Despite Robert Moreno having minimal time to work with his team since replacing Leonardo Jardim as AS Monaco manager, it was very encouraging indeed to see how well they implemented some of his ideas in his first game at the helm.
Looking sharp and full of desire, Moreno was justifiably pleased observing how effectively his team took on board many of his tactical instructions to defeat an excellent Reims team 2-1 thanks to two goals from a rejuvenated Keita Balde.
I am very happy because we were able to see on the pitch what we asked of the team. It was important to win and important to me to see my team. I asked them to control possession, to recover the ball quickly, that’s what was done,” he told Monaco’s official website.
It is positive to see that after only one week of work that the instructions are being applied like this. This is a great message to have from the players. I saw a team that wanted to win. It was the best condition for preparing for the two matches against Paris.
Golovin and Fabregas key
Deploying his team in a 4-3-3 formation, that also took on varying permutations such as a 4-1-4-1 and a 4-2-3-1, the way this animation got the best out of Cesc Fabregas and Aleksandr Golovin was a joy to watch. From their offensively minded central midfield roles, the two number eights were instrumental towards Monaco’s offensive phases.
Using their intelligent movement, technical quality and execution, they persistently gave their team an outlet to progress upfield while relentlessly asking questions of their opposition backline. Whether smartly occupying space between the lines, in the half spaces, surging upfield or rotating with their colleagues (more on this later), Golovin and Fabregas were able to cause issues for Reims.
With Fabregas giving his team plenty of control, creativity and incision and Golovin adding imagination with his dynamic ball carrying, mazy dribbling and nifty passing, they formed a formidable duo, in a match where we saw many glimpses of how exciting Moreno’s use of the pair will be moving forward.
Another notable aspect of the Monegasques performance came from their slick rotations. Typically performed in wide areas by the fullbacks, wingers and one of Golovin or Fabregas, this offered Monaco another avenue to progress into the final third through. By constantly interchanging positions with neat timing, it was impressive to see them dovetail efficiently, as they were able to alter reference points and create confusion for their adversaries on who should mark who in what zone.
This subsequently opened up gaps that could be exploited in between defenders, between the lines and in both wide and central areas for the home side to take advantage of.
Already parlaying smoothly and doing a fantastic job of pinning, drawing and manipulating their opponents’ rearguard, this certainly bodes well for Monaco in their future quests to breakdown their adversaries.
Be it in central or wider areas, how Monaco used strategic overloads gave them an additional source to move through the thirds. A couple of ways they achieved this was by forward Wissam Ben Yedder dropping deep into midfield and holding midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko venturing near the central defenders to manufacture 4v3 midfield overloads and a numerical superiority against Reims’ first line of pressure respectively.
Moreover, when in wider areas the mechanics of the ball side winger, fullback and central midfielder provided a strong foundation to give them an edge in bypassing their opposition by getting within close proximity to one another.
By being on the move and dynamically occupying space, this compounded issues for defenders, who were frequently caught in two minds in regards to following their man or holding their position.
All in all, considering it’s early days in Moreno’s tenure, the signs were very positive indeed from his debut match in charge. Up next for Monaco is a double header against the mighty Paris Saint-Germain, with the first fixture scheduled for Sunday night at the Parc des Princes.
While this will be an extremely challenging proposition for the newly installed manager, you can rest assured the ultra competitive and dedicated Moreno along with his staff will be meticulously studying Thomas Tuchel’s troops to gain any edge possible over the next few days in what looms as a captivating week for Monaco.