AS Monaco FC is the name on everyone’s tongue, and for good reason. Bursting at the seams with cash thanks to the next Russian billionaire on the block, Dmitry Rybolovlev, they have spent it on a flood of top talent. Names like Radamel Falcao, Joao Moutinho, and Eric Abidal are of a caliber fans would expect at the best clubs in the world. Monaco is a club with a very successful history in France and is in every way primed to wreak havoc in Ligue Un. There is no reason to believe they won’t soon be embarrassing Premier League clubs in the future the way Borussia Dortmund and Shakhtar Donetsk did last season.
The question is now, with so many new, gifted players, how might Monaco build their game plan?
One thing is certain. That game plan will revolve around former Atletico Madrid and current Colombian national striker Radamel Falcao. The lethal Falcao netted 34 goals in 42 games last season, playing most often as a lone striker atop various formations. Monaco manager Claudio Ranieri’s side may have played many Ligue 2 games with two strikers, but in Falcao he has a player who can manage up top on his own and has proven ineffective when forced to share the space with another striker, as was the case in last season’s Madrid Clasico. Do not expect a 4-4-2 next season.
As far as the wings are concerned, Monaco are sure to field the recently signed James Rodriguez on the right. At 21 years old, he already has 2 goals in 12 caps for his country along with scoring 11 and assisting 9 in his 34 matches last season at Porto. Colombian press has even taken to calling him, “the new Falcao.” At left wing, expect to see right-footed Belgian u21 Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco. In 29 matches with Monaco in Ligue 2, the 19-year-old scored 8 goals and assisted 7 more. Carrasco scored twice from free kicks last season, so expect more from him in that capacity.
In central midfield, there is no doubt that Joao Moutinho will feature. His 14 total assists last season led Porto with teammate (at Porto and now at Monaco) James Rodriguez coming in second. Moutinho was especially effective in the Champions League, completing 87.5% of his passes and getting outscored by striker Jackson Martinez by just a single goal. He also comes with the added benefit of having worked alongside Falcao in Porto as they won the treble under Andre Villas-Boas. Jeremy Toulalan, Monaco’s recent purchase at defensive midfielder, comes with 36 caps for the French national side and excels at the holding midfield role.
The rest of Monaco’s midfield does not necessarily command the formation being made to fit them, but with young Argentine Lucas Ocampos present, Claudio Ranieri does have a decision to make. Does he line up the squad in a 4-2-3-1, with Moutinho probably deeper than he would like, but with room for the aforementioned Ocampos behind Falcao, which is his primary position? Or does he go with a 4-3-3, with Ocampos and Ferreira-Carrasco fighting for the left wing position? Ocampos has also lined up as a second striker, but as mentioned earlier, Falcao is not the kind of striker who pairs well with another.
It is clear, though, that in his wingers and talismanic striker like Falcao, Ranieri has the flexibility up front to charge his wide players to swap wings, which one can use to open up stubborn defenses. Given the squad’s current composition, a 4-3-3 with Ferreira-Carrasco/Campos, Falcao, and Rodriguez, Monaco looks especially dangerous. A free-roaming Moutinho with Toulalan and the rest of Monaco’s defensive-minded midfield should prove able to manage the transition from defense to attack and set up many, many goals. Finally, Eric Abidal’s return at left back will give Monaco experience, skill, and determination at the back. Ligue 1, be afraid. UEFA, get ready. Monaco is coming.
This team looks poised to wreak havoc on Ligue 1. Can they force their way into the CL in a single season, or will this squad of all stars and wunderkinds falter in their attempt? Have your say in the comments!