Making just his third Ligue 1 start of the season against Amiens, Keita Balde’s excellent performance completely vindicated Leonardo Jardim’s decision to play him from the beginning.
Scoring a goal and proving a menace to deal with for Amiens throughout Monaco’s vital 3-0 win, there was so many positives to be extracted from the Senegalese international’s display.
Stationed out on the left wing, the way he blended astute movement, technical quality and formed strong relationships with his teammates served as a quality foundation behind his successful outing.
To start with his movement, and the way he constantly asked questions of Amiens with his variations was key towards his success. Embarking on some crafty runs in behind, down the channels and into the box, he fully took advantage of spaces between defenders and when they collapsed deeper inside the box to gain an edge. This subsequently placed the jet-heeled Keita in good positions to unleash shots, pull out defenders to generate room for teammates and add depth to Monaco’s attacks.
Keita exploiting the space in the channel with a neat run in behind
Keita’s excellent movement inside the box to find room
Finding space well inside the box
Classy channel run in behind
Keita’s crafty blindside run
The way he smartly dropped deep with his back to goal also deserves mention, for Keita did a fine job of connecting offensive moves while creating promising 3v2 overloads, positional superiorities and drawing his man infield to free up his fullback to bomb on out wide.
Coming infield to create room for his fullback
The complementary relationships he shared with his colleagues accompanied the afore perfectly, with him performing some terrific rotations and opposite movements to destabilise the opposition backline. Indeed, whether rotating with attacking midfielder Cesc Fabregas or forward Wissam Ben Yedder, Keita did so smoothly to help Monaco breakdown the away side.
Ben Yedder and Keita’s great understanding
To focus on his dynamics with Ben Yedder and these were especially fruitful, as when Ben Yedder would drop, Keita would occupy the striking role to maintain depth and pin the backline deep, which notably generated space between the lines.
Keita occupying the striking position when Ben Yedder drops deep
Always keen to make something happen with the ball at his feet, the mercurial attacker was full of confidence in his passing and ball carrying. Really impressive when linking play with some precise flicks, layoffs and one and two touch passing, this added tempo to Monaco’s moves and allowed him to find teammates in advantageous forward facing body postures.
Quality link play to break open Amiens
Furthermore, his capacity to spot and oblige his attackers’ runs offered extra reason for optimism, as he struck some splitting deliveries into the path of his targets to put them through on goal.
Wicked through ball over the top to Ben Yedder
Lovely through ball in behind
Controlling the ball cleanly and using his neat first touch efficiently, Keita produced many good moments here that enabled him to twist out of danger and hold onto the ball despite being under pressure.
By getting himself between the ball and his opponent and inheriting the ball facing away from his tracker, this meant he could spin away sharply and his opponent couldn’t lunge in and regain possession without fouling him.
Following such a polished body of work, it was great to see him reward himself by bagging a goal, where he responded first to the second ball before applying his finish with aplomb.
By the numbers, his five touches inside the box, three shots, one key pass, one dribble and the fact he completed 27 of his 33 attempted passes depicted his encouraging output.
Averaging a goal every 120 minutes of league action this term, it’s been promising to see Keita demonstrating to Jardim what a useful asset he is for this Monaco side when given an opportunity.
With some big clashes ahead before Christmas against Angers and then two matches vs. Lille (in the League and Cup), the dynamic, unpredictable and explosive Keita will be hoping he further prove his worth as he continues to stake his claim for more valuable minutes.