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Analysis: Minamino’s wizardry integral in AS Monaco’s opening day win

The Adi Hutter era at AS Monaco kicked off with a bang, as Les Monegasques secured a vital 2-4 victory over Clermont Foot in their Ligue 1 opener.

Picking a strong squad that contained many established performers and a sprinkling of youngsters, Hutter would have unquestionably been delighted with Takumi Minamino’s output – a player he’s familiar with due to him coaching the speedster previously at Red Bull Salzburg.

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Having endured a challenging first year at ASM last term under Philippe Clement, where he never truly found his groove and was largely a peripheral figure, it was brilliant to see Minamino start his season so exceptionally.

Operating in his preferred role as one of ASM’s dual number 10s alongside Aleksandr Golovin and just behind Wissam Ben Yedder, the Japanese international was a constant thorn in Clermont’s side.

“Honestly it’s the position in which I prefer to evolve, just behind the centre forward. It’s really a position in which I thrive and where I feel good, that’s for sure,” the versatile attacker, who can play anywhere across the frontline, insisted after the recent Bayern Munich friendly.

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Proving an extremely tough man to keep tabs on due to his intelligent movement, Minamino was a master at identifying and exploiting gaps both in front of and in behind the Clermont backline.

Minamino’s Heat Map

Especially damaging between the lines and in the half spaces, where he was so crucial in terms of connecting the play and evading markers, this was a key aspect of his success. Knowing when to drop when a passing lane was open and if an overload could be generated, this, in alliance with how swiftly he spotted if Ben Yedder was pinning the defenders or the midfielders were occupying their markers, meant he took full advantage of such situations to receive freely to wreak havoc.

Dropping to form a 3v2
Superb movement between the lines as Ben Yedder pins his man
Great support option for the lay-off

Reading the play so expertly and so effective at scanning his surroundings so he knew where markers and colleagues were, plus if he could turn or needed to protect the ball, it was a joy to watch his spatial awareness.

Constantly varying the areas he occupied, it was also notable how well he dovetailed with Vanderson, not only for their goal that featured some lovely combination play, but also through how they created space for one another and kept their markers guessing.

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Fine assist for Vanderson

The former Liverpool flyer’s shrewd and speedy runs in behind and into the box elevated his threat, with his instincts of when to get on his bike and angling of his runs ensuring he gained separation from trackers. Even though his runs weren’t always obliged, this compartment of his game will certainly be one to watch moving forward.

Crafty movement into the box

The technically gifted playmaker’s work with the ball at his feet was at a high level too, for the nimble, elusive Minamino put his dribbling to great use to weave out of trouble, draw opponents and gain room for himself to execute his actions.

Blessed with incredible close control, rapid acceleration, brilliant balance and able to turn on a dime, he was so difficult to dispossess.

The fact he has a low centre of gravity, underrated strength when carrying the ball and is great at adjusting his receiving posture compounded issues for his foes.

There were also many glimpses of his crafty passing, as he struck some pinpoint through balls in behind, engaged in some crisp combination play in close and hit some incisive passes into the feet of his fellow attackers.

Classy through ball over the top

Further upside could be extracted from his pressing and counterpressing, as the man who’s well versed in these arts from his time at Red Bull Salzburg and Liverpool particularly, showed why he’s such a fine fit for Hutter’s side in this regard.

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By the numbers, his seven touches inside the box, six duels won, three interceptions, two dribbles, two shots, one assist, one second assist and 21 accurate passes underlined his polished all-round contribution.

Carrying his solid form from pre-season into the Ligue 1 opener, Minamino will be hoping he can continue building on his confidence-boosting body of work and emphatically stamp his mark with ASM under a coach who he’s familiar with.

Possessing all the required attributes to be a success within Hutter’s philosophy, the 28-year-old’s primed to be an integral component of the new manager’s plans.

While there’s plenty of competition for places in this area of the field, if he can keep producing the goods like he did vs. Clermont, there’s every reason to suggest he’ll have that starting spot locked down sooner rather than later.

After a disappointing first crusade for Les Rouge et Blanc, the time appears now for Minamino to truly shine on the French Riviera.

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