Can Monaco's New Crop of Players Replicate Previous Success?
Updated: Jan 24
At the beginning of the last decade, AS Monaco found themselves dropping down into Ligue 2, a once great French club now beleaguered in the second division.
By the end of the decade though, they had made their way back, winning the first division title and taking an exciting team packed with starlets to the Champions League semi-final in 2017.
But once again, the wheels of time have turned against them. On December 28th, they sacked their manager Leonardo Jardim for the second time in 14 months.
To restore the club to its former glory, they've appointed ex-Spanish national team manager, Roberto Moreno. We spoke to Adam White (Chief Features Writer at Get French Football News and Senior French League Analyst at Football Radar) about the last 18 months and if Monaco can once again challenge for French titles.
Change in Philosophy
When Monaco were in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2017 and Ligue 1 title winners, the strength of the team was young vibrant players. Benjamin Mendy, Fabinho, Kylian Mbappé, Tiémoué Bakayoko, and Lemar were all under the age of 23. The team was young and vibrant. It wasn't just the loss of these players that contributed to their downturn. They lost sight of everything that had made them successful according to White.
"It went beyond the playing staff. It went up to the Vadim Vasilyev (former Vice President) and the fantastic recruiting policy and the way they scout, develop and produced and sold young players. They completely lost sight of that and flip-flopped between various other sort of ideas about how to go about producing their team and then recruiting players."
"They've gone all the way down to spending 20 million on a 16-year-olds- jumping the shark some extent in youth development- and they've almost gone in the other direction now focusing on older players.
In the last 18 months they brought in Wissam Ben Yedder, Islam Slimani, Cesc Fabregas, and Alexander Golovin.
"It is effectively a new club when you think about it. We sort of talked a lot about their title winning campaign and you look above the playing staff, Jardim is now gone, Vasilyev is gone, Luis Campos (ex-Sporting Director) is gone. The team is entirely different. Glik is pretty much the only survivor from that 2017 team. They've completely changed their sort of policy on youth development and and signing younger players and bringing them on. They've almost switched towards the PSG model again bizarrely, but in a Marseille a kind of way.
"So they kind of moved on and lost sight of what made them great to start with, but you could argue that they found a new formula in signing those older players."
Poor Start to the Season
"I think in terms of their squad, they should be a lot higher than seventh. If you look on paper and across Ligue 1 and the different squads their's probably at least fourth best. Monaco are a very, very good squad, it's just finding the right formula and challenging those teams at the top."
Despite being good on paper, Jardim and Monaco had a poor start to the season, not winning til their 7th game against Nice. What explains this?
"Well, firstly, it was they were still searching for that right formula and there was a disagreement between the players and Jordan over what formation they play. The players felt that the 3-5-2 suited their their set up and there were various disagreements over over that. Playing four the back hasn't worked."
"The biggest downturn since that 2017 title win has been their two centre backs and Kamil Glick and Jemerson. A lot of Monaco's issues on the field come from simply that they're absolutely terrible form since that."
High squad turnover is the other reason that White suggests, "I think that starts the campaign could also be characterized by new players coming in. You've got Ben Yedder, Slimani, Bakayoko's return, Adrien Silva, all just joined or were joining just as the season got underway and they perhaps weren't entirely fit and they were struggling to gel as a as a unit. Most of them joined after the first game."
Can Moreno Take Them to the Champions League?
As of January 14th, the club sit in 7th place, level on points with Lyon and and Angers, but only four points back of Rennes for a Champions League position. Can Roberto Moreno spur on a second half charge?
"He speaks very good French, which is a huge plus, something that other managers have struggled with in the past and not just in France, but across the continent. I think it's a huge barrier not being able to speak the language. He's clearly a very good coach. Moreno has been around Spain for a long time. He coached Spain during Louis Enrique's absence, and has been an assistant coach all over the place at Barcelona, at Celta Vigo and comes across very well, much like Mikkel Arteta did his first Arsenal's first press conference.
"He came across very intelligent and spoke a lot more precisely about the way he wanted to go about things. So he fits the bill there but he's just so inexperienced as a as a head coach that is definitely a gamble. But he fits the bill."
Since Moreno took over, Monaco has won 2-1 in the Coupe de la Ligue against Stade Reims and drew 3-3 against Ligue 1 heavyweights PSG. In the game against PSG, Moreno changed Monaco's formation from three at the back to four.
The statistics point to a very promising start under Moreno, especially considering the game was at the Parc de Princes. Remarkably the two play again in succession. This time with Monaco as hosts.
Monaco have a new crop of players and a new chapter to write in their long history.