Coming out of a productive pre-season we now headed into the competitive campaign, one in which we were expected to compete with the very best in the country, if not Europe as well. The squad I had at my disposal was now improved and more plentiful, and with that in mind I had no doubts that we could maintain a successful campaign.
The matches I chose to hide during the pre-season saw us run out 3-2 aggregate winners against Shakhtar Donetsk in the ‘Best placed third qualifying phase’ before being drawn against Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach in the final play-off match for UEFA Champions League. A helping hat-trick at Borussia Park from wide-man Bernardo Silva saw us thump our German counterparts 4-0 before playing out a stalemate back at our home. We entered the group stage as a ‘fourth seed’ team and as you can imagine the group draw wasn’t kind to us. Trips to Barcelona, North London (Spurs) and Naples awaited us on the horizon.
To put it briefly, we were completely outclassed in this group. Defeats home and away to Barcelona left us with little to shout about, while we split the honours with Napoli with each team winning their respective home fixture. Luckily, our goal difference was -5 while Napoli ended up with -6 meaning we were thrust into the Europa League knockout stages, where our board expected no less than a Quarter-Final appearance.
Things got off to an ideal start for us as we faced Norwegian minnows Rosenborg in the ‘first knockout stage’, with a 7-0 destruction of our opponents left the tie beyond doubt despite a complacent, lazy away leg in which we lost 2-0 (Grr!). Portuguese side Braga awaited us in the next round where a late comeback from our opponents almost saw us exit the competition, but luckily time ran out on the day and we were able to reach the expectations our board placed upon us. Real-life semi-finalists Celta Vigo were drawn against us for the Quarter-Finals where a 1-1 draw away in Spain set us up comfortably for the home-leg where we were able to outclass our Spanish opponents with Fabinho bagging a sublime brace on the night. However, all good things must come to an end and this was indeed the case for us as were quickly pulled apart by Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern who put 6 past us over the two fixtures, setting up a Final against Manchester United in which the German’s took the spoils with a late 2-1 winner…At least we lost to the Champions, right?
Returning to France (Oui Oui), long-story short, we finished 2nd (As expected). Generally I’m pretty happy with how things went overall, although knowing we sat atop the table with only 5 to play has given me some angry thoughts. We only conceded 18 league goals throughout the campaign which was joint best with PSG, a testament to our superb defensive efforts while our attacking outlets mustered up 59 goals meaning we averaged just over a goal and a half a game, pretty impressive! The table itself threw up a few shocks as both Marseille and Saint-Etienne narrowly avoided relegation while a late surge from Toulouse saw them pip Lyon and Nice (Grr!) to fourth in the table, behind none other than Angers, whose manager eventually went on to claim the coveted ‘Manager of the Year’ award. Generally things are only going to get harder for us next season as PSG are expected to go on a spending spree while my board has only set me £14.5m aside for transfers during the off-season, meaning I’m going to have to either be incredibly lucky or tactically astute in my bid to return Monaco to the top of French Football.
As for player stats, Edinson Cavani took home the golden boot with 24 league goals while Lacazette finished close runner-up with 23. As for us, none of our goalscorers were anywhere to be seen with Bernardo Silva bagging 13 league goals to lead the line for us, while the ever so useless and wage consuming Falcao only manager to find the net 9 times in Ligue 1, a shocking return for a player who once scored for fun.
Bernardo Silva was able to pick up 3rd in the ‘Stars of the Season’ category while Croatian shot-stopper Danijel Subasic bagged the ‘Goalkeeper of the Season’ prize despite missing the back-end of the season with a broken arm. Danijel had an average rating in the league of 7.11 which is surprisingly one of the highest averages I’ve ever had for a goalkeeper; another testament to our superb defence who helped the man keep 23 clean sheets in 33 league appearances.
As expected Subasic and Bernardo Silva both made the ‘Ligue 1 Stars Team of the Competition’ side while I was more surprised to see Jorge get selected. The ex-Flamengo man had a superb season all-round but was my second choice LB at the end of the day, but hey, I’m sure he won’t complain with the selection!
The ‘Coupe de France’ ended up being a pretty miserable affair for us as we only managed to reach the 11th round before being drawn against that blasted side from Paris. A 1-1 draw after 90 minutes was quickly put to bed as Edinson Cavani broke through twice in extra time to break the hopes and dreams of my very tired and miserable players on the pitch, overall we fell short of the expected Final appearance.
At this point you’re probably beginning to see a trend and are possibly starting to believe that we’d failed to bring home any silverware whatsoever. WRONG!
The one trophy I was able to get my dirty hands on was the ‘Coupe de la Ligue’ in which we ran out 1-0 winners over Paris Saint Germain at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais with a 35th minute winner from Valere Germain being enough to help us lift the trophy. PSG fielded a half-strength team so we were favourites from the first whistle, a tag we lived up to in the end. Delighted!
Red Star, Metz, Nice (Grr!) and Paris Saint-German were the teams we faced en route to the trophy, so it was especially pleasing for me that we beat both our local rivals and our competitive rivals to bring home the trophy for the first time since 2003.
The end of all competitive fixtures meant our fans were finally able to feast their eyes on the end statistics of our players while selecting their ‘team of the season’, which unsurprisingly left Thomas Lemar out after what was a pretty sub-par season from the French starlet. Bernardo Silva was truly outstanding throughout the season meaning he’s going to be even tougher to retain ahead of my second season in charge, but it’s a challenge I’m up for and one I intend to accomplish.
Besides a couple of players *Cough* Falcao and Lemar, our season was incredibly good for player development. The likes of Kylian Mbappe were able to score 9 and assist 10 in all competitions while Kamil Glik and Jemerson formed a solid central partnership with both players averaging a 7.31 rating across all competitions. A few injuries plagued the development of some of our players with Gil Dias picking up a 5 month injury at a time where he was really beginning to develop into the type of player I wanted him to be.
Above is a squad view of the first-team sorted by position that you can view if you wish to see how specific players got on. Feel free to message me if you would like a more in-depth view, or my thoughts about a specific player.
But the development doesn’t stop with the first-team, our Under 19s side were able to win the league title while reaching the final of the domestic cup (Lost vs Saint-Etienne) and the semi-finals of the youth league (Lost vs Fiorentina), with several of the players looking to be in with a really good chance of one day reaching the first-team. Our reserves team were able to finish as runners-up in their division, although rules dictate that they cannot be promoted to the higher divisions.
The youth-intake also saw the arrival of extra talent in what would hopefully one day see us rank amongst the best academies in the World. Heloise, Vieira, Pickeu and Baron are the pick of the bunch while our already outstanding young talents can come together with the new candidates to form a very good youth core, capable of becoming potentially some of the best players around.
A campaign in which we’ve set our foundations and a glimpse of what’s to come in future years, it’s everything I could have asked for upon taking over at AS Monaco. But the good news doesn’t stop here for us.
The board have recently unveiled their plans to move us into a 26,824 seater stadium named after Monaco legend Jean-Luc Ettori who made over 600 appearances for ‘Les Rouges et Blanc‘ between 1975 and 1994, a wonderfully talented goalkeeper. With an average crowd of 13,000 I’m looking to build our fan-base up ahead of the 2019/20 campaign in which we will migrate over to our new home, this will require big signings, continental runs and more importantly, silverware.
I just want to thank anybody who viewed and shared the opening post. Over 200 views were recorded within the first couple of days which is far more than I could have ever hoped for and while this post hasn’t gone into as much detail as I originally hoped, I’m just blogging as I see fit as I’m truly enjoying the save so far. I’ll likely post the next update at either the end of the 2017/18 pre-season or the January transfer window, so be on the lookout for that! Please hit me up on Twitter if there’s anything else you would like to ask about, I always reply as quickly as possible. Shares appreciated as always!