Aleksandr Golovin continues to underline why he’s such an integral component of Philippe Clement’s AS Monaco, with his latest man of the match showing against Toulouse serving as a testament to his importance.
Having starred in Monaco’s victory last weekend over Angers as well, where his superb strike propelled his team to victory, the diminutive genius was at it again vs. Toulouse, as his similarly masterful goal sealed all three points for Les Monegasques vs. Les Violets.
Starting in his usual left sided attacking midfield station, Golovin’s game changing qualities were on show yet again, and not just because of his aforementioned wonderstrike.
So intelligent and aware of his surroundings, Golovin’s exceptional movement was a key cornerstone towards his success. Relishing the freedom afforded to him by Clement, who gives him a remit to venture infield, drop deeper and occupy dangerous zones between the lines and in the half spaces, Golovin was a constant thorn in Toulouse’s side.
Doing a brilliant job of connecting attacks, getting within close proximity of his forwards to engage in quick combination play and so awake to where defenders, teammates and vacant spaces were, it was a joy to watch him wreak havoc. Causing persistent marking dilemmas for opponents in regard to who should be tracking him in what zone, this often meant he was free to inherit possession.
Moreover, the fact the front two of Kevin Volland and Breel Embolo were effective at pinning their respective foes duly increased his space to operate in, for their markers weren’t game to step out to leave Monaco’s forwards free.
Forging a fine partnership with talented fullback Caio Henrique, Golovin’s infield adventures enabled the Brazilian to have oceans of space to maraud into, especially when defenders would start tucking inside in an attempt to stop Golovin receiving unopposed centrally.
The dynamic duo would also mix things up, for Golovin would sometimes hold the width, which paved the way for Henrique to charge ahead on some damaging underlaps into the final third.
The 26-year-old’s shrewdly timed and directed runs down the channels and into the box also deserved mention, for they added a further layer of menace for Toulouse to deal with. Waiting for the right moment to pounce once recognising when an opponent had stepped out of shape or were preoccupied, these bursts enhanced Golovin’s impact.
Moreover, seeing as Monaco’s frontline often went 4v4 against Toulouse’s rearguard, thus minimising their room for error, it was particularly notable how smartly he exploited the blindside of his foes. With his nominal tracker, Kevin Biakolo, typically shifting infield when the ball was on the far side, Golovin’s runs on the outside shoulder saw him pose as a fine outlet for crosses and cutbacks, where he could use his dynamic advantage to gain an ascendancy over his ball facing foe.
Although he wasn’t always found, the example below highlights the type of quality positions he took up.
Meanwhile, when it came to his work in possession, there was a lot to like here too. Boasting Velcro-like ball control and a marvellous first touch, this gave him a firm platform to compound issues for his adversaries.
So good at beating opponents or gaining separation to make room to pass or shoot, Golovin’s ability to rapidly change pace or direction, plus unbalance foes with silky smooth feints, shimmies and turns away from danger, increased his nuisance.
So expertly balanced, able to ride challenges and efficient at drawing out opponents, these aspects were instrumental for him in being able to manipulate defensive shapes and open passing lanes.
Golovin’s wizardry with the ball at his feet also extended to his passing, where his creativity and vision were vital in generating many promising sequences for Les Monegasques. Swift at reading the movement of his colleagues and with a pass to match most scenarios in his locker, the way he threaded some crafty through balls, struck some enticing set-pieces, combined neatly in close quarters and disguised his passes artfully using his eyes breathed life into many offensive forays.
Having produced such an incisive display littered with upside, it was fitting that he marked his performance with a sensational goal to give his team the lead, where he astutely opened up his body to place his finish perfectly into the top corner.
By the numbers, his 10 duels won, six shot assists, five shots, five touches inside the box, five progressive runs, five accurate passes into the box, three successful dribbles and two accurate crosses punctuated his enormous contribution.
Such an elegant, technical and immensely gifted operator, Clement spoke glowingly of Golovin in his post match comments, with him especially pleased he’s now adding more goals to his game, which has been something the Belgian’s been calling for. “We spoke with him eight months ago, when I arrived at the club. He had already been there for three-four years already, but was often injured and had never played so much. I saw a player in training who was technically very strong, but physically imperfect,” he explained.
“We told him that we could help him with the performance staff to become a great player. Thanks to that he can chain together matches today. He is more explosive, more solid too. He took matters into his own hands to become the player he is right now.”
Now fully fit and firing on all cylinders, the man who’s already featured 21 times in all competitions this campaign is clearly enjoying life under Clement, whose approach is helping get the best out of him.
Knowing there’s still room to grow and fresh from making his 150th appearance for Monaco last week, all the signs are positive that many more magnificent, man of the match displays will be on the horizon too – just like the ones he’s already produced against Rennes, Reims, Nantes, Angers and most recently Toulouse.