On 3 May 2017, Leonardo Jardim led Monaco to the Champions League semi-final in a title-winning season. The team included key players including Kylian Mbappe and Radamel Falcao. However, times have rapidly changed for the French side who sit in the relegation zone in Ligue 1. Thierry Henry, who struggled with many players leaving the club such as Fabinho to Liverpool and Lemar to Atletico Madrid, was sacked. Therefore, Jardim has returned to the Monaco dugout. His first challenge was to keep Monaco’s hunt for silverware alive and this came against the side bottom of Ligue 1 in the Coupe de la Ligue. In this tactical analysis, we will investigate Jardim’s first cup game against EA Guingamp
Jardim named a strong side to face Guingamp, with world cup finalist Danijel Subasic starting in goal and Russian star Aleksandr Golovin playing right wing. There were also starts for new signings Gelson Martins and Cesc Fabregas, signings from Atletico Madrid and Chelsea respectively. Guingamp started their top-scorer this season in Marcus Thuram but there was no start for their midfielder Nolan Roux.
To start the game Monaco defended very deeply and let Guingamp have the ball in their own half. They set up in two banks of four, a midfield four and a defensive four. This meant that when the Guingamp players tried to play the ball into the final third they lost possession easily. This showed as Guingamp could keep the ball in front of Monaco leading to them having 65% ball possession but were wasteful when trying to play in the attacking third.
The only disadvantage in this Monaco system was the gap between the midfield line and the front two attackers. So in the 14th minute when Monaco midfielder William Vainqueur was shown a straight red card, this would of left gaps in the Monaco structure. So Monaco changed their formation to 4-4-1 with Martins playing as a lone striker. The pace that the loan signing offered to Monaco was vital for the counter-attack.
The Portuguese winger helped by providing two assists for Monaco. The Guingamp defenders struggled to keep up with the pace of the attacker which led to an unorganised defence. In the below image you can see four players trying to mark Martins, this leaves striker Rony Lopes with more space in the box. His acrobatic finish from Martins’ cross gave Jardim’s side a 1-0 lead from the counter-attack.
Six minutes later, Monaco doubled their lead from a counter-attack after a corner. This time Martins took up a wide position on the counter attacker, this led the Guingamp defence to be less compact which allowed Golovin to make a run down the centre. A well-weighted pass from Martins from the right-wing in behind the defence was picked up by Golovin who scored his one-on-one opportunity at the near post against Karl-Johan Johnsson.
The second half
Monaco’s lead was halved just 15 seconds into the second half by a goal through Alexandre Mendy. A failed clearance by Benoit Badiashile led to Kamil Glik trying to head away the ball but he misread the bounce of the ball. By the time he manages to turn Mendy had beat him up for pace and was away for a one-on-one with Subasic which he scored. Glik also was slow on the turn against winger Thuram when faced with one-on-one challenges.
Gaps in Defensive Shape
Despite having a compact defensive shape, Monaco often left gaps in their defence which Guingamp would exploit. To create gaps in the Monaco defence Guingamp where very good at making the pitch as wide as possible. This created gaps in the ‘half space’ which Guingamp could fill and receive possession in dangerous areas on the pitch and creating chances which would trouble Monaco.
In the below image, Thuram’s position in the wide space created a gap in the half space between Glik and Benjamin Henrichs. If a Guingamp player filled this space it could have caused trouble for Monaco. Long periods of possession for Guingamp and creating spaces in the final third lead to them having superior attempts on goal with 11 compared to Monaco’s five.
This also happened in the lead up for Guingamp’s equaliser when Ronny Rodelin found a gap in between the Monaco defensive lines. When he received the ball, he had a positive first touch and looked forward. He played the ball to Thuram who was marked by Martins, however, a clever bit of skill followed, and he scored a fantastic 20-yard finish to make the score 2-2.
After 90 minutes, the game went to penalties which Guingamp won 5-4, knocking out Monaco out of the cup. Monaco’s disappointing season continues as they have now been knocked out of all competitions this season and now just have a relegation battle to compete in for the rest of 2018/19. Nonetheless, this may help them this season as they can concentrate on the league, gain safety and deal with this seasons problem’s as they prepare for next season.
Despite this, there were many positives to take out the game. New signing Gelson Martins showed glimpses of the fast counter-attacking side Monaco used to be. Also, the addition of Fabregas and his range of passing could be essential to pick up for runs of Martins in a counter-attack. However, there will be uncertainty over the fitness of Martins as he was substituted after a hamstring injury. The next game comes up against Toulouse at home as Jardim’s road to survival begins at the helm of Monaco.