He has finished five of his last six outings in Ligue 1 with a clean sheet, including being decisive in the first half against Metz to keep his clean sheet at 0-0; Benjamin Lecomte has been a big part of the defensive balance AS Monaco has regained in recent weeks. As part of Niko Kovac’s squad, in which he is one of the most experienced players, the man with 243 matches in the top flight will inevitably have a role to play in the run-in, in which the Red and Whites have become contenders. Two days away from hosting Dijon at the Stade Louis-II, the Monegasque goalkeeper spoke about the race for Europe with the press.
Hello Benjamin. You are the best team in Ligue 1 in 2021, and are hosting the bottom side. Is this match somewhat uneven on paper?
Within the squad we are very motivated and do not think that this is an uneven match at all. I played in Dijon when we were battling for survival, I know what it is to want to knock the big teams off their pedestals. So we are preparing for this match with the seriousness it requires, and with the objective of taking the three points.
Isn’t there a risk of taking this game lightly?
In every game there are risks. Our opponents are professionals, who want to deliver a big performance against us. We will have to be very careful and focused from the start of the match.
You have recorded several clean sheets over the last few matches. How do you explain it?
I think that this can be explained by more concentration, application and willingness to go and earn these clean sheets on our part. It’s a collection of things, but I would say that it is above all a sense of purpose that has let us find a defensive balance, and consistency at the back.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) April 5, 2021
Can the disappointing Cup match against Metz act as a bit of motivation?
It’s very rare to always be on top. We won this match, while being average. It shows the team that when you let your guard down a bit you can get caught ought. After all, we had played three days before, but in the end we did the job.
Are you now reassured about your ability to be solid at the back?
It is especially reassuring to see that the work we have been doing for several months is paying off. We have delivered a series of big performances, especially on the defensive level lately. Before, even if we scored a lot of goals, we also conceded a lot. And we have seen that by being more solid in defense we will win matches more easily. It can even make the difference in the goal average at the end of the season if we keep up that level of strength.
Are we still not talking about the podium now that you are in third place?
Our goal, we repeat, is above all to confirm fourth place, because mathematically there is nothing yet that’s a given. Today we are focused on our performances, whoever the opponent is in front of us. We have one goal, and that is to improve match after match, whether in the League or the Cup. Once we get fourth place, we’ll see what can be done. And if the Cup were to be part of the story of the season, that would be great.
Isn’t that a lack of ambition?
We’ve been in third for five days. That’s why I’m saying this. If in the near future the gap widens between 3rd and 4th place, we’ll see. But today that is not yet the case. We are lucky to have a talented young side and also some players with experience, and I think it’s this mix that makes us have a good season. It’s up to us to continue.
What is the coach asking of you?
He asks me to work a lot on my kicking, to participate in the game. That’s why we are working on that, on playing the ball out from the back. It might have been a bit more complicated at the start of the year, but now that we’ve got it right, things are a lot better I think.
Did the save against Metz give you a little more confidence?
This is the character of Monaco, we concede few chances, and on these few occasions we have to be decisive. So I’m very happy to have made this save against Metz. It’s like a striker who scores a goal, that save serves as a goal for me. There was just one save to make in this game and it was done. It could have gone the other way at the start of the season. I am here to play my matches and show my qualities. I’m glad it’s going a lot better right now. But I have worked a lot to reach a certain level and help my partners.
🎦 𝐋𝐚 𝐦𝐚𝐠𝐧𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐪𝐮𝐞 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐝𝐞 𝐝𝐞 @Benj_Lecomte 🧤
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) April 5, 2021
How did you feel about the criticisms of your performances?
This is the thankless part of the job. I didn’t have a bad sense of things at all, I just kept working because in my opinion that’s the only answer. So obviously there was the injury, so it was doubly difficult because we had to move quickly. Two days later I was already running, I was doing athletic work with the trainers. Maybe I gained the physical element that I could have lost by being totally sidelined. It’s more problematic for a goalkeeper — I think Sofiane will come back much faster than me.
The staff has taken precautions with injured players since the start of the season. Does that explain the fact that you are back in such good shape?
We are indeed taking more precautions than before. I think elsewhere I could have come back earlier, but sometimes you have to listen to what we are told. It’s today that proves the medical staff right, they told me to be patient. And the point is, I have no more pain today. A broken hand, I wasn’t expecting it. The question when you have surgery is when can you come back; today it’s behind me.
What is your relationship with Vatroslav Mihacic, the goalkeeping coach, like?
When I’m not playing , like in the Cup, for example, I work individually with him. We rebuilt our entire goalkeeping team this offseason. I discovered another style of goalkeeping, another school of thought. I think he has given me consistency in my performances. The position of goalkeeper is growing in focus, there is a fervor for this position. We started with the basics and above all with confidence, because that’s what a goalkeeper needs to improve.