It’s time. But what face will Monaco offer us? For several seasons, the Rock club seems capable of anything, like a ship sailing on sight, drifting for a while along the coast of Ligue 2 before straightening the bar with a snap to rush towards the ranking heights. But is not the fastest way to arrive safely: to understand, winning the Champions League, the assumed objective of Paul Mitchell, his sports director in office since June 2020.
Paul Mitchell, sporting director of AS Monaco
Credit: Getty Images
Monaco is preparing to launch its season with what could be the trigger for a major exercise, or a total questioning that could cause the princely club to implode. The month of August will be crucial: unable to snatch 2nd place in Ligue 1 from Olympique de Marseille despite a season that ended with a bang with nine wins and a draw, the Monegasques did not win their direct ticket to the Champions League. This resulted in the preliminary sending in the 3rd round of C1, against the dangerous PSV Eindhoven, very recent winner of the Supercup of the Netherlands against Ajax Amsterdam (5-3).
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The group is stronger, with a fighting attitude
After an unreassuring summer preparation – Monaco was unable to beat Inter (2-2), Porto (1-2) and Southampton (1-3) – and the loss of their engine Aurélien Tchouaméni, who left for Real Madrid, will the ASM be able to silence the critics? Paul Mitchell allowed himself a few confidences: “It will be more complicated than last season, but the president is very ambitious. He wants to see the club succeed at the highest level, so in C1”. Last year, under Niko Kovac, the Monegasques beat Sparta Prague at this same stage (2-0, 3-1) before falling in the play-offs against Shakhtar Donetsk, shattering any dream of C1.
Since then, the cards have been reshuffled. With Philippe Clément at the helm, Monaco seems to have found harmony and joie de vivre within its workforce. “We are going to go all the way and be successful whatever the circumstances. Last year, we reacted perfectly. The results are totally positive. My players are doing a superb job and have a winning mentality”welcomed the Belgian tactician at the end of the exceptional series of his group to close last season.
And this common thread, between substantive work, rediscovered aggressiveness on the pitch and a desire to win, was kept throughout the summer preparation. “Nothing was left to chance. We started early, played strong opponents in preparation. A very big physical work has been done for six months, the result of real collaboration between the performance and technical sectors, which we couldn’t see before. The group is stronger, with a fighting attitude”rejoiced Paul Mitchell this Sunday.
The least we can say is that the British leader, the only sporting master on board, is still confident about the double duel against PSV Eindhoven. “We will continue where we left off. To hear that we are playing our season over four matches (note: the double confrontation against PSV, then a potential barrage) is not disturbing. We die”.
A being is missing, but Monaco is not so depopulated
However, there is still a shadow on the board. More than 40 days after the departure of Aurélien Tchouaméni to Real Madrid, against 100 million euros, AS Monaco has still not found his replacement. It must be said that filling the absence of the French international and his 35 Ligue 1 matches is not given to everyone. And this, Philippe Clément knows: “The idea would have been for Aurélien’s replacement to be there two days after his departure, but I know it rarely happens that way. I’d rather have the right person on September 1 than make a hasty decision because “We are going to play PSV. We must find the right profile and he must not be Aurélien’s replacement. Because replacing it is impossible. That’s why Real gave so much money.”.
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Instead of focusing solely on the prowess of a few players in particular, AS Monaco has bet on its entire workforce, has never stopped. Last season, the Monegasque formation flew over Ligue 1 regarding physical data. Philippe Clément’s troop was the one that ran the most, performed high-intensity races, covered the most distance in sprints and made the most changes of pace. The success of a program fully reimbursed by the performance center created by Mitchell.
And since it has not been particularly strengthened in the transfer window with the only recruitments of Takumi Minamino (Liverpool, 18M) and Breel Embolo (M’Gladbach, 12.5M), the Monegasque club is putting everything on the continuity of its hard work. This double confrontation against PSV Eindhoven would be the best time to show its effectiveness.
Aleksandr Golovin during the pre-season with AS Monaco
Credit: Getty Images
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