After one of the best games the Champions League has witnessed when Man City faced Monaco and produced a goal thriller ending 5-3 in the Mancunians favour, a lot of interest has been generated about this Monaco team that cannot even fill their 18,000 stadium. In fact their average Ligue 1’s attendance is the second worst in the whole league at 7,836. However football is not based on attendance and where it matters Monaco are top of the table. Monaco has been free-scoring all year around, they’ve scored 82 goals in Ligue 1. It is very likely that come end of season they would have surpassed the 100 goal mark.
Monaco’s revival started in 2011 when Russian billionaire Dmitry Robolovlev bought a majority stake of the club. When Robolvlev picked up the club they were struggling in Ligue 2, fast forward to now and they’re top of Ligue 1. Initially Robovlev pumped a lot of money into the club signing players such as Falcao, James Rodriguez, Joao Moutinho, Eric Abidal and Ricardo Carvalho. His initial investment stopped when he sold James Rodriguez to Real Madrid for double the fee they paid for him from Porto. They also let Falcao leave to Manchester United on loan. They openly admitted they wanted to have a more structured approach to success and instead opt for a more youth-focused approach instead of buying superstars. It is hard to disagree that it is not working with the average age of 25.2 with their oldest outfield player in Andrea Raggi aged 32, they have a very young team. With a lot of their players being now chased by the top teams of the world including Man United, Man City, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
In defence they have Glik protecting Subasic in goal. Glik easily stands out as their best centre- back costing less than £10m was a great signing in the summer.The Polish international is now valued by transfermarkt at £12.5m, his highest ever value. Glik is normally paired with either Jemerson or Raggi. At full back they have two of the best attacking full backs in the game in Mendy (on the left) and Sidibe (on the right). Despite not being household names they are so athletic, solid and offer the final product. Mendy has 9 assists 1 goal to his name this year. His crossing is definitely one of his strongest characteristics. He does commit a lot of fouls however he can be excused when his attacking prowess is so clear. On the right Sidibe is almost a carbon copy of Mendy. He shares the same characteristics, scoring 3 goals and 5 assists and also commits too many fouls. However these two add another dimension to Monaco that most team wish they had and is part of the reason they are so free-scoring. Both not even 25 years old yet, they have some time to carry on developing and to mature their game.
In midfield, the centre-mid places are battled by Fabinho, Bakayoko and Joao Moutinho. Fabinho and Bakayoko are the more muscular, energetic and more in the mould of box to box midfielders. Fabinho has been linked with United and it’s easy to see why, he has a lot of quality on the ball whilst also being good at the defensive side of the job. He also has an eye for the back of the net scoring 8 times this year. Only 23, he needs the next step to become part of the Brazilian National squad too. Bakayoko is the more defensive option, strong in the air, physical, quick and likes a tackle. However he is also quick with driving with the ball making it perfect for counter attacks and giving the ball to the front men. Joao Moutinho has the “know-how” of playing football, tactically very strong, technically solid too he offers the ability to stable games and dictate the tempo. The Euro 2016 winner is the experience in midfield that is needed especially when protecting results.
In the final third is an area that is full of world class potential. Starting with Bernardo Silva on the right. The left-foot magician is easily one of the best players in Ligue 1. Technically borderline perfect, tactically solid too with a quick burst of pace and a low body of gravity that makes it very hard for defenders to stop him. He is one of the most fouled players in Ligue 1. With 9 goals and 6 assists to his name with an average of 3 key passes per game he is starting to be very attractive to the big teams. Man United are reportedly attracted to him and as his agent is also Jorge Mendes (shares agent with Mourinho) the move has a chance of happening.
On the left Thomas Lemar normally starts. He is a different player to Bernardo, he is a lot more direct and with a more primitive style of football. He wants to get to the byline to cross it and tries to do it as quickly as possible. He is very effective also in the box with 11 goals to his name this year. Follow that with 7 assists and at the age of 21 we have a player that is already amazing but yet still has a lot of potential to grow in. I can definitely see Lemar in the Premier league in the nearby future.
Up top there is Colombia’s all time top goalscorer Radamel Falcao. Before his move to Monaco he was easily considered to be one of the best strikers in the game but he hasn’t been able to achieve the form that made him so feared. However this year he is scoring goals showing glimpses of his old self. He has 22 goals this year in 28 games, not too bad. And his performance against Man City reminded everyone of what he is capable of. Alongside him of late has been Kylian Mbappe. The 18 year old has been compared to ex Arsenal star Thierry Henry and the comparison is just. Both starting at Monaco, similar style of play too and both know where the back of the net is. Mbappe has scored 15 goals this year with a further 5 assists to his name. He is pacey, direct and skillful making it a handful for defenders to score. Hopefully Mbappe doesn’t skip stages and stays at Monaco carrying on developing his football before jumping onto one of the biggest teams in the world. Valere Germain also shares one of the front spots with the above 2, a solid striker in that league whilst he is no superstar. The fact he scores goals keeps pressure on the other two to perform or whenever one cannot play through injury or suspension they have a solid back up.
The final explanation behind Monaco’s success this year is their manager. Portuguese Leonardo Jardim, the young manager has got them firing and has been able to get players to grow whilst also producing results. He has been linked with the Arsenal job, whilst he is not the favourite for it. He does indeed look like a good option especially if you want an attacking style of football whilst developing the youth too. If Monaco win the league it will be their first time since 1999-2000 season. They will have Jardim to thank for, he managed to make the boards vision a reality.
Will Monaco win Ligue 1? How bright a future do you think they have? Let us know in the comments below!