An undisputed starter in midfield alongside Youssouf Fofana as part of the famous pair nicknamed “Fanamenial”, Aurélien Tchouaméni has assumed a new dimension since the start of 2021. With 125 ball recoveries in 14 matches, he is quite simply the best in Ligue 1 this year. He is thus one of the great architects of the Monegasques’ current run of good form (only 1 defeat in their last 17 matches). Two days away from a trip top to Bordeaux and a reunion with the club where took his first steps as a professional, the Monegasque number 8 has rightly mentioned the race for Europe in speaking to the press.
Hello Aurélien. You haven’t been conceding any goals of late. Where have these changes come from?
This is due to our hard work. We were able to erase the problems we had in the first part of the season. The reverse fixture in Paris, where we had a clean sheet (2-0 win) was a turning point for us mentally. We are more relaxed, we are making fewer mistakes. We have managed to be more solid at the back.
This match against Bordeaux will serve as a reunion for you. Is it a special match?
Yes it will of course be a special match because it will be the first time that I will be back at the Matmut Atlantique. It will be a great occasion. I’m happy to be back in Bordeaux.
What do you think of the team as an opponent? How are you going to win?
It’s an important game against a team that has a dynamic opposite to us. Bordeaux are in a difficult period. But we will have to be vigilant because they will be keen to play a big game. We have to really be serious and do what we have been putting into place this week in training. It will take a complete match to get three points.
You are now about to play four away games. Does this change anything?
We are on a great run with a lot of away wins in recent weeks. The context is more favorable for the away sides this season, due to playing behind closed doors. There is less pressure. The winning percentage is much higher.
Do you feel you’ve evolved this season?
Yes, I have passed a sort of milestone. But that’s normal because I’ve been working on a daily basis. I feel the confidence of the coach and my teammates in developing my game. It’s good for me and for the team. We’re having a great season, but it’s not over yet. My game has developed along with the team. We have done a good job.
Are you surprised at your development?
I never doubted my qualities. When I arrived in January 2020, I went through a period of adaptation because I had just joined a new club. Then there was the arrival of Niko Kovac in July. I was convinced that people would be able to discover the best side of my game over time. So I am not surprised.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) March 15, 2021
Do you want to be part of this project for the long-term, at AS Monaco?
Monaco has an ambitious project. I was happy to join this club in January 2020. The new Performance Center will be up and running soon. The demands of the club are rising with a great coach and great players. This is a project that interests me and I can see myself totally fitting into it.
Can you tell us about Robert Kovac? How is working with him on a daily basis?
Robert is the deputy. He has experienced the highest level. We listen to the advice he gives us. He helps us on set pieces. This is the area where he is the boss. He helps us as well in life. This morning for example, during video analysis, he took the floor to give advice to the players in the midfield. “Robby” has a very important place in the staff in helping us on a daily basis. There is a beautiful chemistry between Niko and him.
Can you imagine a scenario where the top four teams will win their last six games?
No, because it will be impossible with these teams playing each other. We have to take things game by game. If you win one weekend but lose the weekend after, what you achieved will have been for nothing. There is less pressure to think of things like this. We’re still in the race, and that’s positive. We’ll see come the end of the season.
Will you soon be able to consider yourself to be in the race for the podium and the title?
We are already in it (smiles). We are one of the top four teams. We are taking it game by game. Of course, at the end of the matches, we look at the results of the others. On May 23, we’ll see what we have to celebrate — European qualification or something else.
You are part of a young squad. The coach does his utmost to protect you …
The coach has experience in these kinds of situations. He talks in a certain way with the younger players and he has another way of speaking with the older ones. I am OK with that. No one was expecting us to do this well. We are savoring it and we want to stay in the race as long as possible.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) March 22, 2021
Is the management’s goal the Champions League?
I’ve spoken with several players on the team. No one expected us to be at this level. Being third six rounds from the end of the season, we would have signed up for that immediately at the start of the season. We are fortunate to be a fairly young group, we are carefree. Many of us are fighting for the top spots for the first time. There is no stress. We are taking things game by game. First Bordeaux, then Lyon in the Cup and then Angers. The rest is to be determined. The most important thing is to focus on the pitch.
Many young players have turned to the nutritionist. Does this help in terms of life together as a squad and cohesion?
Yes it helps to create a group lifestyle. In the morning, we discuss what we ate, what we liked and what we didn’t. We have a chef to cook up dishes for us. This allows us to have a healthy lifestyle and not have to worry about knowing what to eat when we get home. It’s very important for young players.
How did you see your injury with Les Espoirs? Are there any lingering after-effects?
I was scared in the moment. I was afraid it might have been worse. When I saw the footage again, I was even more worried. The next day, I took some tests with the doctor here in Monaco. He told me that there would be no problems. The medical staff has been important in my returning quickly. Today I have no more problems, so all the better.
What memories will you keep of your first caps with the France U-21s?
It was a great experience. I was already used to playing for the youth national teams. But the U21s were new to me. There are good players in my generation. I was able to make new friendships. You had to get stuck in straight away. The first game went badly and then we had to play catch-up to advance to the quarterfinals. My goal is to play in those quarterfinals in May, as I played in the group stage. As normal, it will depend on my performances with the club. So I must continue to perform well with AS Monaco.
Was the reverse fixture a pivotal moment in playing a new system?
That week was important with the defeat in Lyon then the victory against Bordeaux; it was a pivotal moment. In Lyon, we had a tough match. We changed what had been put in place and then we had four straight wins. It was like a new Monaco at that time. Relationships on the pitch were improving, with myself and Youssouf or between Wissam and Kevin, for example.
Do players like the 4-4-2 system more?
The players may prefer the 4-4-2 as they feel more comfortable; this system is really made for our group and it is bearing fruit.