Coming into the starting lineup following his game changing cameo off the bench against Troyes, Kevin Volland’s class came to the fore yet again, with him playing a key role in AS Monaco’s captivating 3-2 win vs. Rennes.
Instinctive, clinical and efficient, the experienced German was a constant thorn in Rennes’ side, with his intelligent movement, astute reading of the play and mastery on the ball proving lethal.
Operating in what was essentially a roaming number 10 role, Volland relished the freedom Philippe Clement afforded him, for he linked play smoothly and excelled at exploiting spaces both in front of and in behind the opposition’s defensive line.
Scanning his surroundings productively and forever awake to available spaces, the 29-year-old’s movement saw him serve as a terrific outlet to inject impetus into many of Les Monegasques’ attacks.
To start with his runs in behind, and while he’s not the quickest these days, the elite timing and angling of his runs, in combination with his spatial awareness and how he quickly he picked up on if a defender was preoccupied, ball watching or dragged out of position, ensured he had an edge. Be it targeting runs between the two central defenders, down the channels when the fullback moved out or finding room in the densely populated box, Volland pounced shrewdly. Clearly right in tune with his teammates and to any imbalances in the Rennes’ rearguard, the examples below demonstrate his aptitude in this regard.
Also prominent was his drops towards the ball, which not only allowed him to connect play and be integral towards facilitating third man combinations, but also to receive between the lines before turning and dribbling or drawing opponents out of shape.
Indeed, his smarts here bore fruit ahead of Monaco’s opener, where he checked towards the ball before laying the ball off to Aleksandr Golovin, who then assisted Vanderson with a sublime pass.
Due to defenders being worried about following him deep due to the space it opened up for the likes of Wissam Ben Yedder and Golovin, they were wary to follow him, which granted him vital separation. Moreover, if they did follow him, his hold up play meant he could withstand pressure while waiting for a viable option.
The way he pinned markers strategically to open up room for colleagues, subtly rotated with his fellow attackers and helped form advantageous overloads enhanced his menace.
Volland’s impact also extended to his work in possession, as his neat passing and slick dribbling was another upside despite him not having a huge amount of touches.
Grabbing the headlines with a superb assist after he picked up the ball’s flight far quicker than the Rennes backline to prod his header into the path of Ben Yedder, who then went onto score expertly, this displayed his nous.
The former Bayer Leverkusen star’s distribution also saw him hit some tidy layoffs in close quarters, launch some measured through balls in behind and strike some incisive crosses into the box.
Carrying the ball effectively, weaving out of danger coolly and maintaining the ball under duress, the press resistant, composed Volland stamped his mark here too.
By the numbers, his 16 completed passes (of 21 attempted), seven duels won, three shot assists, three fouls suffered, one secondary assist and one accurate cross punctuated his quality.
Playing a part in two of Monaco’s three goals with some customary moments of class, his presence was so valuable towards their accomplished victory against one of their rivals for the final Champions League qualification place. “A delightful performance from the classy German forward who was at the heart of Monaco’s key moments. It has been a frustrating time for Volland so far under Philippe Clement but last weekend’s goal against Troyes shortly after coming on as a substitute, seems to have buoyed the former Bayer Leverkusen man, who could be key in the final six games of the season,” aptly noted Lee Davey on the Ligue 1 official website.
Set to be a real driving force in the run home for this Monaco team who have now won four consecutive matches, next on Volland’s list to torment will be OGC Nice in what looms as a thrilling derby.
If he can replicate his masterclass vs. Rennes, then Monaco will be well on their way to keeping up their hot streak and grabbing another valuable victory in their quest for a coveted podium finish.