doing so, this has frequently created a disconnect in the opposition’s backline, for one of the central defenders will typically follow the man coming towards the ball, which opens up space behind.

Ben Yedder and Slimani working in unison

Ben Yedder dropping deep and Slimani maintaining depth

Their ever improving understanding of where best to position themselves has extended to their movement in and around the 18-yard-box. By positioning themselves in different areas they’ve offered teammates multiple options for crosses, cutbacks and through balls.

Ben Yedder and Slimani providing top options

So adept at timing their runs, so they exploit the gaps between defenders, when they get caught off guard or by making hard to track blindside runs, they’ve proved an elusive duo.

Slimani’s brilliant depth run

Ben Yedder’s nice channel run

Other key features of their movement has been illustrated by how it pins and draws opponents to generate space for their teammates and how they strategically move to produce overloads to help progress the attack.

Slimani dropping deep to create a 3v2 in midfield

Linking up neatly with some tidy passing exchanges too, this has only amplified their impact, which has seen them feed each other successfully, just like in the example below, where Slimani knocks the ball into Ben Yedder’s path to score.

Slimani and Ben Yedder coalescing well

The combination of the diminutive Ben Yedder and the towering Slimani has unquestionably been a vital factor behind Monaco’s upswing, with these multifaceted, clinical frontmen forming a lethal alliance that can hurt their adversaries in so many ways.

Golovin’s genius

Ingenuitive, intelligent and technically masterful, Aleksandr Golovin’s been a huge weapon in Monaco getting back on track. Playing on the left side of central midfield, the Russian playmaker has relished this role. Given plenty of freedom by Jardim to use his spatial awareness to either push high, shift wide or drop deeper to support attacks, he’s helped Monaco bypass pressing structures to breathe life into attacks.

So quick to identify openings and recognise when to rotate with a colleague, Golovin always makes himself available as a viable outlet. Elusive for his opponents to track due to his subtle variations that alter defenders’ reference points, there’s been plenty to admire about his space finding prowess.

Golovin’s smart space finding

Golovin bursting in behind

Slimani and Golovin’s smart rotation

Once in possession, the 23-year-old’s been just as impressive, with his dribbling and passing ensuring he’s orchestrated many a promising passage. Possessing razor sharp ball control and a sublime first touch, his ability to beat his man 1v1 or maneuver away from danger has been crucial. Using his capacity to twist and turn out of danger or outfox his man with shimmies and feints, his ball carrying has seen him breeze by opponents or put himself into positions to locate colleagues in advanced areas.

Meanwhile, in terms of his passing, the crafty midfielder’s set moves in motion with some precise through balls in behind, intricate combination play in close quarters and with some incisive switches of play.

Golovin’s masterful through ball

Golovin’s wicked through ball

Whether breaking the lines with his distribution or dribbling, Golovin’s certainly been a shining light for Monaco alongside Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko in midfield, as the uniquely talented sensation has given his team a real spark on the offensive end.