Thierry Henry at Monaco

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It is a new beginning and a new career, but for Thierry Henry, the colours and the place are familiar.

After a record-breaking career in which he shattered all-time scoring records with Arsenal and France, he has graduated from the role as one of Roberto Martinez’s right-hand men with Belgium to take up the head coach post at Monaco, the benefactor of Leonardo Jardim’s untimely exit after a woeful beginning to the season.

Frankly, things could not have gone any worse at Stade Louis II in the early weeks of the campaign. Monaco have only six points from nine games – their worst start for countless footballing generations – and have posted only one win since the beginning of the term, having played 12 matches.

This is not the team that stunned PSG by winning the Ligue 1 title less than 18 months ago; there is no Kylian Mbappe to elevate a side that has had its greatest assets plucked away by European giants and subsequently its bones picked by a frustrating injury crisis.

“Let’s be honest, only two teams will go down – there’s no need to worry about Monaco,” Arsene Wenger told L’Equipe this week, optimistic that better days are just around the corner for the Cote d’Azur club.

And Henry’s former Arsenal boss is correct. The 41-year-old takes charge at a time when his former club is at its lowest ebb. There is nothing for him to lose and everything for him to gain.

Nevertheless, there are issues.

Most immediately, the plague of injuries should clear imminently, though in the short-term there are a raft of players still missing, most notably Rony Lopes – one of the few Monaco stars to pull their weight early in the campaign.

A more chronic problem, however, is the imbalance in the squad that is set to be highlighted on Saturday.

Centre-backs Andrea Raggi and Jemerson are both suspended for the trip to Strasbourg, leaving only Kamil Glik as a natural in that role. Meanwhile, there is an abundance of full-backs in the squad, one of whom is liable to be shoehorned into a team already bereft of first-pick goalkeepers Diego Benaglio and Danijel Subasic due to injury.

This is a squad in flux, and inevitably there will be winners and losers.

Nacer Chadli and Youri Tielemans may have played it down, but they are two players who have a head start on their club-mates, having worked with Henry during his time with Belgium.

It’s been a difficult beginning to life in France for former Tottenham winger Chadli, who has been largely anonymous in the six games that he has played. After the midweek international friendly with the Netherlands, he insisted that he starts the new regime on “an equal footing” with his team-mates, but in reality Henry’s arrival has the potential to blow life into his Monaco career, which seemed to be ailing before it had even begun.

Henry has insisted that he wants to play a technical brand of football, a la Pep Guardiola or Wenger, which will benefit the more skilful players in the squad. Former Barca youth Jordy Mboulais well versed in what is expected at Camp Nou, while Rony Lopes is another who should reap the rewards of such a switch.

But it is not without its risks; the pitch at Stade Louis II is notoriously poor, which will make a swift passing game difficult to implement, while Jardim had constructed a squad that was physically powerful with that in mind.

Meanwhile, the change of coach offers hope to others who found game time difficult to come by latterly under Jardim.

Almamy Toure stands out as an outstanding example in this regard. The 22-year-old full-back has featured only twice for the club this season, despite posting impressive career statistics in Ligue 1 that shows he has scored five times in only 50 appearances and has produced another 13 goals. Capable of playing across the back line, he could be a big benefactor in the new era.

The expectation is that Henry, even with his modest coaching experience, will have the means to turn things around in Monaco, but it is a question of how emphatically he can do it and how long it will take.

Even with more than a quarter of the season played, he possesses a squad with an arsenal of qualities sufficient to reach Europe next term, but it will take time to harness these and reach their full potential.

Big decisions lie ahead of the rookie coach, though if his playing career is anything to go by, these will be the first of many in a long and successful reign.


About Author

A football journalist specialising in the French and Scottish game, Robin has been writing professionally for over a decade. His career highlights include attending World Cups in Brazil and Russia, and Euro 2016 in France.

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