Monaco – Let Them Entertain You
You can keep your “MSNs” and “BBCs”; for sheer goalscoring entertainment, you would struggle to improve upon the likes of FML down in the glitz and glamour of Monaco. For Messrs Radamel Falcao, Kylian Mbappe and Thomas Lemar, it’s been goals galore so far this season. Across the top five leagues in Europe, Monaco currently stand alone as the most prolific at finding the back of the net. 12 games into the season and they have amassed an incredible 36 goals at an average of three a game. To put that into context, they only scored 21 more goals across the whole of last season. If they keep up their current record, they’ll hit that 57 goal target by the winter break!
To be fair to Leonardo Jardim’s side, it’s not just the aforementioned trio that should be gaining the plaudits. Goals, assists and stand-out performances have been shared across the squad. The likes of Kamil Glik, Djibril Sidibe, Fabinho, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva and Valere Germain have all shone in Monaco’s strong start to the season.
Perhaps one of the forgotten reasons for Jardim evolving Monaco into an all-out attacking threat has been the establishment of a solid defensive unit. Danijel Subasic rarely lets his side down in goal and with summer signings Sidibe, Glik and Benjamin Mendy joining the established Andrea Raggi, Almamy Toure and Jemerson, Jardim has a sound defence he can rely on. Mendy arguably is the one new recruit who has taken the longest to settle but with stellar performances against Nancy and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, there are real signs he’s returning to his best form.
In front of that back line sit Bakayoko and Fabinho, perhaps Ligue 1’s most impressive midfield pairing this season. With an almost telepathic relationship they control the middle of the pitch, pressing and harassing opponents and then distributing well to kick start another attack. When one pushes forward, the other stays back. It helps that Fabinho has become perhaps the most deadly player in the league from the penalty spot. A duo like that can prove invaluable to a successful team. With Fabinho already recognised at international level, Bakayoko can’t be far off a similar reward. His performance in the win against PSG earlier in the season was as good as anything you could want from a defensive midfielder.
With that secure base to the eleven, Jardim can use his array of attacking talent at will. Starting at the point of the attacking line and it’s been a joy to all football fans, perhaps less so some Ligue 1 defences, to see the return to something close to top form for Falcao. The Colombian striker appears to have put a couple of miserable years behind him as he looks sharp, alert and lethal in front of goal. His second goal against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League evidenced just that: with a lovely touch and spin, he created space before arrowing a shot expertly into the corner of the net. With a squad full of young talent, his experience has been crucial and taking on the captaincy at times this season has only enhanced his role in the squad.
In addition to Falcao, Germain and Guido Carrillo have proved more than capable goalscorers with seven goals between the pair of them. Carrillo especially has taken on the title of “super-sub” with his four goals all coming after the 70th minute having been brought on as a replacement. Germain, arguably hasn’t quite hit the heights of his Nice form last season but his movement and awareness work well in tandem with the likes of Falcao.
It’s just behind the front line where the real excitement about this Monaco side is taking place. Whilst Joao Moutinho and Nabil Dirar provide experience, it’s the young trio of Lemar, Mbappe and Silva who have arguably been the stand-out names so far this season.
Silva looks back to his best after a slightly below par 2015-16 campaign with his close control, trickery and balance making it look at times like he glides around the pitch. His vision and range of passing are superb and you only have to look at his assists for Mbappe and Carrillo against Montpellier and Metz respectively for just how good his delivery can be. The pass for Carrillo in particular was a wonderful outside of the boot cross from the right wing.
Owner of a wand of a left foot, Lemar has really stepped up after a good first season with Monaco. The addition of goals to his game – he’s currently found the net four times, only one off last season’s tally – has only enhanced his reputation. His second goal against Rennes has proven to be one of the most spectacular of the season so far as he produced a 25 yard powerfully hit chip to bamboozle Benoit Costil. His excellent form hasn’t gone unnoticed with les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps rewarding Lemar with his first call up and cap in the recent friendly against the Ivory Coast.
In Mbappe, Monaco have one of the league’s most exciting young talents. Although only 17 years old, the youngster already looks like he could become the breakthrough talent this season. Mbappe possesses lightening pace, excellent dribbling ability and a bag full of tricks. He shows no fear when running at opponents and has the confidence to take them on and trust his raw talent. It’s no wonder comparisons have already been made to the player whose youngest scorer record he broke for Monaco, a certain Thierry Henry. Two goals and three assists in only five games (just three as a starter) add further proof Mbappe is a player to keep an eye on this season.
Finally, credit too must go to Jardim. In previous campaigns, his willingness to chop and change his side each transfer window meant that it took him too long into the season for him to work out his best formation, his best players and his best performances. This season however and in spite of further dips into the transfer market, Jardim has taken next to no time in recognising what his best shape is, when to tinker with his starting eleven and when to adapt mid-game when reacting to a changing scenario. His side currently sit in second place in the league and are going strongly in the Champions League at the top of their group after wins at Wembley against Tottenham and against CSKA Moscow following up on their impressive two leg qualifying round victories over Fenerbache and Villareal.
With squad depth, players at the top of their game and of course a reasonable bank balance, here’s hoping, for an exciting Ligue 1’s sake, that Monaco can maintain their form and push PSG all the way.