After a super start with three wins in three games, the U17s of AS Monaco had a slightly more difficult spell away, taking only one point out of six possible. The only points were lost in the standings, because for the rest, Manu Dos Santos and his players turned in a faultless run which places them at the top of the table after eight matchdays. While amateur competitions are currently on hold, the coach of the youngest team in the Academy looks back on the start of the season and talks about how he and his staff are managing this new stoppage of competition.
Manu, your side is currently in top spot with 19 points. Talk to us about the start of the season…
It’s a good start to the season even though it took a while to settle down. We started off well with three wins in as many games and then we had some games that were a bit more difficult in how they were played, but that’s totally normal. We have 16 new players so it takes time for that to fall into place and for players to take ownership of what has been asked of them on a daily basis since August.
What were you missing to get a result at Lyon, the only match where you lost ?
We were naïve in conceding two avoidable goals on free kicks taken quickly. We got punished, and when you’re two goals behind it’s always difficult to come back. We had opportunities to come back at key moments in the game, but we didn’t know how to seize them because we lacked a cutting edge.
You then drew at Andrézieux (1-1), but showed real strength of character by coming back even being a man down.
That day, we faced a very well organized and cohesive team from Andrézieux. We didn’t perform well, were lacking in speed and inspiration. Despite everything, even if things seemed headed to a defeat, with an average game and having conceded a red card, we showed character to level the score and take a point. That was a real bright spot in this game.
Can we say that these two poor results are important for the future and that they will help show players that not everything is taken for granted?
This is part of learning as a high level athlete. YIt is important to analyze the losses, you have to be aware that you can not always do things well and try to correct things in the matches that followed. This question is always present, even in victory, in order to analyze what has happened and to be able to work on things. The questioning is permanent and it is thanks to this that we can then find regularity. A player’s development in training is not linear, there are always ups and downs. When it’s good, you have to keep emphasizing what’s being done correctly, and if not, you have to analyze without being defeatist and then work to address the situation.
This good start to the season was stopped by the FFF who paused all competitions until at least December 1. How are you setting about working now?
Day by day. We are trying to find positive things and to continue working. It’s true that there’s no more competition on the weekends, so we mostly stick to their individual training so that they keep improving. We are fortunate to be able to train and are aware that we are privileged.
Can you tell us about what you call “individual training”?
As there are no more matches on the weekend, we have more time to develop our players individually, especially through technical work. However, this does not mean that we are forgetting about the collective aspect of things and this is how this period allows us to take the time to establish our principles of play, both offensively and defensively. We have to look for goals other than competition. It’s not the best time for sure, but you have to put it in perspective. There are much more serious things in life. For anyone in any profession, society is not easy today.
Did the players understand this stoppage of the season?
They are bound to be disappointed because it is their passion and the matches at the weekend are their reward for a whole week of work. There is disappointment, but also understanding, and it’s our role to watch over that. This is new, so there is no demobilization of the players, but we are aware that it could happen. In this case, we will have to talk and be clear-headed so that everyone stays focused. We are working in a classic way right now every week, so instead of having a competitive match against an opponent, we organize internal scrimmages in order to keep the pace and be ready.