Despite their second-place standing in France, Falcao and Monaco have some serious needs in the January transfer window.
By Jonathan Johnson (@Jon_LeGossip)
With the January transfer window now well and truly open for business, Ligue 1’s moneymen Paris Saint-Germain and AS Monaco were expected to be two of the busiest clubs on the market.
So far, that is not how it has transpired, although Les Monegasques have completed the signing of Ivorian striker Lacina Traore (who has since been loaned out to English Premier League side West Ham United) and been linked with a number of star players.
Claudio Ranieri’s team already boasts world-class talents such as Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez and Joao Moutinho, but there is definite room for improvement.
Heading into the opening Championnat match of 2014 on Friday, away at 2011-12 champions Montpellier HSC, the principality outfit have not yet added to the squad that finished 2013 trailing defending champions PSG by just three points.
That itself is an achievement for a newly promoted side, particularly when you consider how long the majority of Laurent Blanc’s group have played together and how many new additions Monaco have bedded in since last summer.
However, while PSG are only expected to enter the transfer window to fine-tune or launch a pre-emptive strike on a European rival for a star name this month, Ranieri’s men are looking to add to their ranks in order to catch up with their capital city rivals.
Before launching an assault on the market, though, here are the main areas that need addressing at the Stade Louis II.
Despite scoring nine goals in 14 starts since arriving in France, Colombian striker Falcao’s introduction to life in Ligue 1 has been far from memorable. Absent for a month between the end of November and the end of December with a mysterious “injury,” El Tigre has come in for plenty of criticism. He did not help himself by missing a penalty in Monaco’s final match of 2013 at home to struggling Valenciennes, a match that Ranieri’s men surprisingly lost 2-1.
But Falcao is not necessarily the problem; it is his lack of service that has been most bothering and will need addressing first this month.
Considering that Les Monegasques boast the creative talents of Rodriguez, Moutinho, Lucas Ocampos and Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, it must be noted that only his compatriot Rodriguez has stepped up to provide enough chances consistently.
Rodriguez has seven assists heading into 2014 (only one of which was to Falcao), while Moutinho has three. Ocampos and Ferreira Carrasco have only mustered one assist between them (provided by the Belgian), but have netted five times combined.
Out wide, there has not been enough service for the front men, be it Falcao or Emmanuel Riviere. With Traore now on the books ahead of next season, Ranieri will be keen to remedy that.
Ocampos and Ferreira Carrasco, particularly the latter, are outstanding talents. However, they make ASM more of a team of individuals, which is exactly what PSG were branded as in their early days under Qatar Sports Investments.
In order to ensure a greater balance between scoring goals and providing them from out wide, a player linked with a move to the principality—like Real Madrid’s Angel di Maria or Manchester United’s Nani—would be a perfect fit.
At the other end of the field, there are some concerns for Ranieri, too, as his central defensive partnership between Ricardo Carvalho and Eric Abidal begins to show its age. The pair boasts a combined age of 69 and, while there is no shortage of experience, the duo’s lack of mobility has contributed to an at-times static back line.
While PSG have conceded the same number of goals this term (13), the French champions’ problems in defence have been of a slightly different nature than Monaco’s.
Abidal and Carvalho, like Marquinhos and Lucas Digne in the capital, are new arrivals. But while the latter pair is still naïve in many respects, given their ages, they are fully fit and mobile.
The former pair, however, is starting to get outpaced.
ASM’s back line is still better than most in Le Championnat, but if Ranieri is serious about a Ligue 1 title run, then a player of the calibre of reported target Eliaquim Managala of FC Porto will be necessary.
To a lesser extent, the same could be said of Monaco’s full-backs. Layvin Kurzawa and Fabinho have been excellent at times, but both are still young. Kurzawa in particular has made a few mistakes, while Fabinho has been replaced by Andrea Raggi in recent weeks.
Both are players for the future at the Stade Louis II, but Ranieri would not do any harm by bringing another full-back—perhaps a left-sided one such as last summer’s reported target Fabio Coentrao, who is out of favour at Real Madrid.
Finally, finding a new goalkeeper will also be a pressing issue for Les Monegasques, with current No. 1 Danijel Subasic and on-loan Argentine Sergio Romero both struggling to convince.
Barcelona’s soon-to-be-out-of-contract netminder Victor Valdes will be an appealing target, but with the Catalan giants unlikely to allow him to leave before the end of the season, other targets may need identifying.
Heading into the New Year, Monaco can be pleased with their work in the opening half of the season.
Second place, just three points behind PSG at present, is an impressive showing from a side who could easily have struggled to form a coherent unit and might have been struggling in mid-table at this point.
That said, though, there is a long way to go before the principality outfit can rival PSG for both strength in depth and the team chemistry that allows them to compete adequately on four fronts, while Ranieri’s men struggle to cope with two.
A few additions here and there and Ligue 1 could have surprise champions come the end of the year.
That would be a seventh different winner in seven separate seasons—not bad for a league that many like to call predictable and boring!