Feature

Caio Henrique: Set-piece specialist a real game changer AS Monaco

The excellent form of Caio Henrique has certainly been one of the highlights in what’s been a difficult start to the season for AS Monaco.

Having bowed out of the Champions League preliminaries against PSV Eindhoven and began their Ligue 1 campaign inconsistently, the Brazilian fullback has been a real shining light.

With Les Monegasques heading into their colossal clash with Olympique Lyonnais at the weekend 13th in the table, winless at home and struggling to find their groove, it was Henrique who produced the goods to help propel his team to a vital 2-1 victory at the Stade Louis II.

Supplying two magnificent assists to take his tally to four in five Ligue 1 games already, this aspect of his game yet again served as a game changer for Philippe Clement’s men.

Pinpointing Benoit Badiashile with a curling, perfectly weighted delivery from a corner, this was the catalyst for Monaco to open the scoring. Putting the ball into the perfect area for Badiashile to attack, in combination with Monaco’s shrewd mechanics, ensured Lyon had no answer.

Brilliant delivery to find Badiashile for his first assist

Then, for his second assist, which arose from a dead-ball around 45 yards out, it was a joy to watch him get just the right amount of whip, dip and power to oblige Guillermo Maripan’a decisive run. With the Chilean moving smartly into the gap made by Monaco’s shrewd blocking by Krepin Diatta and Axel Disasi of Lyon defenders, all that was left for him was to head home, as Maripan marked his 100th game for the club in fitting style.

Exceptional delivery to pinpoint Maripan to score

Moreover, Henrique’s open play passing also deserved mention, for not only did he recycle possession coherently, but he also struck some wonderful through balls in behind, found dropping attackers between the lines, engaged in crisp interplay and fired in some classy open play crosses and cutbacks. 

Indeed, the examples below underline his menace, with his wand of a left foot, in alliance, with his vision, ability to read teammates’ runs, accuracy and execution, seeing him wreak havoc.

Superb through ball to find Golovin down the channel
Masterful through ball in behind
Sublime cross into the box to set up the chance

Clean in his ball carrying too, there was much to admire about his dribbling, with him embarking on some damaging upfield surges and protecting the ball well in confined zones. Composed, strong and rangy, the man with a neat first touch and sharp ball control was equally effective marauding forward over large distances or using his body to gain separation to weave away from trouble or shield possession in close quarters.

Additional aspects of his performance that were full of upside was his movement and how he dovetailed effectively with his colleagues. Always on hand to provide width and depth to Monaco’s offensive forays, the way he horizontally and vertically stretched Lyon’s compact shape was crucial for his team.

Constantly serving as an outlet to get involved, his crafty run timing held him good stead to embark on dangerous blindside runs into the box, burst ahead on the overlap and be a quality option for raking switches of play. 

Wonderfully timed run in behind

Coalescing excellently with his teammates to create space for one another and to form numerical and positional superiorities, this added to his nuisance.

To start with, his interactions with nearby attacker Aleksandr Golovin frequently bore fruit, for the Brazilian’s wide positioning would draw opponents so Golovin could receive freely while the Russian’s infield occupation pinned markers to allow Henrique to be open.

Henrique ready to smartly burst in behind as Golovin pins two markers
Henrique being the free man as he is the recipient of the third man combination

Constantly asking questions of opponents on who to mark who in what zone, their partnership was a huge asset for Monaco. The dynamic duo were important towards Monaco generating diamond and triangular 4v3 and 3v2 shapes in build up as well, as these typically manufactured the conditions for Henrique or a teammate to be accessed directly or via a third man combination.

Henrique forming a 3v2 while Golovin pins two markers

The former Atletico Madrid man’s advanced position had the added bonus of preventing markers from stepping out to Badiashile, thus ensuring he could dribble out from the back and step into midfield. 

In terms of his defensive output, and although he wasn’t as eye-catching here and lost some of his duels with the skilful Tete and Malo Gusto on occasion, positives could be extracted from his pressing, 1v1 defending, the timing of his interventions and how he blocked crosses and shots valiantly. 

By the numbers, his eight ball recoveries, seven interceptions, four shot assists, three progressive runs, three successful through balls, three accurate long passes and two dribbles aptly depicted his tremendous contribution.

Caio Henrique’s Heat Map

Coming up big when his team needed him dearly through his masterful silver service, the Brazilian justifiably received praise from his manager and the media following his exploits against Lyon. “Since I was little, I’ve been used to taking set-pieces,” explained the Brazilian in a recent interview on ASM’s Official website. 

“It’s one of my specialties. I always try to do things right in training because I know that set pieces are important and can decide the game.”

Having established himself as one of elite wide defenders in Ligue 1 since his arrival in 2020 and just extended his contract to 2027 with Les Rouge et Blanc, there’s no doubting what an asset he is. 

Strangely, however, he’s still yet to receive a call-up to Tite’s Brazil squad despite his sparkling form. This has subsequently led to calls for Spain to select him as a result of his dual citizenship, an idea that is apparently being encouraged by his agent Deco and good friend Diego Costa. 

With his international future in the balance, one thing for sure is that when fully fit and healthy, he’s typically one of the first names on Clement’s Monaco team sheet. 

His performance against Lyon punctuated precisely why.