The manager was brought in to save the club’s Ligue 1 status but he is struggling to cope with crises on all frontsBy Adam White and Eric Devin for Get French Football NewsEdinson Cavani’s goal was met with a groan. Monaco had embarrassed PSG by capturing

Things go from bad to worse for Thierry Henry at Monaco

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  • 2019-01-29 02:30:20 10 months ago
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Edinson Cavani’s goal was met with a groan. Monaco had embarrassed PSG by capturing the Ligue 1 title 17 months earlier but, just 11 minutes into their match in October, Monaco were already two down. Nacer Chadil’s injury compounded the depressed mood at the Stade Louis II and, when his replacement Jordi Mboula was also forced off, manager Thierry Henry was seen mouthing “wow” to himself on the touchline.

Monaco’s disastrous 2-0 home defeat to bottom side Guingamp on Saturday leaves them 19th in Ligue 1 for the winter break, all positivity decimated while the club suffers through a catastrophic injury crisis and repeated allegations from Football Leaks as relegation looms. “Wow” indeed.

To underline their slump, Monaco have lost nine of their last 12 games in Ligue 1, as many as they lost across the previous 73. Excitement and romanticism aside, Henry has changed little during his 14 games as coach and, after just three wins, even that initial promise has disintegrated. Hope generated in beating fellow strugglers Caen and Amiens, thanks to a Radamel Falcao free-kick and brace of penalties has proven misplaced, as performances again melted away this week.

Henry has come to personify the atmosphere at Monaco. His obvious frustration paired with a sense of desperation came to the fore this week when he criticised his team after the dire 3-0 loss at Lyon. “Without desire, it is difficult to win. Without showing depth, it is difficult to win,” Henry explained, expanding on a previous claim that his “players are unintentionally refusing to play” due to a crippling lack of confidence.

The increasingly morose Monaco vice president Vadim Vasilyev, who, is alleged to personally pocket 10% of all transfer profits that the club makes according to Mediapart, insisted the club “didn’t bring [Henry] in as a fireman, he is here for the long term, not the short term.” However, Henry’s gloomy persona does not hint at long-term thinking, with the manager often losing his cool. “Like in the second half in Madrid, three-man midfield, Golo on the left,” he told Youri Tielemans during the Montpellier defeat. “How many times do I have to say … in English, in French, what else do you want?”

Criticism of Henry in the French media is mounting as he cuts an increasingly forlorn figure on the touchline. One pundit on RMC, a prominent radio station, deemed him “pathetic”. That sulky, withdrawn attitude has been transmitted slowly to his players, as Henry admitted in defeat to promoted Reims they “practically won all the duels and played as it should be done at home. On our side, the desire was not there.” Although Henry carries legendary status in England, his aura is not quite as lofty in France and his hold over the young squad remains questionable. An exasperated glare at Benoît Badiashile after the promising defender left his chair in Henry’s way as they left a press conference underlined his frustration over widespread inexperience.

Thierry Henry talks with his assistant coach Franck Passi before the defeat to Guingamp.

Performances have been verging on the inept as well as naive and disjointed; Tielemans, for example, surrendered possession 34 times during the loss to Guingamp while centre-back Jemerson’s form, especially in the conceding two late goals to Montpellier, has been disastrous. This, however, is only partly down to Henry. Despite doing so expertly beforehand, former coach Leonardo Jardim could not regroup after this summer’s latest exodus of talent, while former Chelsea sporting director Michael Emenalo’s recruitment has lacked direction, the signing of emerging talents in the past such as Thomas Lemar, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva have been replaced by seven-figure sums for raw teenagers barely ready for the first team.

An injury list numbering double figures for some weeks, including a host of prominent first-team players such as Croatian keeper Danijel Subasic, France full-back Djibril Sidibé, former Manchester City forward Steven Jovetic, summer signing from Strasbourg Jean Ahoulou and last season’s standout forward Rony Lopes has proven insurmountable. Falcao even went as far to criticise the current squad’s quality, as injuries, departures and questionable acquisitions have left Henry with what is effectively the youth team and a smattering of established names. Han-Noah Massengo and Badiashile, for example, became the first players born in the 21st century to start a Champions League match.

The future of the club itself also remains in question. Rybolovlev, reportedly open to selling Monaco for some time, infuriated by various barriers imposed by Financial Fair Play and the French authorities, was held in police custody in November at the request of a local judge in connection with “active and passive bribery” and “corruption” and his potential complicity in these matters, according to Le Monde. Although a statement maintained Rybolovlev was “presumed innocent”.

Henry insisted he was “not thinking of the winter transfer window” but those above him certainty are with Cesc Fàbregas, Michy Batshuayi and Gary Cahill all linked this week and the former Arsenal forward admitting “we play to survive, we do not play for anything else”. This week perennial Ligue 1 caretaker coach Franck Passi, previously standing in at Lille regularly at Marseille, was added to Henry’s coaching staff. Perhaps a sign that Vasilyev foresees a change.

In 2011, Monaco were relegated and sat bottom of the second division by Christmas before Rybolovlev’s billions rescued them. Now the Russian’s future alongside his manager’s and their Ligue 1 status is again in doubt. This time, however, saviours may not be so forthcoming.

Ligue 1 talking points

Don’t look now, but Julien Stéphan has Rennes flying with five wins from five in all competitions. In-form Nîmes were the Breton side’s latest victim, with Saturday’s 4-0 win moving them to within a point of the European places. Stéphan has not been a revolutionary tactically, but he has imbued several key players with a large dose of confidence. Benjamin Bourigeaud, so influential last season, has been the chief beneficiary of this.

Crisis or no crisis? Marseille’s struggles are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Rudi Garcia’s side had lost on penalties to Strasbourg in midweek, and then saw a first choice side get a late equaliser against Angers on Saturday. Their once-vibrant attack has struck just five times in the last six matches. The January window and the end of the Europa League could be a tonic for Marseille, but things look dire indeed for a squad that is both thin and ageing.

Finally, Lyon’s trip to Montpellier was a great advertisement for the quality in depth on show in Ligue 1 this season; both sides may have looked a little rough around the edges but each was well up for a top-four clash that ran fast in both directions before ending up a deserved draw thanks to a sparkling pair of goals from Nabil Fékir and Rubén Aguilar. Both look well-positioned to continue their tilts at European football.

Ligue 1 results

Bordeaux 1-1 Amiens
Angers 1-1 Marseille
Lille 1-2 Toulouse
Monaco 0-2 Guingamp
Montpellier 1-1 Lyon
Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 Nantes
Reims 2-2 Caen
Rennes 4-0 Nimes
St Etienne 3-0 Dijon
Strasbourg 2-0 Nice

Ligue 1 table

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 PSG 17 40 47
2 Lille 19 10 34
3 Lyon 18 9 32
4 Montpellier 17 12 30
5 St Etienne 18 6 30
6 Marseille 17 4 27
7 Strasbourg 19 7 26
8 Rennes 18 2 26
9 Reims 19 -3 26
10 Nice 18 -4 26
11 Nimes 18 -2 23
12 Bordeaux 17 0 22
13 Toulouse 18 -10 21
14 Nantes 17 -1 20
15 Angers 17 -2 19
16 Caen 19 -6 18
17 Amiens 18 -14 17
18 Dijon 18 -15 16
19 Monaco 18 -13 13
20 Guingamp 18 -20 11

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Things go from bad to worse for Thierry Henry at Monaco

The forwards whose new year's resolution should be to score goals

A new year is a time for a new start. A few Premier League strikers took the spirit of new year’s resolutions to heart this week, with Steve Mounie and Jordan Ayew both scoring their first goals of the season on Wednesday night. Between them they had gone 71 shots without finding the net, but their goalscoring droughts are over. These forwards will be hoping to follow their lead in 2019.

Simone Zaza: 26 shots for Valencia and Torino

Simone Zaza is currently on the sixth loan spell of his career. The former Juventus forward is familiar with Turin, but he can’t seem to find the net for Torino. He came off the bench to score the winning goal at Chievo at the end of September but has struggled to hold down a starting place since. He has gone 578 minutes across 11 appearances in Serie A without scoring, but hasn’t been shy to chance his arm, averaging a shot every 22 minutes since he last found the net.

Laurent Depoitre: 29 shots for Huddersfield

Laurent Depoitre was the goalscoring hero who ultimately secured Huddersfield’s status as a Premier League club at Stamford Bridge last May, but he hasn’t found the net since. The Belgian has been used in a rotation policy since signing for the club in 2017 and that has continued this season, starting nine of 18 league appearances. He has hit the target with just six of the 29 shots he has attempted since he last scored.

Wilfried Zaha: 31 shots for Crystal Palace

It’s been a frustrating few months for Palace’s star man, who began the season in strong form with three goals in his first four matches but hasn’t scored since. His last goal was a winner at Huddersfield back in mid-September and has since gone 14 appearances without finding the net in the league. It’s not been for want of trying either. He has hit 31 shots since his last goal and struck the woodwork in games against both Arsenal and Burnley.

Lorenzo Insigne: 31 shots for Napoli

Having started the season in fine form, Lorenzo Insigne has gone off the boil of late for Napoli. He last found the net in the league in a 5-1 win over Empoli at the start of November. Deployed in a front two more often than not in Carlo Ancelotti’s new system, the forward has only gone seven league games without a goal but in that spell he has fired off a whopping 31 shots without scoring.

Lorenzo Insigne.

Stipe Perica: 31 shots for Udinese and Frosinone

Unlike Insigne, Perica may struggle to even remember his last goal. The Croatian signed for newly promoted Frosinone in the summer and began the campaign as their first-choice striker, starting six times. After being largely ineffective in these matches, the 23-year-old was dropped down the pecking order. He has made just one substitute appearances since and is yet to score for his new club. In fact, his last goal came in December 2017 for Udinese, against Juventus no less.

Edin Dzeko: 33 shots for Roma

It’s been a season to forget in Serie A for Edin Dzeko, who is perhaps beginning to show his age. Having followed up a fantastic 29-goal season in 2016–17 with a respectable 16 goals last time around, the 32-year-old has just two league goals in the current campaign. The last of those came against Empoli back in October, with Roma struggling to keep pace with the top three as a consequence.

Diego Falcinelli: 36 shots for Sassuolo, Fiorentina and Bologna

Another player who failed to score in 2018, Falcinelli will hope this year is considerably more fruitful. The 27-year-old spent the second half of last season on loan at Fiorentina and, even though he failed to score for the Viola, Bologna forked out in the region of €10m to secure his services in the summer. It has not been money well spent for the club so far. Falcinelli is without a goal in 12 appearances this season. His last goal cam for Sassuolo against Inter in December 2017.

Mario Balotelli: 38 shots for Nice since his last goal

Mario Balotelli had a pretty prolific strike rate in his previous two seasons at Nice, but he and new manager Patrick Vieira have not seen eye-to-eye. Vieira confirmed that he had given the striker a leave of absence to consider his future last month and Balotelli has not featured since 4 December, which was his 10th league game without scoring all season. His run of 38 shots without finding the net stretches back to last May and it seems more than likely that the 28-year-old has scored his last goal for the club.

Mario Balotelli.

Sandro: 59 shots for Malaga, Everton, Sevilla and Real Sociedad

As far as goal droughts are concerned, no one here can compete with Sandro Ramírez. The Spaniard – who spent his teenage years at Barcelona – has failed to score a league goal for any of his last three clubs, including his current, temporary employers Real Sociedad. The young forward struck 14 times for Malaga in the 2016-17 season, so it was seen as something of a coup when Everton secured his signature the following summer, but he has had a torrid time since leaving Andalusia. His last goal came in May 2017. Since then he has attempted 59 shots in 34 league appearances. Here’s hoping the new year proves to be a turning point for Sandro.

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Marseille humbled by fourth-tier amateurs in Coupe de France

While gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests interrupted much of the Ligue 1 programme in December, things are now slightly less chaotic in France, with the Coupe de France staging its round-of-64 over the weekend. The competition, which whittles down thousands of sides before including the top-flight teams at this stage, has always produced fairytale runs, with Lyon holding off third-tier Quevilly in the 2012 final and PSG beating Les Herbiers in last season’s showpiece.

Yet, on the wrong side of a result this weekend were Marseille, who lost to ASF Andrézieux, a fourth-division side from a suburb of Saint-Étienne. Andrezieux’s 5,000-capacity ground was deemed too small to host the match, so it was moved to the nearby Stade Geoffroy-Guichard. Whereas some sides rotated their line-ups or lost in dramatic circumstances – both Angers and Montpellier lost 1-0 to lower league opposition – Marseille not only played a first-choice team but also failed to score in a 2-0 defeat.

L’Équipe led with the headline “the lesson,” but Marseille fans must feel as if no lesson has been learned. With no win in seven matches, their struggles are impossible to ignore, even in the face of those of their neighbours, Monaco. The two clubs meet in Ligue 1 on Sunday. Despite Monaco’s struggles this season, Marseille are hardly big favourites.

Andrezieux players celebrate after winning the tie at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium in Saint-Etienne.

The arrivals of Cesc Fàbregas and Naldo, a 36-year-old centre-back from Brazil, are not exactly inspirational, but at least Monaco are taking a proactive approach to dealing with their current predicament. Much like Marseille, Monaco spent in the summer, with an emphasis on younger players with no experience in French football. Some of their signings have been a mixed bag (Benjamin Henrichs), but others, most notably Aleksandr Golovin, have been unmitigated disasters.

Marseille face a similar situation, with the signings of Duje Caleta-Car and Nemanja Radonjic at a combined cost of more than €30m having hamstrung the club financially, for no return. Now, as Monaco try to turn around their fortunes in the transfer market, Marseille, having spent heavily in the summer without any significant outgoing sales save André-Frank Zambo Anguissa’s £30m move to Fulham, must try to regain their verve with no mooted help from outside. Or, almost no outside help; a move for Mario Balotelli, who had been a target in the summer, has been rumoured, but with the Italian yet to score this season and unlikely to feature for Nice any time soon after his bust-up with manager Patrick Vieira, his potential arrival hardly seems a palliative.

Marseille could cash in on some of their prized assets in an attempt to restructure the team; Morgan Sanson’s guile and versatility has tempted several bigger sides but the €20m or so they would make from selling him would scarcely make a dent for a team that increasingly looks shorn of depth and quality. This, coupled with their crippling over-reliance on Florian Thauvin, has made Marseille the apotheosis of what can go wrong when a club with a proud tradition seeks to restore their reputation on the fly, opting for ageing or inconsistent players.

Andrezieux coach Jean Noel Cabezas celebrates with a player after their victory over Marseille.

The club has enjoyed positives under the ownership of Frank McCourt – their appearance in the Europa League final last season and the renaissance of Thauvin – but this is a squad whose best days seem behind them, with Dimitri Payet, Adil Rami and Steve Mandanda all playing far below their best this season. Rudi Garcia, a manager who earned an impressive reputation in France after his achievements with Lille, has also looked out of his depth, chopping and changing players and systems at will.

Given that McCourt cannot compete financially with PSG, Marseille simply must take an holistic approach to squad building. The Ligue 1 table serves as evidence of this: Lyon have relied on their academy and canny acquisition of young French players; Lille have placed their faith in a young, exciting side; and Montpellier have opted to base their side around the brilliant counter-attacking brio of Michel Der Zakarian.

Marseille, meanwhile, installed a manager whose best success came when he picked young sides who played in an attack-minded style, but then brought in the likes of Kevin Strootman and Dimitri Payet instead. Garcia should absorb some of the blame – as we have argued in this column before – but sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta and president Jacques-Henri Eyraud are the ones who need to learn their own lesson.

Talking points

Viry-Chatillon players celebrate after beating Angers in the French Cup.

“Christmas in January,” read L’Équipe’s front page as major cup upsets punctuated the weekend. Beyond the third-tier National, France’s sprawling lower divisions are split into groups or regions meaning around 500 clubs separated Saint-Étienne and seventh-tier Olympique Strasbourg on Sunday afternoon, making the 6-0 result rather respectable. However, Marseille were not alone in humiliation. Despite fielding a strong team, Angers were beaten 1-0 by sixth-tier side Viry-Châtillon; National outfit SSG Entente embarrassed Montpellier by the same scoreline; Gazelec Ajaccio of Ligue 2 also excited to sixth-division opposition; and Nimes were routed 3-0 by third-tier Lyon Duchère. After National side Les Herbiers made the final last year, cup magic remains rife in France.

The FA Cup is the world’s oldest cup competition but the Coupe de France is the biggest. Just 64 of several thousand entrants from across France and its former colonies remained this weekend and among them were Aiglon du Lamentin of Martinique. Despite a near 7,000km journey for the Caribbean islanders, Ligue 2 Orléans needed extra time to overcome their visitors, 3-2. Their encounter mirrored Réunion representative Excelsior’s visit to Lille at the same stage two years ago. Having also battled through various qualifying rounds they too held their own before being overrun in injury time, 4-1.

While Adrien Rabiot’s supposed move to Barcelona will dominate the headlines, another Frenchman may exchange Ligue 1 for the Camp Nou this month. Just 18 and without a senior minute of action to his name, Jean-Clair Todibo seemed a long way from the Toulouse first team this summer but his opportunity emerged when Issa Diop left for West Ham and Stephane Mbia picked up an injury. The rangy centre-back has only made 10 appearances but his ability to play his way out of trouble, pick a pass and read the game quickly and intelligently has drawn significant interest. With his youth contract expiring in June, Todibo refused Toulouse’s longer term professional contract to facilitate a transfer, a decision that, mirroring Rabiot, left him banished from the first team by an understandably frustrated club. Both players are supremely talented but Ernesto Valverde may have to improve their attitudes if they are to succeed at Barcelona.

This is an article from Get French Football News
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