Last season, Monaco returned from the Rhône after a gift received on the lawn of the Groupama Stadium (4-1). A setback which will have to be beneficial for the rest of a season concluded on the last step of the podium… just in Lyon. The two teams meet again this Saturday (9 p.m.) for the 10th day of Ligue 1.
When discussing his memories of an evening in October 2020, on the lawn of the Groupama Stadium, Ruben Aguilar smiles. “It’s not a good memory, I won’t hide it from you,” admits the French international. Established on the left of a four-way defense before being replaced on the right at the break, he had, like his partners, experienced a nightmarish first period.
Niko Kovac’s missed date
Lyon welcomed Monaco for the 8th day, it will be the 10th this Saturday. A point now separates the two clubs when it comes to clashing, it was already the case last season after a mixed start to the year. The new Monaco Kovac era is still in the construction phase, the automatisms not yet found. After seven matches, the Principality’s club has only three victories, has just been beaten in Brest (1-0) and has failed to bring down a Montpellier to ten almost the entire match at the Stade Louis II (1 -1).
For this first shock of the season, Niko Kovac decides to play offensive, attacking hard at the risk of being exposed. A mistake. From the 11th minute, while the ASM obtained the two best opportunities, OL went against and Depay opened the scoring in the middle of an abandoned penalty area. Abandoned, Benjamin Lecomte is in the 33rd, deceived by Karl Toko Ekambi then is left to himself on a penalty converted by Houssem Aouar (41st) before a disagreement between Florentino Luis and Benoît Badiashile offering on a plateau a double to Karl Toko Ekambi. At the break, Monaco, completely overwhelmed, was led 4-0 despite a large but sterile possession (73%).
In the locker room at Groupama Stadium, Niko Kovac growls: “What I have just seen is unbelievable”, balances the Monegasque coach to his players. To the words, he adds the actions and makes many changes. Fabregas, Matsima and Caio Henrique replace Florentino Luis, Jovetic and Sidibé. The back line is reinforced, the team more balanced and Monaco reacts from the outset via a penalty converted by Wissam Ben Yedder. The score hangs at 4-1. At a post-match press conference, it’s time to confess.
“We made some really bad decisions in the first half and I was the first. I’m including myself in that because I didn’t choose the right system, the right tactics, the right players.” A year later, Ruben Aguilar adds: “It allowed us to learn certain things, to us, to the staff, to the coach. They tried things and it did not work. We rely on them to change, you have to learn from these mistakes. ” Captain, Wissam Ben Yedder had remained positive a few days after the meeting. “At times it’s frustrating or even too much. It was difficult in the first half but we did a lot of good things. We pay it cash on our mistakes, we will have to rectify them. To me, as captain , to motivate them and to believe in them. “
The improvement after the storm
And Monaco begins to believe in him, in his group, in his qualities, in his coach and his modified choices. “We will continue to continue as we have done so far, but we will have to adapt certain details. We need to work on this,” Niko Kovac said as the next matches approached. More cautious defensively, more patient in its offensive phases, ASM is maturing and has a great series.
An indisputable success at home against Bordeaux (4-0) not conceding the slightest shot on target, a derby won on the lawn of Nice (2-1), a prestigious victory against PSG to Louis II after being led 2-0 (3-2) then a correction against Nîmes (3-0) before falling against direct competitors (Lille, Marseille), to offer a non-match as it happens in a season against Lens to the approach of Christmas, then to resume its march forward. As time goes by, Niko Kovac goes from a defense to four to a defense to three and a pattern of play very mobile the ball. Above all, the team prowls around and the players form a bond, Tchouaméni-Fofana in the middle, Ben Yedder-Volland in front: the keys to Monegasque success for the rest of the season.
A nascent rivalry
Monaco and Lyon will meet twice, a victorious return for ASM on the Lyon lawn in the Coupe de France (2-0) and a defeat in the Principality at the end of the championship, while the two clubs were competing for third place ( 2-3). Two hooked up, electric encounters concluded with a sorry tussle against Louis II on the evening of the 35th day. Lyon became AS Monaco’s number one rival last season.
This Saturday, Kovac will face him another interlocutor than Rudi Garcia in the person of Peter Bosz. “A lot has changed since last year. Lyon has a new coach whom I know well,” says the Monaco coach before praising his counterpart whom he followed at Ajax Amsterdam and known in the Bundesliga then to continue: “He wants to press really high to push his opponent to make mistakes so I expect a difficult game. I hope last season’s game showed my players what it takes do to beat Lyon. “
At the end of the last confrontation with Louis II, De Sciglio-Marcelo on the Lyon side and Geubbels-Pellegri on the Monaco side were excluded by Clément Turpin at the very end of the game. If three of these four players no longer participate in Ligue 1 (Geubbels was ready for Nantes), the page is not yet turned.