In 2021, Kovac’s men were, by performance, the best team in the French league: from January onwards, the Monegasques have lost only once, traveling at an impressive average of 2.58 points per game. Compared to the start of the championship, the real change of pace was made in the defensive phase. In the first part of the season, in fact, Monaco were an exciting but fragile team, unable to maintain control over the ball, and therefore over the moments of the match. At the end of December, Kovac’s team were the eleventh defense in the league, having conceded 25 goals in 17 matches, but in the last 17 – those played from January onwards – the Monegasques have conceded only 13 league goals, the best since Lille. (10). A clear and evident growth, mainly due to the better management of pressing: after a few months of running in, Kovac’s men began to press in an organized and compact way, and this organization has become a fundamental tool in controlling the match, in the phases of aggression and (above all) re-aggression.
Right now Kovac’s team has one of the lowest PPDA indexes in the French league, conceding an average of 10.7 passes per defensive play; moreover he is first in the league both for the number of tackles attempted (22.4 every 90 minutes) and for the tackles attempted in the third offensive (3.27). According to data from StatsBomb, Kovac’s team is the best team in Ligue 1 in terms of pressing effectiveness, with 33% recoveries within 5 seconds of pressing.
When it comes to handling the ball, Monaco follows the principles of positional play. During the championship, Kovac’s team alternated various setups, ranging from two to three strikers, deploying both four and three defense. After the 3-4-2-1 seen between February and March, the Monegasques returned to the back four, but the principles of the game have always remained the same: the team starts possession with a line of three players, to have numerical superiority. in the exit phase, with the two medians in support and the rest of the team occupying the whole field in amplitude. When Monaco plays with the three-man defense, the width is given by the two side midfielders; with the back four, on the other hand, the right-back tightens to help the first possession, while the flanks are occupied by the upper right winger and the left-back. There are always at least three players in front, in order to occupy the center and half spaces, while the two midfielders remain close and close to the defense, to give support to possession and maintain compactness in case the ball is lost.
The positional structure of the Monaco is always the same, regardless of the starting position. In the match against PSG, played on 21 February, Monaco fielded a more covered 4-5-1, with Diop on the midfielder, alongside Fofana and Tchouameni, and Aguilar and Volland winger and Ben Yedder the only striker. In the action preceding that of the goal, however, the team starts with the usual structure: three on the front line, with Disasi (right back) close to the central players; two wide players on the flanks, Caio Henrique (left back) and Aguilar (right wing); two in front of the defense, Fofana and Tchouaméni; three in front, with Volland (left wing) and Diop (right midfielder) squeezed in the half spaces, on the trocar, behind Ben Yedder.
In the match against Dijon, played on 11 April, Monaco started with 4-2-3-1, with Aguilar, Golovin and Diop behind Jovetic, but the structure in possession remained the same: Disasi (right-back ) near the plants; Caio Henrique (left back) and Aguilar (right attacking midfielder) wide; Fofana and Tchouaméni in front of the defense; Golovin (central attacking midfielder) and Diop (left attacking midfielder) in the half spaces behind the striker.
The only fixed point between the two assets is the couple in the median, made up of Tchouameni and Fofana, respectively 21 and 22 years old. In spite of their young age, the two are central to the overall balance of the team, to which they make a fundamental contribution both in managing possession and in the defensive phase. If Monaco can keep five players on the offensive line, it is largely due to his halfbacks, who, in addition to ensuring a secure support for the three behind, are able to give a lot of variety to possession, alternating blocking plays, game changes and line-cutting passes. In front, Kovac can count on a department of great quality and variety. In front of the fixed points are Ben Yedder and Kevin Volland, atypical strikers, fundamental for their ability to read and tie the game, as well as in the realization phase (17 goals the first, 15 the second).
For the rest, Kovac alternated various setups and players, managed in a meticulous way: Golovin, Gelson Martins and Diop played as wings in the 4-4-2, but also as attacking midfielders paired with Volland behind the striker; Aguilar played the first part of the season as a full-back or lateral, but is now employed profitably from the top right; same goes for Ballo-Tourè on the left. In recent weeks, the German coach has also been recovering Fabregas (tormented by physical problems) and Jovetic, who after a fitful start to the championship is becoming an important alternative from the bench (4 goals and an assist in the last seven games). At the moment, Monaco looks like an almost perfect machine, as well as one of the best teams in Europe, as evidenced by the last four days: five wins, 15 goals scored and none conceded.