After their eighth game in the French Ligue 1, Monaco are sitting second just one point behind Nice and three points in front of the favourites Paris Saint-Germain. So how did this happen to a club that just a few years ago was languishing in the French second division?
Monaco’s renaissance began in December 2011 when it was bought by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Although they began with a ‘Galactico’ recruitment policy similar to that of PSG, with the arrivals of Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho; Monaco’s sport directors quickly decided to exchange fame for youth, since their return to Ligue 1, have been buying a large amount of young talented prospects. The purchases of 17-year-old Anthony Martial, 20-year-old Geoffrey Kondogbia or more recently of Thomas Lemar, who will be 21 in November, providing evidence of the team’s credentials as excellent talent-hunters. Indeed, Monaco has one of the youngest squads involved the Champions League this season: the average age of their squad during their match against Bayer Leverkusen was just 25, with three players under that age coming on.
However, the team’s youthfulness is well balanced with a large number of experienced players in crucial sectors: midfielder Joao Moutinho or central defender and goalkeeper Kamil Glik and Danijel Subasic, for example. Both were contributing factors in Poland and Croatia’s respective performances in the Euros this summer. This experience, coupled with the raw talents of Monaco’s young players, has enabled them to enact several impressive wins. Most notably dominating PSG 3-1 at the beginning of September and defeating Tottenham at Wembley, (much to the delight of this Arsenal fan) with a scintillating performance from Thomas Lemar and a solid team unit.
Indeed, since their return to the French elite in 2013 Monaco have been a fairly solid defensive team. Both Claudio Ranieri (yes, Leicester’s legend) and Leonardo Jardim prefer tactical rigour to winning in spectacular fashion. Having said that, Monaco seem this year to have gained efficiency in front of the goal rarely seen on Le Rocher last season: two away goals at Tottenham, three goals against Paris and Rennes, an away win at Lille 1-4 and the thrashing of Metz 0-7 all proving Monaco’s clinical nature in front of goal. In fact, Monaco haven’t scored that many goals in a game since beating Deportivo La Coruña 8-3 during a Champions League game in 2003.
dominating PSG 3-1 at the beginning of September and defeating Tottenham at Wembley
Everything seems to have come together at the club to make Monaco one of the prime attacking forces in Europe. Falcao’s return from a horrible loan spell in Chelsea, Valère Germain finally reaching maturity, Bernardo Silva and indeed Thomas Lemar, a star of years to come, all contribute to Monaco’s offensive ruthlessness. At least one of these players has been involved in sixteen of Monaco’s twenty-six goals this season: 62% of Monaco’s goals. The Falcao-Germain partnership especially has proven promising and supporters of l‘ASM are now hoping that Falcao’s injury won’t keep him off the pitch for too long.
Monaco may not have the most glamorous squad but they may finally have crossed the threshold from second-place scrapping with Lyon to title challengers with PSG. Whilst, Paris’ hegemony will probably not end this year Monaco are definitely drawing closer to the Parisians. Factoring in the relative ease of their Champions League group, we could see a very big year for the team from the tiny Principality on the French Riviera.