After certain changes in personnel having seen the key players from last season move out for lucrative deals, Monaco finally faced a competitive opponent in OGC Nice to test their 100% record start to the 2017/18 campaign. OGC Nice gave Monaco a thumping last year in the same fixture. Exactly one year ago back in the month of September, Monaco travelled to Allianz Riviera where they lost 4-0. This year again amidst memories and a term known as Champions, Monaco travelled to the same part of France to better their result from last year.
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OGC Nice (4-4-2) | Manager: Lucien Favre
30.Cardinale – 2.Souquet, 4.Santos, 20.Marchand, 24.Jallet – 7.Saint-Maximin, 26.Koziello, 6.Seri, 8.Lees-Melou – 14.Plea, 9.Balotelli
AS Monaco (4-4-2) | Manager: Leonardo Jardim
1.Subasic – 19.Sidibe, 25.Glik, 5.Jemerson, 6.Jorge – 20.Lopes, 8.Moutinho, 2.Fabinho, 27.Lemar – 9.Falcao, 15.Diakhaby
Both the teams were initially set up in an identical 4-4-2 as the home manager Lucien Favre often known tinker his side last season settled with playing two up top against the Champions with Balotelli and Plea. Souquet, Santos, Marchand and Jallet formed the back four of OGC Nce as Cardinale played in between the sticks. The midfield four comprised of Saint-Maximin, Koziello, Seri and Less-Melou.
For Monaco, Jardim continued the set up in their standard 4-4-2. Subasic started in goal as Sidibe, Kamil Glik, Jemerson and Jorge formed the back four. The midfield was comprised by Lopes and Thomas Lemar in the left and right flank respectively, while Moutinho and Fabinho played in the centre. For Monaco their most successful striker from the last season, Falcao, started along with Diakhaby.
Monaco move forward in 2-4-4
While off the ball movements in aggressive pressing prove to be really very important these days, Monaco’s forward pressing particularly showed how the tactic has developed in France. Monaco known for their high flying pacey attack, aimed to high press their opponents through the two forwards Falcao and Diakhaby.
These movements happened especially during OGC Nice’s build up from the back. Both the centre backs Santos and Marchand struggled with possession at the back and this was capitalized by the two forwards. They would press the ball and were at certain instances successful in winning the ball at dangerous places. In some instances to increase the pressing intensity, Moutinho would join the attacking two in the centre to stop Nice from playing out from the back.
In other instances the forward press would be joined by Lopes on the right as Moutinho would fall back. This would be carried out as Fabinho falls in behind to split the centre backs while both the full backs provide width in the flanks. This can be identified in the below image.
Image courtesy: @11tegen11
However with the ball, Monaco attacked most of the instances how they did in the previous year. The basic setup of a 2-4-4 was maintained as both the full backs would often join the midfield duo of Fabinho and Moutinho while the wingers Lemar and Lopes would join the front two. The ball near winger would drop below to open up the lane for the full back to overlap in the wings while the winger would fall into the half space. This allowed Monaco to progress forward better in the wings. This situation can be witnessed from the video below.
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Responding to this, Nice defended in two banks of four and either one of the two forwards would press along with the ball near winger if the ball is carried forward in the wide areas. In other instances, positional overloads would be created as seen in a 4-4-2 where the full back would join the players to create 3v2, giving them an advantage to win the ball.
Nice open up Monaco in counters
Not every team would’ve stuck to their game plan as prompt as the French team in the recent past. Defending the initial attack from Monaco and hitting them in counters by allowing them inside their half was the plot and Nice did this well. Nice won balls in crucial areas such as the flanks and one important area proved to be the right flank where the presence of Saint-Maximin was immense.
His ability to provide astute balls into the centre after turn of momentum was fatal as Nice countered Monaco with threat. The pacey customers in Balotelli and Plea were too hot to handle as Nice often attacked in counters with balls released from the flanks into the centre. The video below shows an instance in which Nice countered successfully early in the game.
Below we can witness other instance from which Nice countered effectively. Here Saint-Maximin has the ball in the right flank and he finds Plea in the centre with oceans of space available in front of him to run into. Monaco’s offensive phase often resulted in poor orientations of defense and they were unable to recover quickly and this was exploited by Favre and his men.
In this instance below, Saint-Maximin plays a ball into the centre which is brilliantly met and covered by Seri. He now carries the ball forward and plays it into the path of the striker who takes the ball forward. Once again the forward finds himself in oceans of space. This is due to the swift counter attacking of Nice while Monaco were caught napping after their attacks.
It should be said that the key factor for Nice to overpower Monaco through their astute counters was their ability to link up between flanks and the centre. Though Monaco were quite sound going forward, their defense was exposed heavily. Saint-Maximin and Seri proved to be the important players for Nice on the night in the midfield
Having seen a lot of key players leave, this was the first tough match on the road for Jardim and his men. This hammering just like the previous year should be a wake up call as Jardim should now reassemble his squad and up the ante as they ended up with a thumping score line though they were decent overall. Favre’s teams have always had the tendency to over perform in their xG and this does not spell crisis for Monaco. Nevertheless it is a reminder that they do not have the personnel from last season to produce the same level of performances unless they step up in the coming weeks.