Laboured Monaco’s position in top three ‘under threat’


View gallery


When Monaco signed Radamel Falcao for €60 million (£53 million) in the summer, it was not so that his goals would rescue draws at home against the likes of Evian, but that is precisely what the Colombian did on Friday as the principality side's concerning downturn in form continued.

Monaco have lost their way recently, and Claudio Ranieri's side have slipped to third in the table, five points behind leaders Paris Saint-Germain after following up their first defeat of the campaign against Lille with a 1-1 stalemate against Evian at the Stade Louis II, in which they were lucky to come away with a point.

Daniel Wass had given the away side the lead, and while Falcao's superbly taken ninth goal in Ligue 1 soon brought Monaco level, the reality is that they were lucky to come away with a point as on-loan Marseille forward Modou Sougou missed two great chances to win the game for Evian in the second half.

"Monaco no longer instil fear" was the headline in L'Equipe on Saturday, while Ranieri admitted that "a 3-1 win for Evian would have been the normal outcome. If they had been calmer in front of goal, they could have scored three or four. We didn't play as a team."

The biggest issue for Monaco is their defence, with young full-backs Fabinho and Layvin Kurzawa happier going forward and the veteran centre-back pairing of Eric Abidal and Ricardo Carvalho already looking weary.

That was clearly evident in the second half on Friday, when the two players ran into each other, allowing Sougou a clear path through on goal, with only a fine Danijel Subašic save keeping his team on level terms.

The statistics are perhaps not alarming, but Monaco have gone from conceding just three goals in their first seven games to letting in nine in the seven matches since then. On Friday, Evian's goal came when a punt downfield from their 'keeper was headed on by Sougou into the path of Wass. It was the ninth time this season that Monaco have conceded to a header or following an aerial assist.

Even without the demands of European competition, Abidal and Carvalho cannot play every game together, and there are reports that Monaco are keen to sign a new defender. Further forward, João Moutinho's form has dipped and the attacking verve and dynamism of Lucas Ocampos and Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco on the wings has diminished, while Falcao's scoring rate has dropped noticeably - after netting seven in his first seven Ligue 1 matches, he has scored just just two in six since. James Rodríguez's assist and the former Atlético Madrid man's finish against Evian were a delight, but already questions are being asked about Falcao's relative lack of form.

It sounds ridiculous, and he remains the division's leading scorer level with Edinson Cavani, but then maybe the particularities of life at Monaco are proving harder to adjust to than anticipated for him and his teammates. After all, the sight of seeing one of the world's most expensively-assembled sides taking to the field in front of paltry crowds never ceases to amaze. There were just 6,500 fans in attendance against Evian, and former Monaco player Glenn Hoddle admits that settling into such an environment takes some getting used to.

View gallery

Stade Louis II, home of Monaco

"To play in Monaco and be good, you need to be a certain type of professional," the Englishman told L'Equipe last week. "In winter, when the fans don't come to the stadium, you can only count on yourself. If you can't do that, you won't succeed. It is maybe the only club in the world where the character of the player is as important as his ability. And the money will change nothing. It is a difficult place."

After seven games Monaco were top, two points clear of PSG. But they have taken just nine points from their last six outings. Ranieri has said criticism of his side is "fair" and admits that "only PSG can contemplate winning every game".

Their chances of even challenging PSG into the second half of the campaign have been badly damaged by their recent form although they remain on course to reach their stated objective of qualifying for the Champions League. But their position in the top three is under threat from another promoted club.

Nantes' 3-0 win at Bordeaux on Sunday saw them climb to within three points of Monaco, and a win when the sides meet in what will be an intriguing game at the Stade de la Beaujoire in a fortnight will allow Les Canaris to climb above Ranieri's side.

Andy Scott | Follow on Twitter

View comments (7)