Niko Kovac: "No Ligue 1 team is easy to play against"
The winning run continues for Niko Kovac and his players, with a seventh straight victory recorded after a tough match against Nîmes at the Stade des Costières (4-3). In a match which had more than its share of ups and downs, the Rouge et Blanc wobbled but did what was necessary thanks in large part to an exceptional hat trick from Aleksandr Golovin. Satisfied with the result even if the facts of the match will have created some notes of bitterness, the Monaco coach looked back at this latest victory in his post-match press conference.
Good evening Niko. Did you expect a match that was a little easier this evening?
Not at all, well not for me. Everyone saw us winning easily, but I want you to remember that I said we were going to face a difficult team to play against. I have played a lot of matches like this, I told my players and at the press conference that no Ligue 1 team is easy to play against, especially when they are fighting for survival. You saw as much, we were leading 2-0 and could have made it more with an offisde goal. We had more difficulties afterwards.
We’ve seen you talk to your players a lot. How can you explain this passage of play?
We can think about this in two ways. The first is, on the one hand, that collectively we may have been deceived by thinking that it was going to be a little easier than expected. Nîmes are playing for survival, and were winning more and more duels as the minutes passed. Conversely, were under pressure, until halftime in any case. Things were eased by very good performance from Aleksandr Golovin, however.
Exactly, how do you see this performance? An exceptional match?
He’s a fantastic player, I’m very happy with the victory and for him. It was his first start in a while; he’s a top player. It is true that he has an incredible quality to his shooting, but also in his passing game. He’s the man of the match, there’s no doubt about it.
You’ll give him more and more playing time …
It is important to pay attention to his coming back gradually, after having experienced a serious injury. We want to be very careful, working with the medical staff, we want to get him there little by little. It’s not easy to make choices in my starting lineup, but it’s good for us that there is competition in the squad. Everyone must give the best of themselves.
You are still in touching distance with the top three. What is your take on this?
The difference between Monaco and Lille, Paris and Lyon is that these three sides have had the opportunity to work together for many years, they know each other perfectly. Moreover, they concede fewer goals than us. We need to improve on the defensive side of things. We need to work harder. I will repeat myself, but we must worry more about who’s in sixth. At the end of the season, we will take stock. There are 14 matches left to play.
Wissam Ben Yedder didn’t seem to enjoy being subbed off. How did you react to this?
There is no problem with Wissam, I spoke with him when he left. We needed some freshness, that’s why I decided to replace him. He’s playing all the matches in a row now, we need him.
Did you find your midfield was off the pace today?
I prefer to speak about the collective. When we were leading 2-0, we felt at ease. It is the team in general which must learn to work together and record a win that’s more comfortable. This is the difference with the teams in front of us, they are not slack in their performances. Once again we have to see things in a more holistic way.
Finally, did you ask Aleksandr Golovin to take his free kick?
It’s true that I was surprised to see him take the free kick, I thought that Cesc was going to take it. I know Golo’s shooting and passing quality, I asked him to take it. It may be an assist for me today (smiles).