We’re starting to run out of superlatives — AS Monaco have just won their 18th match out of 21 in 2021 (in all competitions), also making it a 5th win in a row in Ligue 1 against Angers (0-1), the Red and White are chasing more than ever after a place in the Champions League. With a 6th clean sheet in a row in the league, Niko Kovac’s men now have their destiny in hand before four “finals” to conclude the run-in. It’s this exceptional run of form that the Monegasque coach wants to maintain, as well as fostering the dreams of his increasingly ambitious players.
Hello Niko. Was this the most difficult match for you of late?
Yes. I keep repeating myself but Ligue 1 is a very tough league, very difficult for everyone, there are very good teams and Angers is one of them. It was a very tough game, I expected as much, because it was also the third game of the week for both teams. They were playing with five at the back and we were having a little more trouble creating chances, although we didn’t finish our two good chances in the first half. That kind of game, if you win it, is the kind of win you can take with you and to help achieve your goals, and we went looking for that success again today.
Do you have any news about Stevan Jovetić, who went off with an injury?
No. We have to wait until tomorrow to find out more. It looks like it’s an issue with his calf, but we have to wait for the results tomorrow, he will take tests.
How do you manage Wissam Ben Yedder, and what did you think of your captain’s game?
We are a very strong team. I always say that we are a tight knit group that can achieve big things. The most important thing is that everyone contributes something is important to the results of the team. Everyone can help. I’m not speaking about substitutes, but players who can finish a march. We have the best bench in Ligue 1, as we are the team that scores the most through their substitutes. Everyone knows that when they do not start a match it is not a punishment and that they will have the opportunity to play and prove themselves during the match. This is the nature of competition. They are all competitors, and this is how good performances come about.
What result do you want to see tonight between Lyon and Lille?
I think the best team should win. We can only influence our destiny through our own performances, so we don’t expect any missteps from our opponents. In this year 2021, my team has been the best in the top flight, without our having to look at the other teams. We will see what the result is tonight, and we can discuss it if you wish at the next press conference.
Don’t you think it’s possible to go for the title now?
It’s too early to talk about that, as there are four games to play and our schedule is far from clear. We played against Angers, and we still have to face Lyon, Reims, Rennes and Lens. These are all tough games. We will also see what the draw for the Coupe de France for the semi-finals has in store (AS Monaco will face Rumilly). We will take these games one after the other, and if we win them all, maybe something beautiful can be possible.
You have only conceded one goal in the last ten matches. This sort of level is the sign of a champion…
In the first half of the season we conceded a lot of easy goals due to individual mistakes. Today my players are making a lot less of those. The relationships between the players are there too, because everyone knows what they have to do within the team. And that’s a strength, because football is a game where situations are repeated, game after game. We have to know how to defend aggressively when an opponent wants to split the lines with a pass. The players have also gained confidence over time, they feel good and know what each one has to do. It’s the result of a lot of hard work in training and on the pitch and I love when my players progress that way.
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) April 25, 2021
Is your goal now as a coach to embody a sense of calm for your squad?
Yes of course, I chat with my players every day and I have the feeling that they always want more. Why should I stop them getting this? When I said we wanted fourth place, they wanted more. Today if they want to finish third or even second, I don’t want to restrict their ambition. They must take advantage of the situation because they are having a fantastic season, and once again nobody expected AS Monaco to be at this level at the start of the year. Everyone was talking about PSG, Lille, Lyon and Rennes, but no one was mentioning Monaco. It means that the players did what it takes to realize a dream. And dreaming is the first step to achieving something; I don’t want to stand in opposition to this dream.