Since arriving on the Rock in the summer of 2019, Ruben Aguilar has played 26 matches in Red and White. Present in Niko Kovac’s starting XI for the first three matchdays, a player who changed numbers in the offseason, from 12 to 26, speaks of, in addition to Saturday’s match against Rennes, subjects such as his past at AS Monaco, his teammate Cesc Fabregas and his relationship with Niko Kovac.
Ruben, what has changed compared to last season?
It’s all the staff that has changed. With a new staff, comes new energy and we have worked a lot. We were lucky to have our squad settled quite early even though there were new players. When the coach arrived, he put things in place that we have with us on the pitch today and these are small details that give us a strong desire to move forward.
What about tactics?
There are always things to be resolved on the tactical level. Each match is different, our tactics are modified according to the teams in front of us. We have a game plan and we work on it every week so that the Ligue 1 teams will know Monaco is getting strong again.
Doesn’t this match against Rennes come a bit early?
No, because we will play every team in the league. Rennes are a very good team that will play in the Champions League and it’s a good test for us. We come to it off the back of two victories, at Metz we had a man sent off early but we saw that the team was very united, and againstReims we came back from being down 0-2 to draw 2-2. Even this weekend against Nantes where our opponents came back into the match, we managed to raise our level to regain the upper hand. These are things that make you feel confident and aware that you are strong and that teams will look at us differently. This will help us to get a result in Rennes. Everyone has a part to play.
What relationship do you have with Niko Kovac?
We have a healthy and trusting relationship. The coach shares a lot with us and does not hesitate to stop training to give us explanations. There is trust from him towards us and from us towards him.
We recently heard about the “carrot game”. Tell us a little bit about it…
He likes to set goals when we play in small-sided drills one-on-one. For example, the losing team pays for breakfast the next day. The goal of the “carrot” is that there is competition every time, so that we give our best in training every day.
And how was the past week, working with Niko Kovac’s assistants?
It went very well. We had feedback from the coach who could see our sessions via drones and cameras. He wasn’t there, but you could feel his presence. It is his brother Robert who led the sessions and the week took place in good circumstances even though the coach was in quarantine. All the messages were conveyed well, now he’s back and that’s the most important thing.
What did you think of the display by Cesc Fabregas against Nantes ?
When I saw him during my first training, I immediately noticed a world-class player, who has won everything. At the start of the season he was injured and took time to come back to playing his best football, being in good physical and mental shape and without the fear of a relapse. We know that the Cesc we see right now is at his best, and that’s the best thing that can happen to us. When he plays good passes for our attackers and wingers for a whole match, it wears out the opposition.
And for a full-back, what does it matter to have him within the team?
Whether for me or my teammates, he’s constantly asking for the ball. Cesc always tries to be available and makes sure that we do not lose the ball. What he wants is to play. We know that if we make a good run into the right space, we’re going to be found.
With the many red cards that have been shown this season, and Covid-19, do you think this season will be turned upside down and leave room for more surprises?
I think so. For example, Paris has three points and we are on seven. These are points that can count at the end of the season, it’s a unique situation but we have to respect what we are asked to do outside of training, matches, and be careful with physical distancing so as not to penalize the team if you are not there or if a teammate is not there.
How are you experiencing the current good run of form?
The group is doing well, we know what we are capable of. We want to continue this momentum and we not deprive ourselves of anything, but we must be careful, there have only been three matchdays. Little by little, AS Monaco will return to what it was before.
On Twitter we see you close to Willem Geubbels in the locker room. It is true that you are now one of the oldest …
📽 L'émotion de Willem Geubbels 🥺🥺🥺 pic.twitter.com/RG9Jq4lhmz
— AS Monaco 🇲🇨 (@AS_Monaco) September 13, 2020
It is true that I am 27 years old and it makes me laugh to see that I am among the oldest. We have a lot of young talents at the Club, Willem has had a lot of injury problems and I’m happy for him, I’m happy for Sofiane (Diop), for Pietro (Pellegri), these are players who have had setbacks but who have did a tremendous job to come back and bring us to the field. We will be there to help and support them. We know that we can count on our young players.
Rennes is a team with good full-backs and fast players. How are you going to handle this?
We make video for each opponent. We know they have good full-backs who like to break, Rennes are a good team with a big squad. I’m obviously not going to say what we’re going to do, but it’s true that it’s a team that has speed.
What are your personal ambitions? Do you have the French team in your sights, especially with this new 3-5-2?
Of course I look at the France team like everyone else, but for the moment, I want to play the most matches for AS Monaco and to play in European competition with the Club. If I could reach that level, it would be great — I will not deny this because it is important to have high goals and to look ahead. For me, the French team is not an objective, the main objective is AS Monaco and I am focused on that.
How is the competition between you and Djibril Sidibé?
It is going very well. Djibril is a teammate, we talk a lot and if he can help me with certain things, he will tell me. He can play on the right as on the left, his versatility is important for the team. The competition is healthy and it has never occurred to me that it would be an issue. There is competition in all positions, in defense, midfield, attack or even with goalkeepers with the arrival of Vito Mannone, and that’s part of club life. AS Monaco is a big club, so this competition is normal and allows everyone to rise to the top.