Will Thierry Henry’s choice to coach Monaco end in tears?

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French football legend Thierry Henry has finally taken the step into first grade management and signed on to become Monaco’s new coach on a three year contract.

On the face of it Henry’s decision makes perfect sense. He is a former player of the club, Monaco have been a solid outfit for the past four seasons, winning the league in 2017 and they have a billionaire Russian owner in Dmitry Rybolovleva. Plus let’s not pretend that living in Monaco for Henry will have its advantages with one being that his salary will be tax free.

As assistant coach to Roberto Martinez with Belgium, Henry has learned the ropes and saw the national team go all the way to the semi finals of this summers World Cup. Recently Eden Hazard, the man of the moment spoke very highly of Henry’s coaching abilities and he should on the face of it do a solid job with Monaco.

But one can’t help but feel that Henry will really be up against it. Look at previous coach Leonardo Jardim who was sacked on Thursday after spending almost six seasons with the club. Jardim had done a great job and Monaco began to be successful under him, culminating in deep Champions League runs and then stunning PSG who have dominated Ligue 1 since 2012 to win the league in 2017. Monaco at times have had the perfect team, scoring many goals and being wickedly decisive in defence.

However the reality is that the Russian owner has an agenda of scouring Europe to buy potential and then selling on to the highest bidder. The list really is endless, the talent that has left Monaco in recent seasons including Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva and of course Kylian Mbappe. Sure the sales have brought in over £500m to the club, but the owner is already a billionaire so the agenda, at least on the face of it seems a little warped.

What has happened as a result is that Monaco are not competing anymore and when Henry arrives at Stade Louis II he will do so with his team in 18th place and 20 points behind PSG. Monaco have won just 1 game this season which was on the opening day of the campaign away to Nantes. No wins at home and a winless run for 2 months does not bode well.

However the good news is that the appointment of Henry will indeed rally the players to start to pick up points and play better. The worry is how long will this last? A few weeks, a few months? Surely Henry has discussed the selling of players too and one wonders if he has assurances that the bulk of quality at the club will not be sold. History says they will and so Henry’s move to Monaco may not be the dream one that everyone is expecting. For sure the next few months will be very interesting indeed for the former Arsenal great.

Thomas Tuchel’s version of PSG is set to be the best ever

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When PSG strolled to a 3-0 victory over Nice at the end of September it seemed to go by without much fuss and why should it as everyone expected the champions to win the game. However more fuss and attention should have surrounded this historic result. In beating Patrick Vieira’s team, PSG had just equalled an 82 year old Ligue 1 record by winning their first 8 games of the season.

The record was held by Lille in the 1935/36 season and had stood for that long despite PSG being dominant in France since their takeover from the 2011/12 season onwards. In order to break the record the club from Paris would have to play an old foe in Lyon. Lyon of course dominated French football themselves in the 2000s winning 7 titles in a row and whilst they are a team now playing second fiddle to PSG they still would not have been chosen as the team you had to beat to break an historic record.

A few weeks ago this Lyon side had travelled to Manchester in the Champions League and stunned Manchester City by beating them and they had started to pick up form and points in the domestic league. But the match would be held in Paris where PSG have simply been irresistible.

Ninety minutes later PSG had not only broken the record they had done it in style by beating a genuine league rival 5-0. PSG had just won 9 games in a row thanks to a Neymar goal and a stunning performance by Kylian Mbappe who scored 4 goals in 13 glorious minutes to break another Ligue 1 record.

One has to wonder if, under current coach Thomas Tuchel, PSG have their best team since their takeover and indeed they are proving wholeheartedly to have the best team ever in Ligue 1 history.

The club have 27 points after just 9 games and their nearest challenger is Lille who are 8 points behind on 19. The only team to stop PSG’s title runs have been Monaco who won in 2017 and they are already 21 points behind. PSG are scoring almost 4 goals a game and at home they have scored 19 times from just 5 games and conceded just 2. The team are on fire and have a belief in breaking records and winning the league in record time.

Of course the wider view will be that their season will be judged on how well they do in the Champions League. They were unfairly criticised when they lost to Liverpool 3-2 in their opening game of the competition. Many teams will lose at a packed out and atmospheric Anfield- what will count more for Tuchel will be how his side react when they play Liverpool in Paris. And PSG were clearly not at their best that night and yet came back from 2-0 down and could have drawn the game. The team remains a real danger to any side in Europe.

However they have historically made too many errors and a bad lack of judgement in the competition against the better teams. But if PSG can play like this then they have every chance of going very far in this seasons edition of the competition.

PSG’s Mbappe returns to action and breaks Ligue 1 record

mbappe4A couple of weeks back we reported about how Kylian Mbappe would serve a third match suspended following his sending off against Nimes last month, having previously hoped to get away with two matches on the sidelines. That suspension is now over of course, and this past weekend Mbappe lined up for his first home game since returning to the team with Lyon as the guests. The first half was a fairly run of the mill 45 minutes, with PSG going into the interval holding a 1-0 lead thanks to a first half penalty from Neymar. The second half, however, produced the type of football that fans in attendance could one day look back and say “I was there”. In just 13 second half minutes, Mbappe set the world alight once again – and made history while doing so.

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Lille in pole position to keep Pepe amid Barcelona interest

pepeLille forward Nicolas Pepe has had a cracking start to the season – no headlines there – with five goals from his first eight appearances. Included among those goals was a hattrick in the club’s 3-2 win at Amiens in September, and as a result the 23-year-old has found himself in some demand from around Europe. Spanish giants Barcelona are one club to have been credited with an interest in him, while Premier League outfits Arsenal and Everton have also reportedly been keeping tabs on his progress. It would seem easy, then, to assume he could be bringing an end to his time in France after arriving in 2017 with a move to pastures new, but it would appear that the former Angers forward would prefer to remain with Les Dogues – for now, at least.

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Thomas Meunièr: PSG’s marauding right-back

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iThe footballing world is like a maze which keeps throwing new dimensions and nuances for all those who love the game with all their heart. Just when you believe that you finally know it all and have mastered the game, there is something which the game throws up at you leaving you in a state of daze and confusion.

How many of you are familiar with the fact that one of the greatest legends of the game- Ian Wright almost opted to give up on the game at one stage in favour of a regular profession? That’s certainly accurate although it seems unbelievable in nature. Wright almost decided to become a plasterer at one stage before his heart reigned supreme over the min gifting the footballing world an absolute genius.

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Mbappe loses appeal and will miss PSG clash with Reims

mbappe3France international Kylian Mbappe has lost his appeal against the red card he received at the start of September and will now sit out a third game, ruling him out of Paris Saint-Germain’s clash with Reims this week. The Ligue 1 leaders – already five points clear at the top, ahead of Lille – will likely stick with a front three of Edinson Cavani, Neymar  and Julian Draxler in the 19-year-old’s absence. Mbappe had been sent off in PSG’s 4-2 win over Nimes on September 1, after lashing out at Teji Sevanier. Sevanier was also banned – for four games in his instance – for his part in the fracas. Mbappe has begun the season in scintillating form, scoring four goals from his opening three appearances.

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Nicolas Pepe could be the next sensation coming from Ligue 1

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There has been a pool of excellent forwards that have come from Ligue 1 in the last few years. Just a quick look around and you can see Anthony Martial plying his trade at Manchester United, Alessane Plea at Borussia Monchengladbach, Alexandre Lacazette at Arsenal and Kylian Mbappe at PSG. Now meet Ligue 1′s new hero, Nicolas Pepe.

Pepe hails from the Ivory Coast and is 23 years old and currently plays for Lille. Although he has starred for the likes of Angers and went on loan at Orleans it is this season that Pepe has made his mark on the league.

Last weekend he scored a hat trick for the club as Lille beat Amiens in a five goal thriller and this has made him a household name for the club. Lille have started the season brightly and Pepe is feeding off of this positivity. Lille have scored 9 goals so far this season and Pepe has 4. But the 23 year old isn’t just about goals. He has also assisted in another 3 goals meaning that he has been involved in 80% of Lille’s goals this season, that is a stat that is mind-blowing and has the likes of Barcelona already sniffing around for his services.

On the links to Barcelona Pepe had this to say: “I’m focused on Lille and I’m having a great time playing in a team that’s performing well and that’s all that matters to me. I’ll let other people speak. I’ve got a great coach who has confidence in me and plays a large part in me expressing myself. I’m doing well on the pitch because I’ve got my family around me. When I go home, my mother, father, sister and brother all make things easy for me. I only have to think about football.”

It was of course a very diplomatic statement but the truth is if a team such as Barcelona do come along for a player that has scored 17 goals for Lille then he will almost certainly be sold, on the flip side is the asking price that Lille should get for such a player. For now Lille is the best place for Pepe to keep on learning and the objective for the club has to at least be a Europa League position.

Lille will face Nantes at the weekend at their home and it seems favourable that Pepe will again be on the score sheet. Is he the new French Ligue 1 sensation? Everything is pointing to yes.

 

Edinson Cavani- PSG’s Silent Guardian

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edinson-cavani-julien-cetout-nancy-paris-sg-ligue-1-15102016_pbiajfj0ae0b1uq9idydk0c53Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis was in a state of deep despair at the end of the 2009-10 season following the side’s dismal show in the Serie-A. Napoli finished 6th on the league table with just 59 points, trailing league champions Inter Milan by 23 points despite investing a record sum for the services of talented striker Fabio Quagliarella. The local lad failed to make his presence felt racking a tally of just 11 league goals at the end of the season.

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Is Leonardo Jardim’s job at Monaco the most frustrating in Europe?

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By all accounts Monaco should be a fierce rival of PSG going neck and neck in the league and be amongst the favourites to win the Champions League. But sadly miss management over the past three years has meant that the club are now seemingly on the wane. And for manager Leonardo Jardim this must be one of the most frustrating jobs he has ever been in and he looks powerless to do it anything about it.

Jardim was recruited by Monaco in 2014 and is starting his fifth season with the club. At first the temptation to take over a side who 10 years previously had reached the Champions League final must have been mouth watering, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Monaco were now owned and had been since 2011 by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who promised to bring a new resurgence to the team.

What has happened since then has been a policy to buy low and sell high- and Monaco will always sell their most gifted players. The problem with this is that the club will never reach another level and certainly will not be returning to a Champions League final anytime soon. Under Rybolovlev the team have won just 2 trophies, the Ligue 2 title and more importantly the Ligue 1 title in 2017 which means that Monaco became the only team to stop PSG’s league title run since 2012.

And yet Jardim has had to witness 4 cup trophies runners up that all went to the same team, PSG, and all ended in heavy defeats. The truth is Monaco have produced some of the very best quality in European football over the past few years and Jardim has had to wave goodbye to them on a regular occurrence. Nobody good stays at the club for long.

And the roll of honour of players that have been sold under Jardim is stunning. Yannick Carrasco, Anthony Martial, Aymen Abdennour, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Valerie Germain, Lucas Ocampos, Jeremy Toulalan, Bernardo Silva, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Benjamin Mendy, Allan Saint-Maximin, Guido Carrillo, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar and Kylian Mbappe. That is a huge list of players that win you trophies.

It is true of course that Monaco have received in excess of £400m for the above stars but then with an owner that is worth over £7 billion doesn’t it beg the question as to why Monaco would want to part with such quality? Of course Ligue 1 is not the strongest league in Europe and at one time these players would be looking for pastures new but none of them even get the chance to stay a few seasons if there is a price tag to be found. Plus a bulk of them have remained playing in Ligue 1 for other sides.

The project that Rybolovlev has at Monaco is puzzling then, but only success wise. If one was to look at the business side then Monaco are the most astute in Europe and have made huge profits doing so. What this means for the long suffering Jardim is anyone’s guess. He is obviously very good friends with the Monaco president and is on course to break the managerial record for longevity currently held by none other than Arsene Wenger at 7 years.

But Monaco’s transfer actions are taking the job out of Jardim’s hands and they are already 10 points behind PSG in the league after one month and opened up their Champions League account with a 2-1 loss at home to Atletico Madrid. Memories of Champions League finals and Ligue 1 titles are becoming more distant by the day.

 

Buffon set for showdown talks with PSG boss Tuchel

buffonGianluigi Buffon is set for discussions with Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel over the Italian goalkeeper’s role at the Ligue 1 champions. Reports suggest that Tuchel wants to keep Alphonse Areola as the number 1 stopper at Parc des Princes, leaving Juventus legend Buffon warming the bench. That has not sat well with the 40-year-old, who wants to continue on with plenty of game time. The club have since implied, however, that the interview in which Tuchel stated that Areola was “in pole position” to start was done in German, and so his stance was essentially lost in translation into French. The French champions have started with Buffon in goal twice and Areola three times so far this season, with the younger custodian being chosen in each of the last three.

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