Niko Kovac: "I'm not afraid to give the youngsters their chance"
The weather was threatening under the menace of tropical storm Alex this Friday in the Alpes Maritimes, and as a result, the pre-match press conference of Niko Kovac was given via Zoom. It was an opportunity for the coach of AS Monaco to take stock ahead of AS Monaco’s trip to Brest this Sunday to the Stade Francis-Le Blé (3 PM), as part of the 6th Matchday in Ligue 1 Uber Eats.
Face à la situation météorologique en cours dans la région, le coach Niko Kovac a répondu aux questions des journalistes par visio-conférence avant le match face au @SB29 ce dimanche. pic.twitter.com/1WWxsOxEa1
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) October 2, 2020
AS Monaco announced this morning the appointment of James Bunce as Director of Performance. What will be his role within the Club?
The arrival of James followed many discussions with Paul Mitchell, as we thought it was important for us to have someone in this position, both for AS Monaco and for Cercle Bruges. It is not necessarily someone who will be on the pitch, but rather to aid us in performance analysis. James has a lot of experience, he is a former professional rugby player who has worked in England and the United States. I’m sure he’s going to give us his skill and help us a lot.
Have you found the refereeing decisions particularly severe towards AS Monaco?
After our first few matches, I noticed that we had conceded quite a few cards and that I thought to myself that at this rate we could reach 100 yellow cards by the end of the season. I don’t think it’s specific to AS Monaco, because in general the referees are quite strict this season. It is not uncommon to see yellow cards being handed out in the first 5-10 minutes. Maybe it normally would take a little longer to get a first yellow card in a match, because the sooner earlier that happens, the greater the risk of having red cards. Regarding my opinion on the sending off of Aurélien Tchouameni against Strasbourg, it’s true that the first card was justified, but the second was unfortunate because he slipped on the ball. For Axel (Disasi), he is holding a player by the arm and this is not a new rule so we respect this decision. Again, I think we should concede less cards in the first few minutes, because that puts everyone under pressure. And there is also another factor, which is that since there are no spectators, you can hear the players shouting a lot more when there is contact on the pitch.
Have you spoken to your players about this?
Already, after the first match I told my players to be really careful not to concede too many cards. We want to protect our opponents, because we don’t want to hurt players, but at the same time we also want to protect our players. Obviously, I’m happy when we win a match playing with nine or ten against eleven, but I’d rather finish the game with everyone.
Following the red card given to Axel Disasi, you brought in Chrislain Matsima to play alongside Benoît Badiashile in the defense axis. Could this duo be renewed on Sunday?
Chrislain is a very talented young player who is an U19 international, so he of course has a good future. He is one of the many young players who are doing good work in our squad. They know I’ll give them all their chance. Chrislain made a very good start against Strasbourg, he is very clean in his recovery abilities and at ease in the air. There are a lot of factors to take into account, the bookings, the Covid-19, so in the end we look at which players we can have available and we will adapt. But it is certain that the young people will have their chance.
What do you think about the role Wissam Ben Yedder has played so far, and will he stay with you?
Yes, I can confirm it, he will stay. Wissam is a really very good scorer, a top player, who is part of the France team. He was top scorer last season in Ligue 1 (18 goals, nldr) along with Kylian Mbappé. He’s our captain right now, and he’s not just focused on his own performance. He runs a lot and puts in a lot of effort for the team. I told you he was going to start scoring very quickly. In addition, he has an increasingly impresssive relationship technically with Kevin (Volland), so he’s not alone up front. He is getting better and better physically. Obviously he wants to be the best striker, the top scorer in Ligue 1 and he wants to play in Euro 2021. If I were to give him a mark so far, it would be 10 out of 10.
Au petit-déjeuner ce matin, un café et un but de @WissBenYedder 💁♂️ pic.twitter.com/18wPRFgVKv
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) September 28, 2020
What have you done to add more support around him?
It’s true that in the first four matches Wissam may have lacked a bit of support from our midfielders and wingers. So we decided to make sure there was more support around him. And in the last match it was borne out as Wissam scored two goals on two assists from Kevin (Volland) and Stevan Jovetic also had a great chance. This is very positive, we see that we can continue to make progress in this area. We are always analyzing our performances to try to improve and James will help us with this as well.
You have five young players from the Academy in the squad, what do you think overall of academies in France, who have shown a lot of talent?
There is a lot of talent among young players in France, there is a lot of potential, a big pool. I admit it’s hard to say how that’s possible. It’s true that there are really a lot of qualities in young people here, and notably at AS Monaco. Anyway, I am not afraid to give the youngsters their chance. They may make mistakes, but you have to know how to give them a chance so that they can progress. I am happy with their performance so far. Sometimes they can make mistakes but the important thing is that they get back up and then we are there to help them. It’s part of their learning process.