Clement’s right-wing dilemma

Whilst a settled starting-11 has seemingly crystallised in Philippe Clement’s mind in recent weeks, the right-wing position continues to rotate with neither candidate emphatically stating their case to start.

The release of AS Monaco line-ups in recent weeks have evoked a sense of déjà vu. Familiar names frequently reappear: Alexander Nübel is displaceable, the back-four is settled, Aleksandr Golovin starts on the left-hand side of inseparable Youssouf Fofana and Mohamed Camara, whilst Wissam Ben Yedder and Breel Embolo are an ever-present up front have been afforded the game time to create an already promising partnership.

Whilst Clement is an ardent subscriber to the ‘horses for courses’ theory and frequently states that the players “must prove things in every training session,” there is no denying that a frequent starting-11 has materialised. That is, everywhere apart from at right wing.

Krépin Diatta, Maghnes Akliouche, Takumi Minamino and Gelson Martins have all had minutes in the position, without either managing to emphatically state their claim for a starting spot.

In contrast, Golovin and Henrique have nailed down their spots on the left flank, and the resulting automatisms that have sprouted from this are reaping notable collective and personal rewards. Golovin is arguably in his best spell of form since arriving in the Principality, whilst from left-back Henrique has registered five assists in Ligue 1, putting him third in the standings by this metric. Only Neymar and Lionel Messi have outperformed the Brazilian, who continues to be curiously overlooked by his national team.

On the right-hand side, each player has their own mitigating factor. Diatta, the return from injury, Minamino, the lack of automatisms, Martins, lack of confidence, and Akliouche a lack of experience.

“First of all, Krépin has returned from a big injury. It is normal that he can’t play every match at his best level,” said Clement. The Senegalese winger is still finding his rhythm after suffering a ligament injury last November but is trusted by a manager with whom he worked in Belgium.

Phillipe Clement, photo by Monaco Life

For Akliouche, it is a question of recreating what he shows on the training ground, on matchday. “Maghnes has developed well the past weeks and months,” said Clement. “Because of that, he has received opportunities to prove that during matches. For now, he’s showing it more in training than in the matches. That’s how it often is with young players. As a result of that, there has been more rotation than on the left,” he continued.

Minamino, a €15m arrival from Liverpool in the summer has the challenge of integrating into this side. As a player that is dependent on close interchanges, the sooner he does so, the better.

“Taki can play on both sides. As a result of Golo’s form, he has played less on the left than on the right. He is getting there, but he isn’t yet the Minamino that I know from before. He needs more time to adapt. Each week it’s better, but he isn’t yet at his peak,” began Clement.

He added, “I think it is more about confidence now than anything physical. It is a new championship, you need to discover the division. With the attacking players, it is more complicated because you have to create a connection with the other players, especially with players like Minamino whose strength is combining with players. You need to develop automatisms with others and really know the runs that the other players make. I have full confidence that he’s getting there.”

For Martins, the player who has featured least for Monaco this season (204 minutes on the pitch), the equation is a little more complicated, with Clement citing confidence as a factor. “Gelson has played some matches there (on the right), but with less success than before,” he began.

He then told Monaco Life, “For me, Gelson is a player with a lot of quality. But until now, he has lacked efficiency. He has given a lot for the team. In the final action, he has offered less than others. Sometimes it’s confidence because we see more in training. It is up to him to prove that he can be the most efficient player in this position.”

His concluding remarks on the topic sounded like an invitation for a candidate to make the position theirs. “There is a lot of competition in the wing positions here. It’s up to the players to prove who can be the most efficient for the team both offensively and defensively,” Clement told Monaco Life.

The onus is now on one of Diatta, Minamino, Akliouche, or Martins to impose themselves and solve Clement’s right-wing dilemma.



Photo of Krépin Diatta, Takumi Minamino and Gelson Martins by Monaco Life