Clinical, instinctive and constantly asking questions of the Paris Saint-Germain backline, Wissam Ben Yedder was integral in propelling AS Monaco to a remarkable 3-0 victory over the league leaders.
Coming into the match having just been eliminated from the Europa League by Braga, Les Monegasques knew they needed a special performance to oust a star studded PSG. And their diminutive captain provided the inspiration they craved in attack by bagging a brilliant brace and putting in a classy overall display.
To start with his movement, and this was the foundation for so much of his best work. Frequently making small adjustments to his positioning to shift his markers, this ensured he gained separation before embarking on his runs in behind or drops deep, plus attracted enemies to generate space for others. As a result, the PSG backline was always caught in dilemmas of what to do, with Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe the most consistent victims of his nous.
The way he’d smartly push into offside positions before quickly then jumping back onside ensured they had to be extremely alert to his runs after he’d snuck out of their field of view. In addition, this also prevented the centre backs from stepping forward, thus ensuring space between the lines could be exploited and when he dragged them away with decoy runs.
When it came to making his runs, his timing was superb, for he’d wait for the ball holder to spot him and have the ball on their preferred foot (or a touch earlier) to act as the cue for him to get on his bike. How he angled and directed his movement was impressive too, for he’d sharply make runs between the centre backs, down the channels when a defender was drawn out and off the back shoulder of opponents.
Indeed, his crafty depth movement was one of the catalysts for the secondary assist he laid on for Ruben Aguilar, who subsequently teed up Kevin Volland to score.
The French international also took up some excellent positions inside the box, with his first goal being the prime example, where he got in front of Kimpembe to expertly steer home Youssouf Fofana’s cross. While he wasn’t always found by colleagues, extra praise warranted directing at his blindside runs and how he held his runs as the defence collapsed deep.
In addition to wreaking havoc in behind, causing problems in the box and pinning markers to free up teammates, Ben Yedder dropped deep effectively too. Choosing his moments nicely to come short and link play between the lines, he did so smartly. Being so strong and balanced, the man with a low centre of gravity remained calm under pressure when holding the ball up while waiting for an option.
So evasive and such a challenging man for PSG to keep tabs on, it was fantastic to see Monaco’s intelligent hitman at his devastating best both in transition and in his side’s slower, methodical build up.
Despite his movement and positional sense being the most striking aspect of his attacking work, additional upside could be found in his neat and tidy passing, smooth ball control and lethal finishing. To focus on the latter, and his opener was a thing of beauty, where he expertly let the ball meet the outside of his left boot to redirect the ball into the net. Adapting his body to get his angles spot on and remaining concentrated, his coordination and goal sense was on full display in this passage.
“He has a technical quality that is impressive and not ordinary. I think when Youssouf was about to cross he said to himself that since there was Wissam in the middle, there was a better chance of the ball ending up in the back of the net,” aptly noted Aurelian Tchouameni on Ben Yedder’s finishing prowess.
Undertaking his defensive duties successfully too, the way he pressed cleverly to use his cover shadow to block passing lanes and close down opponents with gusto meant he was able to force many turnovers directly and indirectly.
Two particular examples deserve mention and offer a testament to his aptitude here. The first arose when he remained awake to Leandro Paredes’ loose touch, after initially harrying Marquinhos, to chime in to regain the ball 20 yards out. Unfortunately, Jean Lucas made a meal of the golden chance that came about immediately after.
This served as a sign of things to come, however, for his nifty backwards pressing saw him dispossess Marco Verratti to put the wheels in motion for their third goal. From here, he got a return pass from Volland before threading a through ball into the German. Kimpembe then scythed Volland down in the area to earn Monaco a penalty that Ben Yedder coolly converted.
On a night where he had a hand in all of Monaco’s goals and established himself as the outright leader in the Ligue 1 scoring charts, there was no doubting he was the man of the match.
By the numbers, his four touches inside the penalty area, three progressive runs, three shots (all on target), one secondary assist, 10 of 14 accurate passes, three duels won and two ball recoveries illustrated his immense effort.
Emphatically stamping his mark on this magnificent win, the game changing veteran was delighted his team could arrest their slide after the match. “We were keen to erase our eliminations in the Europa League and the Coupe de France. This victory before the break is good and puts an end to this bad series in the championship. Success finally turns to our advantage,” he explained.
“I hope that will continue to be the case until the end of the season. In any case, we are not going to give up. The goal is to get a place in the European Cup next season. For that, you have to chain a series of victories. This is what we lacked until now.”
Having not scored since the end of February and with time running out for Monaco to close the gap on the top three, the club will be hoping Ben Yedder will keep firing on all cylinders in the all-important run home.
If he can do precisely that during their last nine league matches, then the seemingly impossible could yet become a reality.