In what served as a reunion of sorts for Niko Kovac, as the new AS Monaco manager lined up against one of his former clubs in Eintracht Frankfurt, where he spent a brilliant two seasons, there was certainly plenty of interest in this friendly.
Despite having been in charge for just two weeks, it was intriguing to see some of the tactical concepts and patterns he’s already instilled into Les Monegasques. Clearly intent on stamping his mark on the side, the determined Kovac has definitely been using his time wisely on the training ground, even if his team aren’t completely hitting their stride yet.
Channeling our focus on three points of analysis from this clash, we begin with how Monaco exploited wide areas with clever movement and interactions.
Wide interactions crucial
Using astute rotations and opposite movements, the Red and Whites were able to generate openings down the flanks and into the channels. By drawing and pinning their markers out of shape, they did a superb job of manufacturing disconnects between Frankfurt’s wing backs and outside central defenders.
From their 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 shape, these interchanges proved difficult to manage for the Eagles due to Monaco’s mechanics that included many different players depending on the situation. With two or three of the near side winger, fullback, central midfielder and Wissam Ben Yedder from his striking position involved at one time or another, this caused dilemmas for Frankfurt on who should mark who in what zone.
Subsequently, disruption of Frankfurt’s defensive shape was achieved, enabling Monaco to take full advantage of the vacancies available by opening vital upfield spaces and passing lanes.
Pressing setup offers encouragement
Devising a solid pressing plan for this contest, Kovac had obviously done his homework on his former side, with him adopting a largely successful high pressing scheme. From their 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 formation, Ben Yedder would be joined by wingers Nacer Chadli and Sofiane Diop in harrying Frankfurt’s back three. Monaco’s trio in central midfield then pushed onto their adversaries’ midfield threesome, while the fullbacks locked onto the home team’s wingbacks.
This then left central defenders, Jean Marcelin and Benoit Badiashile, to keep tabs on the strike duo of Bas Dost and Andre Silva.
Although they didn’t press high all the time, their opponents struggled to break through when they did, with Monaco’s man orientations, in combination with how they used the touchline as an extra man and attempted to use their cover shadows to block passing lanes, only enhanced their effectiveness.
Indeed, a testament to their output in this regard arrived for their equaliser, where Anthony Musaba’s aggressive pressing served as the catalyst for the goal, as he forced a poor back pass before scoring the eventual rebound himself.
Second ball setup bears fruit
In situations when Monaco had goal kicks or were under pressure and forced into long balls, a smart setup was implemented to win the resulting second balls in advanced areas to immediately put their foes on the back foot.
They did so in a couple of ways. Firstly they’d knock the ball upfield towards a winger, usually Chadli due to his physicality and size, before then looking to win headed flick ons to the coordinated runs of Ben Yedder and an advancing midfielder. Key to this was how the likes of Ben Yedder and Aleksandr Golovin could receive the ball on the move and in forward facing body postures to quickly add momentum into the attack.
The other method utilised was to pump the ball long and get numbers around the target. By doing so, they could form 3v2 overloads around the ball to increase their chances of winning the second ball instantly in ideal positions to retain possession or play in an onrushing colleague.
Considering Kovac is still in the process of instilling his philosophy on his new team, plenty of encouragement could still be extracted from a valuable 90 minutes of work against a high quality Frankfurt.
With much to work on until their next friendly against AZ Alkmaar on August 15, it’ll be intriguing to see how Kovac can build on this outing against the tactically sophisticated Dutch side.