Feature

Analysis: Mohamed Camara’s encouraging start to life with AS Monaco

Despite his harsh red card against Clermont Foot attracting attention for the wrong reasons, there’s certainly been much to admire about Mohamed Camara’s impressive start to life with AS Monaco.

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Having signed for a bargain €15 million from Red Bull Salzburg in the summer to help fill the void left by the irreplaceable Aurelien Tchouameni, who departed to Real Madrid in an €80 million deal, Camara’s wasted little time in stamping his mark on the French Riviera, as he’s been one of signings of the season. 

Adapting smoothly to the step up in class, the ultra competitive midfielder quickly announced himself on the big stage by putting in an all-action, man of the match display against Paris Saint-Germain to help his team secure a draw at the Parc des Princes in his first start for Monaco. 

Since that memorable occasion, he’s clearly earned the trust and belief of his manager, Philippe Clement, for he’s started 10 of Monaco’s last 11 matches in all competitions. Playing with tenacity, commitment and intelligence, the 22-year-old’s underlined his class while forming a formidable partnership with Youssouf Fofana in central midfield.

”It’s not easy to replace Aurelien Tchouameni in the same style of play, but he has shown that he has the qualities to play with Youssouf in order to form a good duo in the heart of the pitch. Which is important because the midfield is the heartbeat of the team,” explained Clement.

Camara then added this on his relationship with Fofana: “With Youssouf, we understand each other very well. He’s my friend off the pitch. He has a good heart and he is very kind. We want to give our all to help the club.”

An absolute maestro on the defensive end, there’s no doubting what a positive impact he’s had for Les Monegasques in this area, as he’s been a key figure towards ensuring Monaco have conceded just three goals in their last six matches while keeping three clean sheets.

So good at reading the play, positionally sound and shrewdly monitoring opponents in his designated area of operation, the Malian international remains alert to nearby danger and acts accordingly.

Camara’s Heat Map this season

As a result, he expertly breaks up play, blocks passing lanes, helps teammates and knows when to step up, shift laterally, drop back or engage in high pressing situations to support those ahead of him.

Vital intervention to break up the attack

Offering excellent coverage of his defence through his spatial awareness and positional nous, and also doing a fine job of tracking runners, getting across to help Fofana and the nearby fullbacks, this amplifies his worth.

Great run tracking and backwards pressing to cut out the counter

Despite his tender years, it’s been a real upside how he constantly communicates with and gestures to his teammates to advise them of nearby opponents and when they need to alter their position, as his leadership has demonstrated his maturity, tactical acumen and comfort among his mates.

Combative and forceful when applying his interventions, this, in alliance with his usually good timing, has seen him effectively recover the ball, impose himself on foes and set the tone for his colleagues to follow. Full of intensity and aggression, Camara never shies away if he believes he can reclaim possession. Although he can be overzealous in his challenges and give away some sloppy fouls, the positives certainly outweigh any negatives here.

Even though he stands at a diminutive 174 cm, the relentless midfielder still handles himself more than adequately in 1v1s and physical battles. Possessing a low centre of gravity, plus immense core and lower body strength, Camara excels at outmuscling and unbalancing adversaries while keeping his feet, thus increasing his ability to force turnovers.

Rapid to respond when his team immediately lose possession, his assertive counterpressing has been another huge weapon in his armoury, for he pounces sharply, eager to win the ball back high and stop counter attacks developing. Indeed, the examples below illustrate this aptly, for he’s on his targets in a flash, so his team can instantly attack again.

Aggressive counterpressing to regain the ball high
Exceptional counterpressing to win back the ball

Relishing all his duels and battles across the pitch, Camara’s stopping contribution has been immense so far for Monaco.

Upon shifting the focus to his offensive output, and even if he hasn’t stamped his mark as heavily here, he’s definitely proved his worth.

Connecting attacks centrally and in the half spaces, always available to teammates, drawing opponents to open passing lanes and keeping things ticking over nicely in midfield, his movement and passing have assisted Monaco’s ability to keep possession and progress through the thirds.

Opening the passing lane and forming a 3v2 overload in midfield

Preferring to predominantly opt for simpler passes, this has seen him competently recycle possession while waiting for a weakness in the opposition block to arise, alter the angle of attacks and crisply get the ball into Monaco’s more dangerous offensive wizards.

If the more ambitious option arises, it’s been good to see him take advantage of it, as he’s craftily spotted targets and shown his solid passing range and repertoire by hitting some penetrative line breaking passes, launching some measured through balls in behind and crisp switches of play.

Classy through ball in behind for Embolo
Measured through ball in behind

Supplementing the above with his handy dribbling skills, there’s been much to like about his driving runs, how he wriggles away from danger and gains separation from foes with his distinctive, slightly unorthodox technique to enhance his menace.

Brilliant driving dribble and through ball into Ben Yedder

Although he’s yet to completely display his full passing and ball carrying qualities for Les Monegasques like he did at Salzburg, as he’s occasionally given the ball away cheaply and committed some uncharacteristic errors, expect his aptitude in these areas to fully shine through in time as he continues his adaptation to life in Ligue 1 and the tendencies of his new teammates.

By the numbers using Wyscout data, upon comparing his statistics to his outstanding teammate, Fofana, from this season, and it’s impressive how he has the ascendancy in many key metrics related to defensive duels per 90, possession adjusted interceptions p90, ball recoveries p90 and loose ball duels p90, plus how he holds his own in a range of key passing figures.

Camara vs. Fofana defensive comparison
Camara vs. Fofana key passing comparison

Producing the goods at this early stage of his Monaco adventure and proving a real driving force for his new team and a thorn in the side for opponents, all the signs are positive that he’ll grow into an elite midfielder, with the only real downside being his aforementioned sending off.

With so much scope for improvement and working under a manager who’s outstanding at developing young players and never afraid to give them a chance, being at Monaco is unquestionably an ideal environment for him to hone his craft.

A tireless worker with a winning mentality and having already established himself as a starter for Monaco, watching how he fares following his encouraging beginnings will be fascinating.