Earlier this monthThierry Henry was appointed AS Monaco chief after Leonardo Jardim was sacked. Henry is somewhat of a prodigal son; he returns to the club where it all started. Heading into the match, I figured Thierry would be in his assessment phase, and probably not wedded to a starting eleven or shape. Keeping that in mind, I was very curious to see how he’d approach (i.e., game model) this pivotal moment in his life. I felt we wouldn’t see a drastic change this early in his tenure. Still, for this match his used 1-4-3-2-1/1-4-4-2 which is not too surprising. I anticipate him switching up his second season, provided he is retained. I guess time will tell, but in the meantime, I am conducting an exploratory assessment of Thierry Henry’s first three matches in charge; RC Strasbourg. Again, this is exploratory so I will use some mostly qualitative in the form of match clips, field notes, and observations. This piece is will cover the RC Strasbourg match which had the makings of exciting Ligue 1 match.
Can you imagine kick-starting your career in the relegation zone and on the road? If you’re like me, your answer was probably an emphatic no, but Thierry took it all in stride despite not winning; notable performances from Nacer Chadli, Youri Tielemans, fullbacks Sidibe and Henrichs. The host lined up in a -1-5-4-1 because of the natural overload that occurs with three centre-backs. Strasbourgs wingbacks, Carole and Lala, served two functions width and freedom to attack. RC Strasbourg’s wingbacks’ extended position was used to stretched Monaco central midfielders. Early in the first half, Strasbourg’s attacked the left flank; Carole (LWB) and Thomasson (LW) and Costa which overloaded Monaco right fullback, Jibril Sidibe. Consequently, this weakened Monaco’s presence in central and left half and left wide spaces. Monaco put pressure Strasbourg’s wing-oriented attack with their customary 1-4-4-2 which resulted in Golovin and Aholou adopting positions close to Thomasson and Carole. Jovetic and Falcao kept high places in their shape. However, they did not press the center back due to numerical superiority of three center-backs.
Problems halting counter attacks
Monaco’s ball orientation gave them a decent amount of defensive success in their press in wide areas, it played a significant part in their ultimate downfall. With both central midfielders and six occupied by Strasbourg’s central and wide midfielders, Henry’s side was manipulated by their opponent. Aholou and Chadli got dragged into wide positions, through movements of Goncalves and Thomasson.
Consequently, the effect was a lack of presence in central areas from the away side which exposed the away side to counter attacks. Monaco’s high press in the opponent’s half was avoided due to the home side playing itself out of danger and launched a counter. Monaco had numerical superiority, yet Goncalves was able to send a cross into the box and Thomasson’s header into the back of the net.
Against the counter, Monaco struggled They were unable to prevent ball movement from the first line and were somewhat caught on the back foot. As a result of their poor counter pressing, Monaco struggled to organize on the break.
Following the first goal, the visitors shifted their attack centrally through Belgian playmaker Youri Tieleman. He was joined by Nacer Chadli and Aholou. Chadli as a number 8 was interesting; at first, it seemed odd was probably was something the gaffer considered when he was an assistant with Belgium. At times Chadli looked perplexed in central midfield, but his strong physique added strength in a disorganized midfield.
Ten men and hit on the counter again
Things did not get easier for the visitors; center forward Jovetic was substituted for Samuel Gransir who after 1 minute was sent off with a straight red, for a high boot. Now Monaco was down to ten men Strasbourg looked to exploit their advantage. As time progressed, Tielemans showed his brilliance in central and half space; his magnificent through balls were squandered due to poor positioning and lack of team cohesion. This should be expected for a team poached of its star players that helped win the Ligue 1 two seasons ago.
Strasbourg closed up shop and sat deep in a 1-6-3-1. The home side knew this would be problematic for Monaco. Strasbourg was structured and organized to launch counter-attacks, Monaco was not able to protect the central and half spaces which opened in these moments. As a result, on the occasions in which Monaco managed to secure possession, however, a poor pass led to them losing possession in their half; Lebo Mothiba received a scintillating through ball to chip it over Monaco’s keeper, Sy, to make it 2:0:
Monaco’s performance showed Thierry Henry and Monaco have a long season ahead of them. I think he is using this period to assess the team and what the team is capable of achieving at the moment. Monaco was depleted this summer hopefully Thierry will be given time to rebuild. A few areas in need of attention:
- Communication–-there was virtually no communication (verbal or nonverbal) between player.
- Poor ball retention—far too many balls were lost to careless passes made.
- Susceptible to counter attacks–-this is an area that needs immediate attention if they hope to turn things around. Investment in a destroyer would help shut down counters.