Although AS Monaco suffered a frustrating 1-0 defeat against Lorient, the performance of Strahinja Pavlovic certainly offered reason for positivity.
Making his Ligue 1 starting debut, the colossal 1.94m central defender looked right at home at the level. Handling the step up in class, the man who excelled on loan in Belgium with Cercle Bruggle in the second half of last season fulfilled his duties impressively. “I am very happy with his first performance in Ligue 1,” insisted Niko Kovac after the match.
“He did a very good job, he played simple, won his duels and always intervened at the right time. This is a good omen. We have seen why he is an international with Serbia and he showed tonight that he also had the level to play in Ligue 1. It is sure that he will play many other matches in Ligue 1 and for AS Monaco.
“He is left footed, like Benoit Badiashile, who has played several games and whom I wanted to let rest a little. Today Pavlo had his chance. He worked well in the preseason and during the week, which shows that we have a lot of quality within this squad. We will see him again this season.”
Not only did he draw praise from his manager and defensive colleague Axel Disasi, but he also gained a seven in L’Equipe’s notoriously harsh player ratings, thus further underlining his polished body of work.
Defending with authority and tenacity, Pavlovic wasn’t afraid to get stuck in and impose himself physically on his adversaries. Keen to apply touchtight pressure when his man dropped deep so they couldn’t turn him and were under heavy duress, this ensured they struggled to execute their actions cleanly.
Getting his judgement and decision making spot on for the most part, the way he also picked his moments when to step out to apply an intervention, hold his post, shift across, provide cover for a teammate or track runners were highlights.
Despite not being blessed with blistering pace, his awareness and reading of the play helped him deal with potentially threatening situations by getting the jump on his man. Indeed, this was especially evident when he slowed down counters by ushering opponents away from the middle and cutting off passing lanes, plus by how he’d shuttle across in anticipation to cut out runs in behind, down the channels or into the box.
Tough and uncompromising in his duels, his forceful tackles and strength in the challenge enabled him to recover possession frequently. In addition, the hulking stopper’s aerial prowess added to his worth, where he expertly unbalanced his markers and picked up the ball’s flight to win a large chunk of his battles.
By the numbers defensively, his 10 won defensive duels, eight loose ball regains, six won headers, three interceptions and two clearances accentuated his handy output.
Meanwhile, on the offensive end, he importantly proved his value too by contributing effectively in a match where Monaco had nearly 75% of the possession.
Splitting wider to play on the left of Monaco’s back three that they implement while in possession, he was key in stretching the opposition’s first line of pressure. Regularly being found as the free man due to Monaco enjoying a 3v2 overload, this gave him the platform to maraud upfield into the half spaces and allowed him plenty of time to assess his options before picking a pass.
Relishing every chance to surge upfield to give Monaco another number in advanced areas against Lorient’s deep block, his presence helped draw out opponents to generate room for teammates while giving him a platform to fire in some dangerous crosses into the box.
Being so comfortable in possession, the 20-year-old’s neat footwork, tidy feints and good close control saw him weave away from danger, beat his opponents and protect the ball while waiting for an option. Such a physical force, how he used his sizeable frame to outmuscle foes while remaining balanced and to shield the ball were vital as well.
Passing the ball coherently over a range of distances, he certainly played his part in possession. Whether recycling possession, switching the angle of attacks, hitting penetrative line breaking passes or firing in deliveries into the area, much encouragement could be drawn from his work here.
Adding to his menace was what a top target he posed from corners and set pieces, with him coming close a couple of times to finding the back of the net with headers.
Statistically speaking, his attacking output was aptly highlighted by his three progressive runs, three touches inside the box, two shots, two accurate crosses, two accurate long passes and 63 completed passes.
Although he committed the odd error with his positioning and passing, all things considered, this was an excellent effort by the talented Pavlovic.
Unquestionably one of Monaco’s best performers on a night where the team were left to rue their missed chances, Pavlovic will have gained tremendous confidence that he can hold his own at the elite level.
With many more opportunities set to come in what will be a hectic season for Les Monegasques, both he and the club will be hoping this is the start of a wonderful future for him on the French Riviera.