Welcome to Stick or Twist, our weekly column here at The Football Faithful taking a look at the under-fire manager of the moment and ponders whether they deserve the sack or not. This week we take at look at…
Name: Thierry Henry
Club: AS Monaco
Time In Charge: 1 month, 3 weeks
Odds For The Sack: 6/5
When Thierry Henry returned to his boyhood club last month, he described it as a “dream come true.” In the space of just two months though, the dream has turned into a nightmare; one win out of nine games in all competitions leaves Monaco lying second-bottom of Ligue 1 and out of the UEFA Champions League.
Less than two years after winning the league and reaching the semi-finals of European football’s elite competition, ASM are battling relegation. How did this happen? And is Henry the man to turn things around?
The legendary French striker’s first foray into management might well be the biggest challenge of his career. Four losses and just one win in the league since his arrival has left Monaco stuck at second from bottom.
A 1-0 win over Caen appeared to suggest that the ship was starting to turn around, but that was followed up with a 2-0 loss to Atletico Madrid and a devastating 2-1 defeat at the hands of Montpellier, who scored two late goals to snatch the three points.
During Henry’s short reign, Monaco have less than a goal per game while conceding 1.7 goals per game, which paints a story of its own.
Monaco’s squad is most definitely better than their current position in the table belies, but they have been hit by a string of bad injuries: 11 players are currently out, including former Croatia goalkeeper and World Cup runner-up Danijel Subasic, experienced defender Kamil Glik, and marksman Stevan Jovetic.
Combined with the fact that the vast majority of ASM’s best players have been sold in the last couple of years and one can see there are some major mitigating circumstances for their current woes.
One on-field issue plaguing the side is Henry’s inability to settle on a formation. So far he has experimented with a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1, 4-3-3, 3-4-3, and even tried out 4-4-2 in the loss to Montpellier.
Of course, while the chopping and changing doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the manager, formation is not as important as the overall tactical approach.
Henry has continued along a similar vein to predecessor Leonardo Jardim, preferring slow build-up play from the back, before pushing the ball out wide to create goal-scoring opportunities.
Unfortunately the passing at times has not been of the requisite quality, putting pressure on the back-line and allowing the opposition to have easy chances on goal.
Evidently Henry is not happy with how his players are carrying out his instructions either:
Thierry Henry caught on camera gesticulating at Nacer Chadli during Monaco vs Montpellier: "F**k! Stop trying to anticipate the ball, stay deep." (J + 1)
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) December 2, 2018
Thierry Henry to Youri Tielemans during Monaco vs Montpellier: "Like in the 2nd half in Madrid, 3 man midfield, Golo(vin) on the left. How many times do I have to say… in English, in French, what else do you want." (J+1)
— Get French Football News (@GFFN) December 2, 2018
If you thought things were unstable on the pitch, then you should see what’s happening off of it.
While Les Monegasques have at least appeared to be a model of how to run a profitable and efficient football club over the last few years, owner Dmitry Rybolovlev is under investigation from the police.
While we don’t know the circumstances of the investigation just yet, it does throw uncertainty over the future of the club. If Henry is expecting to have transfer funds in January, as has been reported, will Rybolovlev’s off-field problems affect that?
In 2011 the Russian billionaire famously bought the club for €1 when it was struggling in the French second division. Since then ASM have embarked on a program of buying young, up-and-coming starlets who they can develop and play alongside proven talents, before selling them on at a massive profit.
We have seen them do this with the likes of Kylian Mbappé, James Rodriguez, Thomas Lemar, and Fabinho to name but a few. Just as much as this model can provide tremendous highs, a la 2016-17, it can also lead to really poor ones.
It turns out selling all of your stars without replacing them sufficiently will eventually make your team worse, and unfortunately for Henry that time has come for Monaco. The former Arsenal striker can do nothing about these things, but he does need to start finding solutions on the pitch.
Frank Leboeuf made the interesting point on ESPN that neither Henry nor Monaco “know how to fight relegation”, and the psychological battle could be their undoing.
Perhaps the biggest problem facing Henry however, is that he is still finding his feet as a manager – he has no set system or preferred formation and no experience to lean on. Everything he is doing right now is for the first time. The question is: do ASM have the time to wait for Henry to find his feet and figure this out?
Currently the club have the financial strength to withstand relegation, but what happens if their owner is charged, or simply loses interest in the project if they’re in Ligue 2? The squad would surely disintegrate and the entire financial model on which the club has been running would be thrown into disarray.
In this writer’s opinion, this isn’t a Gary Neville at Valencia situation and Henry at least deserves the chance to improve the squad in January. But there is every chance of this season turning into an Alan Shearer at Newcastle United scenario, which would be an awful shame for a manager who has visions of being involved at the highest levels of the game.