After just two games of the new Ligue 1 season, people are already writing off AS Monaco. Two straight losses to Lorient and Bordeaux have many seeing this as a one-horse race for the title even before the league has got into full swing. Both games were poor losses to teams they should be beating, but saying that the club are falling apart is a step too far and the club should have everything in place to make a full recovery.
For starters, just take a look at the talent they have within the club. Despite losing James Rodriguez to Real Madrid this summer, they still can call on players like Joao Moutinho, Jeremy Toulalan and Radamel Falcao, which just shows you the quality they have in the squad. There is a reason why they finished second last season despite losing Falcao in January, they have strength in depth and can boast some excellent young players too.
Players like Layvin Kurzawa, Fabinho, Lucas Ocampos, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Geoffrey Kondogbia and Tiemoue Bakayoko are all 21 or under and are already contributors to the first-team squad. Should they continue to improve or even just a few of them have a breakout season much like James did in 2013-14, then other teams will be wary that the principality club could become stronger even without having to lavishly splash the cash to improve their squad.
They also didn’t lose too many players this summer other than the young Columbian, with the only other notable players to leave being Eric Abidal and Emmanuel Riviere. Abidal might be a loss to the dressing room but it was clear to most that on the field, his best days were behind him whilst Riviere had been surpassed by four other strikers over the course of the year, making him surplus to requirements despite his contributions.
Having said that, should they feel they do need to improve their squad, there isn’t a shortage of funds to go out there and poach some quality from other sides. The club have been linked with players like Zenit’s Hulk, Benfica’s Nicolas Gaitan, Shakhtar Donetsk duo Douglas Costa and Alex Teixeira and 15-year-old Norwegian wonderkid Martin Odegaard, all players that could add that extra quality to the squad should they feel they need it.
It’s strange to think that the sale of James has allowed them to spend too, his reported €80 million move has freed up Monaco in terms of Financial Fair Play to spend more freely than they might have been able to. They do need some reinforcements, the centre of the defence certainly needs looking at so expect the club to do something before the transfer window shuts. The deal to sign Brazilian Wallace on loan is reportedly close to completion.
Monaco are also getting used to a different formation after James’ move, going from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 and even that formation has been interupted. Since the club has been behind in games, they’ve thrown on more forwards, disrupting their shape and preventing them from settling into the new way of playing. They do have the right players and are looking in the market for the right reinforcements to play this way and they should begin to reap the benefits once the players adapt to the new formation and Jardim’s ideals.
That leads on to new manager Leonardo Jardim, who’s CV suggests that he’s performed bigger miracles than the challenge of getting past a tough start with Monaco. He’s helped both Braga and Sporting Lisbon upset the odds in recent years, getting them into European football on tiny budgets and even finished above Porto last season in Lisbon.
He would have had a trophy to his name should he have been able to continue with Olympiacos in Greece, they were leading the league by ten points when he was sacked by the club. He’s a man who has done admirably wherever he has been, creating success out of almost nothing and should be able to turn round the club’s fortunes quickly. With a wealth of resources at his disposal at Monaco, should he bring the quality he’s shown elsewhere then the club could be back in the title race sooner rather than later.
When you take all of that into account, you should not count Monaco out just yet. If we have learned anything from football over the years, it’s that you cannot quite predict anything and when a club has a lot of good things going for it, then you should never fully write them off at such an early stage. AS Monaco have everything in place to start again and build from their poor start. Only if the run of bad results continue into mid-September should the alarm bells start ringing.