Europa League Opposition Preview – AS Monaco
Times they have a-changed at Monaco in recent months. An excellent 2014-15 season under Leonardo Jardim saw his team produce some superb football at times with a fast paced, young, energetic side. After a slow start it earned them their third place finish in Ligue 1 and more surprisingly a superb run in the Champions League.
Centre to that success were a group of some of the most exciting young talent in Europe; Aymen Abdennour, Layvin Kurzawa, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco and Anthony Martial. Unfortunately for Jardim, the summer transfer window has seen the departure of every single one of these players, albeit for vast transfer fees. Jardim has therefore had to rebuild his squad in key areas. His focus has remained on young players with pace and a sell-on potential: Ivan Cavaleiro, Stephan El Shaarawy, Adama Traore, Thomas Lemar and Guido Carrillo were just some of those brought in from across France, Europe and South America this summer.
Playing in a 4-3-3 formation, Jardim builds his system around a strong defensive unit. Fabinho, although only 21, has been almost ever-present at right-back in the last two seasons. He plays alongside the hugely experienced Andrea Raggi and Ricardo Carvalho. Fabio Coentrao has been brought in to replace Kurzawa and will compete with Nigerian Elderson Echiejile for the left back spot.
Sitting behind this line of defence is goalkeeper Danijel Subasic. The Croatian was brilliant at times last season and certainly can be seen as one of the best in the division. Despite questions over his ability when he arrived, he has quietly become one of the most important and reliable players for Monaco.
In midfield, Jardim relies on the “been there, done that” experience of Jeremy Toulalan who sits in front of the defence, mopping up everything that comes his way. Adama Traore, Tiemoue Bakayoko or on-loan Chelsea player Mario Pasalic provide the running and energy alongside the ageing legs of the France international.
Joao Moutinho, though currently out injured, now plays a deeper role at Monaco. He is looked at to use his range of passing to great effect. He has yet to consistently hit top form for Monaco but with so many changes having taken place at the club, he will be looked at as one of the more senior squad members when he makes his return.
Another Portuguese maestro, Bernardo Silva, normally sits either at the point of the midfield three or pushed further forward. The youngster had an excellent campaign last season and followed that up with a starring role in the Under 21 European Championships in the summer. He is often the go to player for that moment of magic to unlock defences.
Silva has not yet reached the heights of last seasons’ performances but with his trickery on the ball and his movement off it, he remains one of Monaco’s most potent threats.
Jardim’ first choice attacking trio has yet to be fully determined. Cavaleiro, El Shaarawy, Carrillo, Silva and Nabil Dirar (of Club Brugge fame) are the main players to have been used so far. It’s an area that Jardim needs to get sorted swiftly however, as the constant tinkering doesn’t leave anyone feeling too settled.
After missing out on the Champions League group stages following a narrow play off defeat to Valencia, there is a feeling they should take the Europa League seriously. They certainly have the right blend of players in the squad to be successful and after a slightly nervy start to the new season, it could be seen as their best way to get back into the Champions League.
Looking at their Europa League group, it is by no means straightforward for them but with question marks over how seriously Tottenham will take the competition, they should be aiming to qualify with ease. Anderlecht and Qarabag will be no pushovers but it would be a big surprise if Monaco were not to progress.