Thierry Henry did not have a good start to his managerial career with Monaco but his appointment at Montreal Impact has certainly made everyone curious about what he will bring to this MLS side. After a decent spell under Wílmer Cabrera, the Canadian side looks to rebuild with the Frenchman with a bit of gamble. Montreal Impact will look to better their overall 19th place finish with a campaign opener against New England on the first of March.
In this tactical analysis, we’ll look at what might be the talking points of Thierry Henry’s return after a horrendous spell at Monaco. We will be analyzing Henry’s compatibility to the side, if his tactics will work at Montreal, and what we’ll get to see based on his managerial spell at Monaco.
After Rémi Garde left the Montreal side in August, caretaker Wílmer Cabrera imposed a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 most of the time under his spell. Evan Bush was the shot-stopper for the Montreal side all season long. The regulars to this formation who will be there for Henry to work with this season are experienced centre-back Jukka Raitala, left-back Daniel Lovitz, star midfielder Saphir Taider and Samuel Piette, and the forward duo of Orji Okwonkwo and Maximiliano Urruti.
Thierry Henry’s brief spell at Monaco suggests he will be comfortable with the formation that the Montreal team is used to. The Frenchman regularly applied a 4-3-3 to the side that was used to Leonardo Jardim’s 4-4-2 system. Similarly, Henry tried to embellish the core 4-4-3 by regularly shifting to a 4-3-2-1 or 4-3-1-2. As Henry always says it, he’ll try to adapt to situations by taking Pep Guardiola’s references, which is likely to be seen in his new campaign with Montreal Impact.
From his spell at Monaco, we can confirm Thierry Henry attempted to bring the Guardiola brand of football to the French side. Frequently opting to make continuous possession spells and using the midfielders like Golovin and Tielemans to establish a midfield dominance were what we saw the Monaco side executing under the former star striker. Henry frequently tried out the trio of Jean-Eudes Aholou, Nacer Chadli, and Youri Tielemans, where Tielemans was the key figure in maintaining the ball flow from the midfield to Lovetic and Golovin or to the sole striker Radamel Falcao. Tielemans was used as the key figure in the Monaco midfield as an organizer and the centre of everything that goes into the pitch.
The above on the ball structure demonstrates a classic 4-3-3 approach, which Henry aspires to succeed in. The ball can hence transition from the defensive line to the forward line provided that the advanced midfielder can create a forward pass.
A fascinating figure in Henry’s Monaco was Aleksandr Sergeyevich Golovin. The Russian was often positioned close to the striker (Radamel Falcao) to create opportunities for the Colombian striker. From the balls that were coming from the midfield, Golovin looked to feed them to the striker or link-up with Jovetic to make something out of the situation. This frequently showed Henry’s propensity towards using a 4-3-2-1 to create regular chances and 4-3-1-2 to obtain width in possession.
In the above instance, Golovin is seen assisting the striker, who’s making a run from behind the defender to score from the marked area eventually. Similar events might be a regular site for Urritti.
Although Henry’s plans looked over-ambitious at Monaco with players failing to deliver and frequent injury problems, Henry looks to apply the same principals at this Montreal Impact side. The main man to look forward to under Henry will be Saphir Taïder, who was on top of his game the last season. With an ability to organize play, assist and score, Henry will be looking to make the most out of fellow Frenchman. Similarly, Samuel Piette will be the man to watch in the midfield, who will be seen starting a lot of games. With the departure of Micheal Azira, Henry will have to look for a figure to complete the midfield of three, with either Bojan, Choinière, Lappalainen, Romell Quioto, Amar Sejdic, Shamit Shome or the young Ballou Tabla.
The forward line of Orji Okwonkowo and Maximiliano Urriti will see the dynamics in their position with need of the hour after Piatti’s move to San Lorenzo. Similarly, Bojan’s ability to operate as a winger will also come handy for the Impact side. We will be likely to see a wide possession shape rather than a deep possession attempts under the Frenchman and the quality that his attacking half possesses.
One main reason that made Thierry Henry’s Monaco so miserable result-wise was the defensive errors that Monaco frequently committed. Henry’s side were frequently caught on possession, losing the ball and were weak dealing with the long balls that came into their area.
In the instance shown above, the marker fails to contain the receiving player, which results in a lost duel and a successful shot on goal. Similarly, the structure looks cluttered, defenders not marking their respective attackers.
With the lack of technical quality to nail Henry’s ambitions of building from the back and resisting the opposition press, the centre-backs frequently leaked goals from the open play. Thierry Henry didn’t get to try out a solid backline at the French side but Henrichs, Toure, Glik, Jemerson, and Sidibe were the ones that frequently played under him.
One man that’ll be crucial to Henry will be experienced centre-back Jukka Raitala, who has been a regular to the lineup lately. Canadian Joel Waterman might get a few starts under Henry, pairing up with the Finnish Raitala.
One of the problems that Thierry Henry will have to solve in this defence is their ability to defend against the opposition counters. Montreal Impact frequently lose the ball and fail to trackback to comfortably position themselves, resulting in hefty counter-attacks like the one shown below:
With options to choose from Zachary Brault-Guillard, Rudy Camacho, Jorge Corrales, Rod Fanni and homegrown talent Karifa Yao, Henry will be looking to set up a defence that’ll back him unlike what happened in Monaco.
Is Henry’s appointment a gamble?
AS Monaco, after failing to keep their players that led them to domestic silverware and CL semifinals in 2017, would have never been able to recreate the same side that they had. Failing to keep the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Mendy and Bernardo Silva was always going to cost Monaco and it did under both Jardim and Henry. Henry was unfortunate to get a squad that suffered frequent injuries, which left him out of options in 20 games that he managed. An over-ambitious project that never looked to be feasible with the technical levels of the players, crucial errors and lack of proper management saw Henry’s fallout at his boyhood club.
Although there’s a lot to work at if Henry is to succeed at MLS, this Montreal Impact side is decent for him to try out his luck as a manager yet again. Montreal Impact side has always been a decent one – a side that has been able to finish just above the playoff position. The crucial thing to note is Henry has got this team from the start and has got the chance to work on the players. The likes of Samuel Piette and Saphir Taïder will be exciting to watch under him. With former Barcelona forward Bojan looking to make this season his, this will be an adventure not just for the former star striker but for the whole Montreal Impact team. This definitely might seem like a gamble but there will be no surprises if it works out after Thierry Henry’s homework to better his managerial skills.
European football is witnessing their trend of young managers, with Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Mikel Arteta and Julian Nagelsmann given their jobs at the respective offices. Thierry Henry, too, will be a figure that will be looking to succeed at the MLS, with Pep Guardiola’s philosophy that he always aspires to carry.
As this head coach analysis points out, Thierry Henry will be on the way to redemption and will have to prove all the work that he has learned post-Monaco tenure. The similarity of formations, availability of players and time to execute his workings will definitely be on Henry’s side. What he has to keep in mind is to think of was to apply his composure as a player to his new career and make this Montreal Impact side a heavyweight in Eastern Conference.