Thierry Henry sacked by Monaco: Wrong place, wrong time?
Henry battled with poor recruitment, injuries and uncertainty off the pitch
Last Updated: 25/01/19 9:14pm
It was fate that led Thierry Henry to Monaco for his first managerial gig, the 41-year-old said.
Tasked with leading his former side out of trouble, a nightmare three and a half months has followed, and Monaco are no better off.
They sit 19th in Ligue 1 after just two wins in 12 under Henry, and though a French League Cup semi-final is on the horizon, the former France and Arsenal forward has been replaced by his predecessor, Leonardo Jardim.
Here, we ask if it has just been a case of bad luck for Henry, or if he could have done more to turn Monaco's fortunes around.
Replacing the stars
Jardim's famous 2016/17 side has been dismantled; Ligue 1 winners and Champions League semi-finalists just 20 months ago, only a handful of that group remain.
Fabinho, Thomas Lemar and Joao Moutinho left in the summer of 2018 after a second-place finish in Ligue 1, but half of the damage had been done after the departure of Kylian Mbappe, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Tiemoue Bakayoko in 2017.
A regeneration job wasn't new to Monaco. Jardim himself admitted his job was to "permanently rebuild", but the quality of those leaving the club seemed a cut too deep.
The latest fix involves Henry's former team-mate Cesc Fabregas, an impressive coup given Monaco's situation and the Spaniard's experience, but those before him have either struggled to perform or been scuppered by injury.
Youri Tielemans has under-performed, summer signing Nacer Chadli is now injured after an unimpressive start to the season, while 30m euro signing Aleksandr Golovin missed the start of the season after an injury in his very first training session and hasn't had the desired impact since returning.
The team was full of imbalance and inexperience from day one for Henry. He attempted to put that right with the signing of Fabregas, left-back Fode Toure from Lille and 36-year-old centre-back Naldo from Schalke, but that short-term fix might now be someone else's to see through.
Talking of injuries, Henry's side had rarely been under double-digit absentees since he took over. At its worst, no fewer than 13 players were unavailable for the 4-0 home drubbing against PSG in November. At present, Monaco have 12 players absent.
Henry even joked: "I am maybe going to start playing again!", showing that lighter side we are all used to, but also no doubt highlighting the difficulties he has been forced to endure.
As well as injuries, Henry and the club had to contend with growing uncertainty off the pitch. Under a month into Henry's reign, Monaco were named in the Der Spiegel Football Leaks documents, with club owner Dmitri Rybolovlev accused of personally profiting from the sale of Mbappe to PSG. The club strongly denied any wrongdoing.
In the days around the leak, Rybolovlev was also charged by police in Monaco as part of an investigation into corruption and influence peddling related to a multi-billion dollar art scandal.
His attention would understandably be elsewhere, but Rybolovlev this week denied he wanted to sell the club as he helped unveil plans for a new £50m training centre.
"I am absolutely committed to making every effort to continue to take this club forward over the long term," he said.
Confused tactics and a 'lack of desire'
Defend from the front, let the ginormous central midfield sweep up any leftovers, use explosive full-backs and occupy opposition defenders with two strikers.
How Monaco have changed (Ligue 1 only)
|Shots per game||14.6||12.9||10.5|
|On target per game||6.5||4.8||3.3|
|Recoveries per game||66.2||61.5||55.1|
The core tactics used by Jardim to much success have disappeared, understandable given the departures, but Henry has still looked to be finding his preferred system to the very last day of his tenure.
He has used eight different formations since taking over, a mix of three, four and five at the back, and one wonders whether this lack of continuity has created apathy and confusion among the squad.
Upon his arrival Henry spelled out his tactical beliefs - defending all over the pitch - and although Monaco have achieved more control over the ball since his arrival, they are shooting far less.
Henry's impact (Ligue 1 only)
|18/19 before Henry||18/19 with Henry|
|Shots per game||11.8||9.5|
|Passes per game||408||437|
|Possession lost per game||145||126|
Henry has routinely shifted blame onto his players for a lack of desire and at one point "unintentionally refusing to play" due to a lack of confidence.
"Without desire, it is difficult to win. Without showing depth, it is difficult to win," Henry added after a 3-0 loss against Lyon in December.
In the current climate of player power, it has been suggested these brutally honest statements rile more than they rally.
He may have left English football only seven years ago, but Henry lived in a very different age of player mentality. A case in point came last month, as Henry aimed a stern stare at young defender Benoit Badiashile as he made a very deliberate point of ensuring he tucked his chair in after a press conference. Is Henry the babysitter some modern footballers require? Or an authoritarian still looking to solidify his management style?
"I have never experienced a fight against relegation as a player," said Henry. "But for me, it is inconceivable that they give up. Of course the team is affected mentally and you see it with some basic errors."
Henry's path to top-flight management seemed fair, coaching Arsenal's youth team before a two-year stint as second assistant with Belgium.
But there was a lingering doubt that Henry could rally a team beyond referring to his own exemplary playing career. Of course, this criticism is thrown at any manager in their first job following a fine career on the pitch, and one which initially met Zinedine Zidane's appointment at Real Madrid.
Zidane's success at Real Madrid, however, was built on simple frameworks which allowed players freedom. Zidane got his man management right, while Henry will argue there have been too many blocks in the road to achieving his.
Henry's Monaco experience should only be a bump in his journey, however. The narrative around Gareth Southgate, and even more recently Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, often neglects to mention bad experiences at Middlesbrough and Cardiff respectively.
But both managers refer to these disappointments as necessary for growth, and Henry might do the same.