One of the most predictable leagues of late has now become one of the most sensational, with Monaco leading a renaissance in French football
If you magically fell asleep in the summer and were woken up just now you would probably be very surprised by a few things to say the least.
Donald Trump, President of the United States. Leicester City facing relegation and Paris Saint Germain not being top of Ligue 1. Incredible, but true. Just over midway through the season, it is Monaco who leads the French top division, after taking over from the great start Nice had.
PSG are not far behind: only three points. But it is fair to say Monaco are a fantastic surprise and a real threat to recent Parisian dominance. The side now coached by Unai Emery have won the past four titles and in France many say it is just a matter of time before Monaco slows down and PSG take the title once again. For now, though, Leonardo Jardim is solidly at the top of the league.
Monaco have already scored 102 goals in all competitions this season, the second team to reach the 100 goal mark after Barcelona. The ingredients behind this goal scoring recipe are a few. Radamel Falcao is back to his best, after the injuries and the terrible seasons following them. He has bagged 14 goals in 18 games in Ligue 1, one every 80 minutes. Considering all competitions, the numbers go up to 19 total goals.
And not a problem if the Colombian rests: 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe is one of the hottest talents in Europe at the moment. His playing style reminds fans of Thierry Henry – no wonder Arsenal want him – and his finish was decisive against Montpellier in Monaco’s 2-1 away win on Tuesday night.
Monaco’s strength, though, is that everyone can score. The other goalscorer against Montpellier was centre back Kamil Glik, and Jardim’s team has found the net with 16 different players this season. After Falcao, Valerie Germain has racked up 12 goals in all competitions, Thomas Lemar 10 and Bernardo Silva 8.
The defensive side is also well under control, even though Monaco have conceded more goals in Ligue 1 than Saint Etienne, Nice and PSG. Glik and Andrea Raggi guarantee experience at the back, helping goalkeeper Daniel Subasic maintain a clean sheet in 10 games already, second best in Europe behind Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois. Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe guarantee the right balance on the flanks.
The midfield is the right mix of defensive care and quality going forward, with the class of Joao Moutinho and the cover guaranteed by Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko. On the wings, Silva and Lemar can be a real nightmare for the opponents.
All this put together is one of the sexiest teams in Europe right now, unexpectedly. If Nice were the surprise for months, Monaco have had that consistency needed to stay at the top. Whether it will be enough to win the Ligue 1 is impossible to tell, but if there’s a time PSG’s hegemony can be interrupted, it is now.