AS Monaco Season Review
A youth-led renaissance in the principality caught everyone by surprise.
Since billionaire owner Dmitry Rybolovlev took a step back, Monaco have been forced to change their transfer policy. Going from spending 10’s of millions on players such as James Rodriguez, Falcao, and Joao Moutinho to suddenly having to discover a sense of financial self-sufficiency, the club adjusted well to the new found need for financial prudence. What this has meant however, is that the manager has had to start again every season after the club sells their best players, which has led to indifferent beginnings of campaigns, such as last season.
What made this summer different for Monaco though, was that they had a relatively quiet transfer window, the biggest deals were bringing in Djibril Sidibe (Lille), Benjamin Mendy (Marseille), Kamil Glik (Torino), Jorge (Flamengo), and bringing Falcao back from loan.
In the other direction the biggest names that left the club were depth players, very few of whom were core to the squad such as Ivan Cavaleiro (Wolves), Farés Bahlouli (Lille), and Marcel Tisserand (Inglostadt)
The stability that Monaco were able to build by keeping the core of their squad together was the driving force behind the momentum that they were able to foster from such an early point in the season. The positive early season results then gave them a platform from which to achieve the success that they did later in the season.
Monaco’s league form this season is really what has put pressure on Unai Emery’s position at PSG. This season Jardim has turned Monaco from almost a league irrelevancy to the best team in France. The turnaround was absolutely immense, based upon a fast, young, attacking group of players. This season the team went from 3rd place with 65 points and a +7 goal difference, to 1st place with 95 points and a +76 goal difference. An extra 30 points and 69 goals really demonstrates just how much of a potent attacking force the side was this season.
Monaco started the season strong, this start of seven wins from the first ten games including a commanding 3-1 win over PSG gave Monaco a great platform from which to build for the rest of the season. Seven wins from eight games in the middle of the season, turned Monaco’s outlook from a brief surge, into title favourites.
By the end of the season, dropping points in only eight games, only two of which were losses, was title winning form. In fact, Monaco’s haul of 95 points would have led them to lift the title in all of Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Monaco have shown a distinct ambivalence toward the domestic cups so far this season, with some memorable results helping to create a distinct juxtaposition with their forgettable matches. The Coupe de la Ligue run the strongest of the two included a 7-0 demolition of Stade de Rennais, before finishing with a 4-1 humbling by Paris Saint-Germain in the final.
The Coupe de France was more of a struggle for Monaco, starting off with a lumbering 2-1 win over second division side AC Ajaccio before moving on to two extra-time wins in a row, one against third division side FC Chambly. Having looked as though they had righted their course after beating Lille 2-1, league and European form then became more important. Having dispatched Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter finals and still harbouring a slight lead atop the table, Monaco were beginning to feel the games catch up to them. This resulted in the club deciding to make a total mockery of the Coupe de France and turn up to the semi-final against PSG with a team that included only one first team regular (Valére Germain), the final score was 5-0, the statistics suggesting it could have been more.
Ultimately one runners up medal and a semi-final appearance is a fine effort given the circumstances. Perhaps next season, squad depth will be strong enough to truly challenge on all fronts.
The continental stage is where Monaco really stood out, and made a name for themselves beyond French shores. Last season a Champions League play-off loss to Valencia was followed up by a tame Europa League group stage exit.
Similarly to league form, this season saw a remarkable increase in Champions League form; a struggle to overcome Fernabache was followed by a solid dispatching of Villareal in the play-off to book Monaco’s seat at the big table.
A strong performance in the group stages allowed Monaco to finish atop their group which consisted of Tottenham, Leverkusen, and CSKA Moscow with 11 points from the six games.
Monaco would have been forgiven for thinking themselves unlucky, finishing on top of their group and still managing to draw a team such as Manchester City in the round of 16. A first leg defeat 5-3 to the Northern English team may have vindicated that belief. However a stirring 3-1 victory back in Monaco saw the home team advance to the quarter finals on away goals. With Kylian Mbappé and Tiemoué Bakayoko continuing to demonstrate why they were being considered the revelations of the season.
A tough trip to Dortmund followed in the quarter finals, the first leg being postponed last minute due to horrific bomb attack on the Dortmund team bus that injured Marc Bartra. With the game being played the next day, Monaco ran out 3-2 winners, with some fine attacking play on show.
The return trip to the Stade Louis II saw the home side win 3-1 with Mbappé on the scoresheet again, his form again astounding despite his tender age.
The semi-finals were to be a tie to far though, and Monaco’s stirring narrative came to an end against Italian champions Juventus. Two Gonzalo Higuain away goals in the first leg all but ending the tie.
Despite Kylian Mbappé finding the net again in the second leg, which was his sixth in nine games in Europe this season, Monaco bowed out of Europe after a commendable run with a 2-1 loss.
Given that their performance this season caught eyes all over Europe, Monaco will not be going for a second summer without a major player turnover.
A successful summer for Monaco this year would be managing to keep hold of their key assets, whilst adding a couple of key pieces themselves. However, if rumours are to be believed then that is not the way the summer is looking.
Despite the European season only having just finished, winger Bernardo Silva has already agreed a move to Manchester City for a fee in excess of £40m. A bid for left back Benjamin Mendy has already been rejected, with another looking likely to arise. Every day comes new word of bids for Mbappè, Lemar, and Fabinho; given that Monaco have already purchased box-to-box midfielder Youri Tielemans, some are suggesting that this indicates and deal has been agreed for the sale of Tiemouè Bakayoko.
Ultimately, if the clear out does happen at the Stade Louis II then next season will be determined by how well Leonardo Jardim can once again put a team together, almost from scratch to compete straight away.