After an intense week of work at the La Turbie training center, and two days before a visit from Bordeaux to the Stade Louis-II (17:00, closed doors) Niko Kovac spoke at a press conference. The AS Monaco coach preceded Wissam Ben Yedder, captain of the Rouge et Blanc, via Zoom, as a result of the health restrictions that have been put into place. Extracts.
How did things go this week?
I watched the Lyon match twice this week and found that we had plenty of the ball, 65% possession. If you don’t take into account the spaces we left at the back and the mistakes, we had a pretty good match. On the other side, of course, there was a good team from Lyon which was just in the semifinal of the Champions League. I also saw a lot of good things, we kept the ball and we created some great chances. We have to stay playing the way we play, to remain dominant in our style. There is no reason to change.
What will have to be changed against Bordeaux?
Bordeaux are a good team, one point ahead of us at present, and they have a very good defense. We have to be careful because they also have good attackers and a good midfield. We are in Ligue 1 and every mistake can be costly on the pitch. I think we need to reduce the number of individual mistakes, and if we can do that, I’m sure we’ll have positive results. In any case, that’s what we have been working on this week. I’m sure the players understand and they won’t make them again.
Did you want to protect your players by taking the loss upon yourself?
I am a coach and with my players we all win together and we all lose together. Against Lyon I take the loss upon myself because I have to protect my players effectively. Obviously we have a young team, but I don’t think that’s an excuse, because it’s not necessarily only the young players who have made mistakes so far. If you lose 4-1 at Groupama Stadium against Lyon and only had possession 35% of the time, that would be worrying, but it wasn’t the case. To bring along these young players, I think we have to give them the opportunity to play, although there will be mistakes sometimes. This is how they will learn and improve.
Are you going to keep this attacking philosophy?
We want to keep this style of play. Maybe some parts need to be adapted. We attacked well in certain sequences. We want to stay with that aggressive style in terms of putting pressure on the ball carrier. On the other hand, when the opposing team is a little higher up the pitch, you have to adapt and maybe take less risk. Against Lyon, we were too high but without any pressure on the ball carrier or winning back the ball, that’s what was wrong.
Is the 3-5-2 system used at the end of the game an option or was it just to finish the match?
It is a system that we can effectively review in the future. It is important that a team can play in two or three different patterns. As I said before, the most important thing is not really what the system is, but what is the attitude of the players in a given system, how we work within this system. If you are close to the opponent’s goal, it is important to press high, but you need to be more compact when the opposite team is higher on the pitch. For the moment, I think our team is well suited to playing four at the back, if we discount the Lyon game.
A series of important matches awaits you, do you feel extra pressure?
I know we only have eleven points and we should have three or four more. I’m going to repeat myself, but I think if you reduce the number of mistakes you may have made in the past, I’m sure the results will follow. Obviously the matches against Bordeaux, Nice and PSG will be three difficult games, but we are taking it game by game and staying positive. We have shown our players what to do — not to repeat the same mistakes — we will continue to be positive in our speech and lead by example.
How do you see the matter of continuing to play football while France is in lockdown once more?
It is a difficult situation, but we accept it. It is a decision of the French government, of the President, and we accept and respect it. We are preparing for this match professionally and are focused on the Bordeaux match.
You are naturally calm, do you ever get angry?
When we are at the La Turbie training center, we show our players what they are doing right and wrong. I have to behave a bit like a father. This means that sometimes you need to know how to be strict or even more relaxed, depending on the situation. Again we have to try to explain to the players what we want to do and what needs to be improved. That’s what I’m trying to do, but at the end of the day we are human and we have to stay together first and foremost.