“Championes, Championes, Ole! Ole! Ole!” echoed through the streets of Monaco long into the night as we celebrated our first title win for 18 years; it was a long and gruelling season but ultimately we came out on top and Football fans with a dislike for Paris Saint-Germain plastered posts everywhere on Social Media mocking the capital club, paying particular attention to their excessive spending in the transfer windows that could only bring home a French Cup.
But we know the hard work starts here; we know PSG are going to try to retaliate and we’re going to have to do a bloody good job in keeping them in our rear view mirrors as we look to retain our title once again. The team is on the up and with a healthier looking set of finances we ventured into the pre-season with the intention of strengthening where needed to ensure we kept our squad in the best shape possible.
Transfers – Out
That’s right, it happened. Bernardo Silva who sat in a sulk for the entirety of the title winning season has finally got the move that he has been playing for all year. Manchester City came in and after a bit of negotiating we managed to get a straight-up £90m sale with a clause that results in us receiving 30% of any future transfer regarding the Portuguese midfielder. It’s sad to see Bernardo leave, but we can’t refuse that sort of money and after trying to flog him for £40m last season, we’ve not received over double that.
Joining Bernardo Silva in the ‘departures’ portion of our transfer window are Boschilia (Leeds), Kamil Glik (Porto), Sebastien Haller (Leicester) and Danijel Subasic (Marseille). Without going into too much detail on the matter; Boschilia had no room to improve, Glik has hit his 30s and is getting less game time, Haller failed to find the net all season and Subasic is in decline and needed to be moved on.
Brazilian full-back Jorge has also left for £10m to join our domestic counterparts Olympique Lyonnaise, he was a Non-EU national in our side and with Maximiliano Romero looking to get a sniff in the team I decided Jorge was the weakest of the current Non-EU players, and so he moves to the city of Lyon for a sizeable fee. Finally, veteran midfielder Joao Moutinho becomes the second Portuguese player to leave the principality with the former Porto player snubbing the chance to rejoin his old club to sign for A.C. Milan. £5m for a player of his age seemed like a good move for us, he was a good tutor but ultimately was eating into the wage bill and didn’t give us much in terms of goals/assists on the pitch.
We’ve raised a lot of money through all of these sales that will go towards building a broader, younger and more talented squad to help take us to the next step, so without further adieu let’s get into the ‘arriving’ section!
Transfers – IN
With lots of players leaving the club we moved quickly to secure our long-term targets. Sander Berge is a young, Norwegian playmaker I’ve been tracking alongside Naby Keita for the past two seasons. We agreed deals for both him and Naby but eventually opted for the Scandinavian with Berge offering more room for growth as well as wanting less wages and costing half the fee. He’ll be our main central playmaker, replacing the outgoing veteran that is Joao Moutinho.
With Danijel Subasic leaving the club we knew that we needed an out and out goalkeeper. Original target Alban Lafont secured a £30m move to Liverpool days prior to our sale of Bernardo Silva meaning we missed out on the young French international. While Rulli sets us back a pretty penny, he has all the attributes needed to do a job for us as a Sweeper Keeper to cover the defensive line. At the tender age of 26 we know he can be our #1 Keeper for many years to come, a great long-term investment.
Next up we have Wesley Hoedt who joins from rival club Paris Saint-Germain for a small, bargain fee of £4m on the dot. While we currently have de Vrij, Jemerson and Pezzella we don’t have a 4th choice central defender who can step up and make an impression for us in the first-team. Diop and Onguene will spend the year out on loan with a view to stepping up next season, but ultimately the third season seemed ‘too soon’ for the Frenchmen and Hoedt’s Dutch nationality makes him an ideal partner for de Vrij as we look to strengthen the back-line of the team.
Our final first-team signing see’s Ukrainian international Victor Kovalenko join the club for a record fee (For me) of £30m. Originally I planned to find a “like for like” replacement for Bernardo Silva but ultimately ended up missing out on every target I set eyes on, so instead have decided to bring in Kovalenko can play just about anywhere in the midfield. I’m a tad worried about the hefty price-tag but we’ll see how he develops in the meantime, he’s still only 22.
To round off the window, we’ve invested £10m or so to strengthen our U19’s side as we look to the future. Some really good prospects have been snapped up and I’m keen to work on developing them as we try to make a step to the next level in the world of Football. I won’t go into too much detail on each of these players, but feel free to have a look through the screenshots, some of them look fantastic!
Let’s hope the business I’ve concluded is adequate, especially with PSG already being linked with the ‘big moves’…
Next up on the agenda was the changing of backroom staff at the club. It’s the third season now so many of the original coaches at the club have been moved on or have been replaced, but at the end of it all here’s a look at how all three departments are looking at the time of this post.
The Coaching team is now rivalling that of PSG as being the best in the country, which you could argue is to be expected but I’m still pretty chuffed with it.
Our Scouting department ranks as the best in the country, which is especially pleasing to me as scouting young prospects is how we strive to operate in the transfer markets in years to come. Many nationalities have been added in a bid to raise our global knowledge, which this percentage currently sitting at bang on 50%. Generally we have great knowledge of everywhere other than Africa, Asia and Oceania but that’s something we’ll work on as we move through the years.
The medical team, similarly to the scouting team is regarded as being the best in all of French football. With the type of Football we play, we’ll be looking to avoid injuries as often as possible and as such I’m always striving to maintain the best medical unit possible.
Before moving into the results from the first half of the season there’s just one thing I want us to look at. The tactical shift away from the 4-2-3-1 that brought us so much success last season.
Going into the 3rd season we’ve made the executive decision to shift to a 4-1-2-3 in an attempt to add more defensive solidity to the side who scored so freely last season. There were two influences for this decision, the first being that we conceded far more goals last season than the first and the second reason being that we’ve moved a ton of players on and not all of the replacements fit the “old system” meaning they can’t just be thrown into the side.
With Kovalenko acting as an attacking central midfielder, Lemar has been moved to a winger (support) in an attempt to add more space and width in the opposition third with Baka plugging the gaps in the middle of the pitch. Much of the back-line stays the same and the final change to midfield see’s new-boy Sander Berge operate as a box-to-box due to his high attacking and defensive attributes. I’m confident in the system.
Briefly; in terms of instructions we’ll be looking to mark tightly, build from the back and play fluid, short passing football with our players roaming from positions to try and create more space and opportunities from within a well structured and defensive ‘sound’ system. We need to try and find a good balance between attacking and defending.
Trophée des Champions
The season commenced with a competitive fixture against Coupe de France winners Paris Saint-Germain in which we would be competing for the French super-cup, an honour Monaco haven’t won since their last title victory back in 1999/2000.
The trend continued as we managed to follow up the title success with a super-cup victory, winning my 4th honour in French Football along the way. The match played out well and we came out on top after a tense penalty shootout in which Geronimo Rulli proved to be the hero on the day after denying his international compatriot Lo Celso from the spot to win us the trophy on the day; delighted.
UEFA Champions League
The Champions League is a competition in which we’ve looked less confident in. The group stage began for us with a 1-0 loss away in Amsterdam before picking up successive wins against Fenerbahce and Napoli before succumbing to a 4-0 demolition away in Naples (With Falcao leaving a sour taste in our mouths). Back to back wins against Ajax and Fenerbahce meant we topped the group ahead of Ajax with Napoli heading into the Europa League knockout stages.
Another trip to England awaits us in the next round as we face Arsenal FC.
So far in this save we’ve been inconsistent in the domestic cups, generally we’ve been very good in the Coupe de la Ligue, lifting the trophies on two occasions while the Coupe de France has been somewhat of an Achilles heel for us, especially when we suffered defeat to a 3rd tier team last season…
Fast forward to this season and we’ve already been knocked out of the Coupe de la Ligue meaning there’ll be no hat-trick of victories for us. I’m disappointed but ultimately we were forced to field a ‘weaker’ side due to a fixture against PSG being three days later. Fabinho’s late strike gave us hope but ultimately it proved to be too late as Saint Etienne took the spoils and progress to the next round.
Not a single game has been played in the Coupe de France yet, but we’ve been given the tough task of travelling to Marseille for our 9th round tie.
Heading into January we’ve enjoyed an almost perfect first half of the season as we look to defend our title. 17 wins and 1 draw from 18 games means we currently sit atop the table as the only unbeaten side with a gap of 9 points ahead of Paris Saint-Germain who once again have dropped points against some shocking sides (3-0 to Nantes…).
I put most of this down to our excellent defensive record as we’ve only conceded 5 goals in 18 league matches, while scoring 36. This means we find the net on average twice a game while conceding once for every 324 minutes played. Besides the nightmare 4-0 defeat to Napoli we have generally been playing the new system very well and with adequate tweaks I’m sure we can get the most out of it going forwards.
We’ve set ourselves up in the best possible position to lift the title again but with the January window coming up it’s very difficult to predict who PSG are going to sign and for how much. A couple of defeats and the gap will be down again, so I’m looking for a strong start to the second half of the season *touchwood*…
The highlight of the season so far has to be Mbappe’s 93rd minute winner at home to PSG in the league. There’s not a single way to beat the bastards that is more satisfying…
With all of the competitive and pre-season stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at the other bits’n’bobs from the news that I see pop up every now and again.
Jonathan Calleri was named the ‘Ligue 1 Foreign Player of the Year‘ which was very pleasing to see, the £11m signing from West Ham has really set the league alight and it’s great to see other people notice how well he has settled in at the club.
Elsewhere, Thomas Lemar was named as the 3rd ‘French Player of the Year‘ which isn’t bad going for a player who has only just recovered from a 7-9 month injury.
Finally, I’ve been awarded a new 4 year contract due to my excellent start at the club which means you’ll hopefully be seeing this blog be updated for at least 4 more seasons. Whether that’s a good or a bad sign, I’ll let you decide!
Thanks for reading.