AS Monaco has been showered in praise by international media, following their away game win against Paris Saint-Germain (0-2) last Sunday. Aside from the players’ performance and Niko Kovac’s tactics in their most recent game, foreign press have been focusing on ASM for months. All of this begs the question, how is the club perceived abroad?
As the papers went out to print on Monday morning, it seemed almost every foreign journalist was writing about AS Monaco’s great success against Paris Saint-German, as well as the genius behind the players, Niko Kovac. In England, the match was proclaimed “a tactical masterclass” by The Guardian, whilst the Spanish newspaper AS encouraged Barcelona and Koeman “to take notes from Monaco to catch up with PSG” in their next Championship League matches. Niko Kovac clearly knows what he is doing, as ASM have beaten their Parisien opponents in both of their recent encounters with them this season, winning the first leg 3-2.
Niko Kovac and his tactics
In the first leg against PSG, the Principality’s team had a shaky start: 2-0 down at half time. However, as the second half got underway, the arrival of Cesc Fabregas onto the pitch helped ensure a solid comeback. The Spanish player knows how to work the pitch and his steely determination helped secure a 3-2 victory for the club. This memorable victory was the first striking signature of the Croatian coach who knows how to motivate his players. He is willing to work hard and to establish a real game plan, made possible by weekly training sessions since Monaco is not playing any European competitions this year.
Taking to the pitch on Sunday, the team had a flexible defence, with up to four or five defenders, focusing particularly on Mbappé. By marking their opponents closely, they made it very tricky for the Parisiens to get anywhere near the net. In an effort to avoid another nightmare defeat, akin to the loss suffered against Lyon last October (4-1), Niko Kovac made sure to employ his best tactics against Paris St-Germain. In fact, his strategy was such a success that the Spanish news site AS actually recommend Ronald Koeman use it in FC Barcelona’s match on the 10 March, even if the club has a three goal deficit to overcome (1-4).
A winning combination of youth and experience
It seems that ASM’s new strategy, initiated by Oleg Petrov and continued by Paul Mitchell, has paid off. Their victory at the Parc des Princes stadium proved that putting together a team composed mainly of young talents, mixed with a couple of more experienced players, was indeed a successful move. Kevin Volland (aged 28) was recruited last summer to join Wissam Ben Yedder (aged 30) and Cesc Fabregas (aged 33). The trio are accompanying more youthful players, including: Sofiane Diop (aged 20), Benoît Badiashile (aged 19), Aurélien Tchouaméni (aged 21) and Youssouf Fofana (aged 22).
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The strategy in question was confirmed by the arrival of a new Senegalese winger, Krépin Diatta (aged 21) this winter. “The recruitment of Krépin illustrates our strategy as he is quick, comfortable changing direction, aggressive [and he] fits our style of play,” declared the club’s Sporting Director Paul Mitchell. Heading into the summer transfer season, the British Sporting Director will likely once again make a name for himself thanks to his many professional contacts. It is thought he will make the most of his connections to secure some of the best European players, as well as new up-and-coming talents, for the Principality’s team.
Far-sighted recruitment of visionary quartet has reawakened Champions League dream at French clubGary Jacob, The Times
Writing for the British newspaper The Times, Gary Jacob commented that “Monaco’s revival is gathering pace” thanks to the work of “four Englishmen tasked with replicating the blueprint of finding and developing aggressive players [in the most positive sense of the word] that they have successfully deployed at other clubs.” Former chief technical director at Red Bell, Paul Mitchell is heading up this project, in charge of a team of three others: James Bunce (Director of Performance), Aaron Briggs (Technical Analyst), and Laurence Stewart (Recruiter).
In an exclusive interview with German TV channel Sport1, Niko Kovac detailed the similarities between his game plan with AS Monaco and the German playing style. Having worked at Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern Munich, the coach learnt a lot about how these clubs liked to play. “In terms of structures, Monaco is heading towards Frankfurt,” he explained. “Dmitry Rybolovlev, as the owner of the club, has brought two responsible people – Paul Mitchell and Oleg Petrov – who are supposed to bring Monaco back to where the club was and where it belongs. I’m there as the third member of the group. Three people are responsible for the sporting area here. Mitchell takes care of the structures and Petrov is the owner’s right-hand man. The decision-making paths are very short. That makes things a lot easier.”
An ambitious long term plan
Following their success in Paris, Oleg Petrov sought to remind everyone of AS Monaco’s goal this year: to qualify for the Europa League at the end of the season. “Winning the Championship is part of the long term plan as Dmitry Rybolovlev is very ambitious. The main goal for this year is simply to qualify for the Europa League,” he told French newspaper Nice-Matin. “The team is young and players are still learning. We’re heading in the right direction, but we aren’t there yet.” Currently in fourth place and with Lens 12 points behind, this goal will soon be a reality for Les Rouges et Blanc.
In an interview given to the local newspaper Monaco Hebdo, Prince Albert II spoke positively about AS Monaco’s “encouraging results,” highlighting how the team “work well together” and their game plan is “quite clearly in place”. The Sovereign reassured that “the majority owner of the club Dmitry Rybolovlev had no intention of selling AS Monaco and that he remains financially supportive of the club.” As for the team’s goals, Prince Albert II confirmed that the club “hoped to play against Europe as soon as possible.”
Speaking to CBS Sports, Vice President of the ASM Oleg Petrov affirmed that having a plan in place and remaining patient, but ambitious, was key to success. “The President is ambitious and his vision for Monaco is clear: to bring the club back to French football’s top spots as well as regularly competing and performing well in Europe. We can count on the President’s daily involvement and full support.” Monaco may be close to qualifying now, but they should not rest on their laurels. Lille, Lyon or Paris may drop a few points and it would be good for Monaco to capitalise on that to get ahead on their goal of winning the League. If the club does not qualify this year, then doing so will be their top priority next time round.