DECRYPTION – The Monegasque coach got the better of his Parisian counterpart on Sunday evening.
Niko Kovac 1, Mauricio Pochettino 0. If Monaco won Sunday night against Paris (0-2), at the Parc des Princes, it is indeed above all because the Croatian technician won his duel against the Argentine. Of course, the Monegasques did not come to the capital to delight viewers or reinvent football, it is a fact. They clearly agreed to undergo, not like in the last confrontation between the two technicians, when Bayern Kovac walked over Tottenham Pochettino in 2019 (7-2). “We ran a lot,” notes Wissam Ben Yedder modestly, on Canal +. Except that they have endured, well defended and well exploited their rare opportunities. Sometimes five behind, sometimes five in the middle, the Asemists deprived the Parisians of space, asphyxiated their middle and muzzled their attackers. Nine shots including one on target for Paris! “We started well but we conceded a first goal and Monaco had a good game defensively. We had 75% of possession but we had some shortcomings at the offensive level ”, recognizes Mauricio Pochettino.
Disasi rather than Sidibé to counter Mbappé
For Kovac, there was a priority, a “clear objective”: “to eliminate Kylian Mbappé”, to take him out of the equation, to muzzle him. And for that, the former Croatian international preferred to bet on Axel Disasi as a true-false right-back than on Djibril Sidibé. “It’s very simple. Axel is a very good player. If he plays less, it is because of the good performances of Guillermo (Maripan). We knew that Kylian Mbappé is in great shape at the moment, that he is a world-class player. Physically and in terms of speed, it was a better choice for Kylian Mbappé than Djibril. It was the decision. And I think it was a very good decision. ”
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Obviously, the former Rémois was not alone on the Mbappé file. In fact, he was never alone. Because the 22-year-old world champion has constantly found himself facing two, even three players. Often Ruben Aguilar. Sofiane Diop also came to lend a hand to his little comrades to carry out this mission, to say the least perilous. Ask Ronald Koeman and Barcelona defenders …
“It was hard for PSG to break our lines”
Except that the Catalans tried to play. And they left spaces that made Mbappé happy. Unlike Barça, ASM, despite some bleeding projections, first applied to defend well. “It was hard for PSG to break our lines because we were very compact, with two lines in 4-5-1. We were well organized, it ran smoothly. Obviously, if we did not concede a goal, we increased our chances … The game plan worked well. Congratulations to my players, ”still relishes Niko Kovac, who had also already played a nasty turn at PSG in the first leg (3-2 victory), with decisive changes at half-time. The entries of Cesc Fabregas and Caio Henrique had changed everything… To be very complete, it should be added that Thomas Tuchel’s men were unhappy to only lead 2-0 after 45 minutes.
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Still, Pochettino, inspired in his choices and his tactical orientations on Barcelona soil, shone through his inaction. Deprived of his three most creative players, Neymar Jr, Angel Di Maria (packages) and Marco Verratti (spared at kick-off), the 48-year-old Argentinian technician was betting on a Paredes-Herrera-Gueye midfielder who turned out to be unable to exist under Monegasque pressure and to create offensive play. Not to mention Ander Herrera’s blunder on the visitors’ second goal… It would have taken an individual feat from Mbappé or one of his teammates to hope to break through the red and white wall. He never came… Too few long shots to unclog the area around Benjamin Lecomte’s goal. No change at the break, as Rafinha and Julian Draxler presented a profile more able to reinvigorate this lackluster team, knowing that Verratti did not have 90 minutes in the legs.
“If you have to find someone in charge, he is in front of you”
“When you lose, if you have to find someone responsible, he is in front of you,” squeaks the ex-coach of Tottenham, who knows his second defeat on the Paris bench after Lorient (3-2). And to continue, in response to a question about Mbappé, as brilliant in Barcelona as he is off against Monaco: “We were not up to the level to win this match, collectively and not just Kylian. If there is someone in charge, it’s me. ”
The first four stand out, Paris in danger
The former PSG captain should not be the only one to wear the hat, however. The idea of a form of decompression after the splendor of the European Cup cannot be ruled out. However, this would be an extremely serious professional misconduct in view of the quality and form of the opponent, but also of the situation in the standings. “You have to congratulate Monaco but you also have to do a mea-culpa because we take a goal after five minutes (in the 6th), that cannot happen, and we take another after five minutes in the second half (51st ) ”, Plague Verratti, who is worried about seeing Paris Saint-Germain burn a new joker in the title race (6 defeats in L1, a first under QSI). “The other teams are advancing,” he notes. PSG are indeed relegated to four points from Lille and one from Lyon, with AS Monaco coming back to two lengths. “I hope it will be as tight until the end of the season,” slips Kovac, mischievous. He is not the only one…