Since 2012, AS Monaco hadn’t finished lower than third place in Ligue 1, but a cataclysmic season has seen them gasping for air in and around the relegation zone.
Just seventeen months on from momentously winning the league title, Leonardo Jardim left the club with just six points from ten games.
AS Monaco Clawing Their Way Back
Monaco were sitting in the relegation zone and had gone from high to low in an unthinkably short time frame: dismantled, disbelieving and a quivering shadow of their former selves.
Thierry Henry then returned to his boyhood club to try and turn their fortunes around. On the surface, lifting a side of Monaco’s stature out of the relegation zone sounds straight-forward enough, but Henry’s efforts were in vain.
The Monaco board loosened their purse strings to facilitate a series of high-profile signings, namely Gelson Martins, Cesc Fabregas and Naldo. Money proved no quick fix for the Frenchman, however, and his position soon became untenable.
A 5-1 home defeat against Strausbourg came days before an even more humiliating defeat to Ligue 2 side Metz in the Coup de France. Leonardo Jardim then reassumed his position and it has been something of a renaissance ever since.
Dismantled and Downtrodden
In times of such adversity, Monaco fans will nostalgically look back at lifting the title in 2017. It was a rose-tinted age, with a star-studded squad that included Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva and Benjamin Mendy.
Along with Tiemoue Bakayoko, this world-class trio moved on to pastures new and difficulties were forecasted ahead of the 2017/18 campaign.
Jardim, however, hung on to the likes of Fabinho, Thomas Lemar and Joao Moutinho and masterminded a second-place finish. Since then, the only major high-profile survivors of their title-winning starting eleven are Radamel Falcao and Djibril Sidibe.
Le Monegasques have become known for selling their best talent and, although they are usually able to successfully replace it, they failed to do so going into the 2018/19 season.
Fans would have hoped World Cup star Aleksandr Golovin could have prevented such a dismal plight, but he couldn’t do it alone.
Surrounded by a Monaco squad that has hitherto lacked identity and star-quality, the Russian international managed only one league goal.
Finding Their Feet
Thierry Henry left Monaco in nineteenth place and at the heart of a relegation scrap. Ever since, Leonardo Jardim’s reintroduction has overseen a five-game unbeaten run that has taken his side up to 16th place, six points above the drop.
Whilst he may have endured a miserable spell at his former club, Henry’s acquisitions of Cesc Fabregas and Fode Toure have proved vital. Jardim then oversaw the loan arrivals of Adrien Silva and Martins, who have been regular fixtures in a reinvented midfield.
Elsewhere, 17-year-old youth product Benoit Mukinayi deserves an honourable mention, who has formed an excellent partnership alongside Kamil Glik. The Portuguese boss has had some time away to think and oversee Monaco’s issues, then re-invent a team tactically in tatters but now with far more quality.
In recent times he has reverted back to his favoured 4-2-3-1 which was successful for the opening two games in August. Over time, however, this system quickly lost its potency and Jardim desperately tried to accommodate a plethora of sub-par players into a series of untidy formations.
Upon his return, Monaco’s midfield is now far more balanced with Silva and Fabregas sitting beneath a forward three of Lopes, Golovin and Gelson Martins. It is apparent that aside from sensible methodical change, the key difference is quality and top players who can maximise his tactical vision.
Unlike Fabregas’ pass against Lyon, their resurgence is no fluke, and the feeling now is that with Jardim’s upheaval and reinvention Monaco will only get better. It has required a calm, pragmatic response that has moved them away from chaos and into a sense of clarity and direction.