Monaco: How they became champions

Ligue 1 Conforama > News

By D. Crossan

As Monaco celebrate clinching the Ligue 1 title,'s David Crossan explores the reasons behind the principality club's thrilling success.

Leonardo Jardim
The Portuguese coach deserves great credit for Monaco's transformation. Labelled a defensive coach when Monaco conceded only 26 goals in finishing second in 2014-2015, the former Olympiakos boss proved his adaptability by hitting on 4-4-2, a system long considered outmoded at the highest level, as that best suited to his squad. The rest is thrilling history as Monaco wowed with their attacking verve and the results followed.

Forwards Radamel Falcao and Valère Germain returning from loan spells at Chelsea and Nice respectively contributed to Jardim's bold tactical thinking. Last July, Jardim said: "There are a lot of attackers in the squad and I think 4-4-2 is the best system for us. In this system we have dynamism wide and get the crosses in." Only two teams have ever scored more goals in a single season than Monaco's title winners, who have racked up a massive 104 with one match left. That says it all.

Kylian Mbappé
Jardim's canniness was displayed in the way he dealt with Kylian Mbappé. Used sparingly in the first half of the season, the 18-year-old became a fixture in the starting line-up from the start of February and didn't stop scoring. Allying dazzling pace and dribbling ability with preternatural composure in front of goal. Twelve of the French international's 15 Ligue 1 goals were scored from Week 24 onwards as Mbappé took Ligue 1 and European football by storm. One day people will be talking about the "new Kylian Mbappé".

Defence is the best form of attack
The transformation of Monaco's defence has been remarkable. Full-backs Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibé added much-needed pace and width on the flanks, allowing wide playmakers Thomas Lemar and Bernardo Silva to give full vent to their creative talents. Mendy, whose crossing has improved no end since signing from Marseille, contributed five assists. Kamil Glik, acquired from Torino, proved the authoritative centre-half Monaco needed and the combative Polish international also weighed in with six goals, proving the perfect foil for the more silky Jemerson. Having conceded 50 goals in 2015-2016, Monaco let in only 29 goals in 37 matches on their way to their eighth Ligue 1 crown. Shrewd recruitment paid off.

"A bunch of mates who enjoy playing football together." Mbappé's formula makes it all sound so simple. Teams don't have to get one to perform on the field, though it certainly helps. Monaco's squad is close-knit and youthful, meaning Sidibé is known as "Uncle Djib", despite being only 24. Goalkeeper Danijel Subasic, one of the few thirty-somethings in the squad, refers to the likes of himself, Falcao and Glik as "adults, surrounded by talented kids". Those "kids" help transmit their joie de vivre to their elders and that surely has helped Falcao's compelling resurrection. The skipper helped himself to 21 Ligue 1 goals in 22 starts.

Team effort
Compared to Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco were operating with a much smaller first-team squad. The togetherness shone through as the likes of Germain, Joao Moutinho, Andrea Raggi and Nabil Dirar knuckled down and contributed despite not being first-choice picks. Gabriel Boschilia, with six goals, and Guido Carrillo, with seven, chipped in as they made the most of limited game-time before being cut down by serious injury.

Monaco worked hard for each other. Silva always covered an immense amount of ground, while midfielders Fabinho and Tiémoué Bakayoko's selfless repositioning permitted Mendy and Sidibé to rampage forward on their raids.

Jardim had a message for journalists who write about Monaco's "first-choice" team, considered to be the following: Subasic; Sidibé, Glik, Jemerson, Mendy; Silva, Fabinho, Bakayoko, Lemar; Falcao, Mbappé.

Jardim said: "I looked up a statistic. What you lot consider to be the "best" Monaco team has only played together once this season. And Monaco are top of the league. How do you explain that? Only three of our points have been won with the "best" team. The strength of our side is that players who weren't used much at the start of the season such as Nabil DIrar and Joao Moutinho have contributed."

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