Djibril Sidibe finished the season in style by putting in a great shift against Lens, as the 2018 World Cup winner was a key component for AS Monaco in both phases of the game.
Continuing his sound recent form, the man who often comes in for overly harsh criticism, demonstrated his value to the team from his hybrid role. Essentially playing as a third central defender in possession and as a more traditional right back without the ball, Sidibe fulfilled his duties admirably.
To begin with his defensive output, and the Frenchman’s intensity, anticipation and fight in his duels ensured whenever a Lens attacker ventured into his designated area of operation, he was onto them like a flash.
Awake to both runs in behind and when his man dropped deep, Sidibe would immediately look to get touchtight and impede his man from enjoying any freedom. This was especially evident when his man checked towards the ball with his back to goal, where he’d aggressively press and prevent them from getting a clean first touch.
So strong and with swift acceleration, this helped him track runners and outmuscle his targets to impose himself physically on them. In doing so, this forced many errors, stunted their movement and allowed him to make some quality challenges.
His pace notably helped him track back and support his backline in transition sequences, with there being many occasions when he sprinted back to deal with danger.
Hard in the tackle and excelling in both duels on the ground and in the air, he timed his interventions sharply to help his team regain possession and prevent many a threatening move.
Statistically speaking in regards to his defensive efforts, his 14 recoveries, six interceptions, two won aerials duels and the fact he was successful in seven of his nine defensive duels illustrated his dominance.
Switching the focus to his offensive work, and Sidibe impacted proceedings nicely with his progressive passing, positioning, ball carrying and dynamism.
Unquestionably, though, his passing was the biggest highlight, for he consistently broke the lines with his incision here. Showing his vision and awareness of his teammates’ movement, the way he struck wicked passes into the feet of his forwards was a joy to watch. The value attached to his diagonal passes was especially high due to them often manipulating the Lens block both horizontally and vertically to create gaps.
By striking some fantastic through balls, crosses and set pieces, this added to his worth, as he fired off these deliveries to oblige the runs of his colleagues. Measuring and weighting his long balls ideally, this added an extra source of chance creation for the away side. Indeed, his six completed through balls, six accurate long passes and two successful crosses depicted his value in this regard.
With him operating as a wide centre back in possession, this afforded him plenty of time and space to receive freely, as Lens’ first line of pressure was stretched. From here, he could either maraud forward before making underlapping or overlapping forward runs or enjoy time to assess his options to pick his passes.
Continually having the conditions for him to wreak havoc, he relished every opportunity to join in attacks and help breathe life into Monaco’s attacks, which is underlined aptly in his heat map below.
In what was yet another example of how superbly he’s adapted to this hybrid role Niko Kovac has tailored for him, Sidibe proved how valuable his tactical awareness and versatility is. “The coach asks us to stay deeper to maintain numerical superiority in case of a counterattack. I communicate a lot with Guillermo, Axel, and Benoît to have five players defending and the other five attacking. It’s a different role but I relish it, it takes a lot of concentration,” Sibide explained.
He then added this on Kovac: “We’ve been working for 10 months, hard work. The coach transformed us. We work hard, we are lucky to have a very rigorous and disciplined staff. Niko Kovac brings a freshness and a winning mentality to a young team like ours.”
Although he’s committed the odd error and endured a few difficult games this campaign, there’s no doubting what a positive contribution he’s made towards Monaco’s brilliant season – that saw them finish third and secure Champions League qualification.
As one of the more experienced members of the squad and one who has already played in Europe’s elite competition, he’ll certainly be a vital presence next term too for this young, exciting team.