Analysis: Game changing Caio Henrique so crucial for AS Monaco
Although AS Monaco didn’t secure the desired result vs. Nantes, where they were ultimately forced to settle for a 2-2 draw despite leading 2-0 inside 30 minutes, there was no denying what an unmistakable impact Caio Henrique had on proceedings.
Deployed in his usual left-back post by Philippe Clement, the Brazilian’s exceptional delivery with his wand of a left foot was a constant source of offensive impetus for Les Monegasques.
Playing an integral role for both of Monaco’s goals courtesy of his silver service, his ball striking was on full display, in a game where he proved what a game changer he can be.
For their first goal, his wonderfully taken outswinging corner teed up Axel Disasi nicely to serve as the catalyst for him to blast home his volley masterfully.
Then, their second goal owed much to his tantalising cross from another corner, which he floated in dangerously towards the penalty spot. With Nantes unable to deal with this adequately, Eliot Matazo duly capitalised to propel ASM into a 2-0 lead.
“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.”
Aside from the aforementioned, there were many other instances where his prowess from dead-balls and open play came to the fore. Technically excellent and such a crisp ball striker, his measured crosses, cutbacks, through balls and line breaking passes offered extra reason for upside.
The examples below illustrate this aptly, with his ability to read the play, vision to spot runners and execution combining to see him wreak havoc.
Meanwhile, if he wasn’t attempting more expansive passes, the way he calmly recirculated possession while waiting for a weakness in the opposition block to emerge was important in terms of ball retention, giving his team some control and manipulating Les Canaris.
Supplementing his distribution with his calculated movement, this enabled him to get into threatening positions in the attacking half. Timing his forward bursts shrewdly to attack gaps and exploit the blindside of opponents upon noticing Aleksandr Golovin edge infield in customary style, he did a fine job of adding depth and width to attacks.
Effectively stretching the Nantes rearguard vertically and horizontally and asking questions of defenders, this, in alliance with how he mixed things up by often operating deeper during build-up phases, saw him frequently keep Nantes on their toes.
Despite him not impacting the contest as heavily on the defensive end, he still played his role coherently. Getting the fundamentals spot on mostly, he was attentive and aware of danger, as he tracked runners diligently, pressed with gusto when his marker dropped deep with their back to goal and timed his leaps smartly to win headers.
In addition, how he handled himself in 1v1s, where his sharp reactions and powerful posture held him in good stead, plus supported his backline and chimed in with many key interventions, warranted praise.
By the numbers, his five shot assists, four accurate passes into the final third, three progressive runs, three accurate long passes, two assists, 14 ball recoveries, 10/13 duels won, three clearances, 2/2 aerials won and two interceptions demonstrated his quality output on both sides of the game.
Proving his worth once again, his brace of assists now moves him up to nine in Ligue 1 and means he now ranks first for assists from set-pieces in Europe’s top five leagues.
Although his valuable contribution wasn’t enough in the end to get his team over the line, expect him to play an extremely pivotal role in Monaco’s all-important run home.
Such an asset to have, there’s no doubting how crucial having someone with his unique qualities could be in Monaco’s quest to secure Champions League qualification that’s set to be decided by fine margins.
With only eight league games left, Henrique appears destined to be a vital figure with not just his sensational passing, but also with his often unheralded all-round efforts. His strong body of work against Nantes showed precisely that.