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Reinforced attack is no remedy for Monaco’s problem defense

August 26, 2019
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PSG's head coach Thomas Tuchel shouts during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Toulouse at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris, France, on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/David Vincent)
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PSG's head coach Thomas Tuchel shouts during the French League One soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Toulouse at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris, France, on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP Photo/David Vincent)

PARIS (AP) — Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim made smart transfer moves in acquiring free-scoring forward Wissam Ben Yedder from Sevilla and striker Islam Slimani from English Premier League club Leicester.

Both players scored on debut for Monaco on Sunday in a 2-2 draw with Nimes that only magnified a problem for Jardim, with defense the team’s weak point.

Nimes scored twice after Monaco defender Jemerson’s red card in the 55th minute for a clumsy tackle from behind. At that stage Monaco was in cruise control on the French Riviera after the lively Ben Yedder and Slimani had scored late in the first half.

It is only because Dijon has lost all three matches that Monaco is not at the bottom of the standings — a fall from grace for a club which won the league title and reached the Champions League semifinals in 2016-17.

Monaco has the worst defense in the league with eight goals conceded in three matches.

Furthermore, Monaco has had one player sent off in each game, exposing a lack of composure already glaringly evident last season when it narrowly avoided relegation.

The problem is not that Monaco’s defenders are inexperienced — Jemerson has played 99 league games for the club and Kamil Glik has 108 — it is that they appear to be clumsy, nervous and slow. Monaco was wide open down the right flank on both Nimes goals, failing to cut out basic crosses.

BIG CALL

After a poor performance in the 2-1 loss at Rennes last weekend, Paris-Saint Germain’s veteran center half and captain Thiago Silva was dropped for Sunday’s 4-0 home win against Toulouse.

Once considered to be among the world’s best defenders during his time with AC Milan, Silva looked slow and off the pace against Rennes.

Still, it is a big call from Tuchel to bench a player with close to 300 PSG appearances since joining seven years ago.

Perhaps Tuchel is finally showing a much-needed ruthless streak.

MONEY WELL SPENT?

Lille needed to make a statement in the transfer market, particularly after selling leading scorer Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal for a reported 80 million euros ($89 million) and key midfielder Thiago Mendes to Lyon.

So coach Christophe Galtier signed bustling Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches for 20 million euros ($22.3 million) from German champion Bayern Munich — nearly half what Bayern paid to sign him from Benfica three years ago.

The Bayern move happened after some inspirational performances from Sanches at the 2016 European Championship, where he scored his only international goal in 18 appearances.

Still, it could prove to be a bargain signing from Galtier, who helped Lille qualify directly for the Champions League one season after saving it from relegation.

Lille could prove the perfect springboard for Sanches, who has made only six appearances for Portugal since 2016 and needs some stand out performances to attract attention from bigger clubs again.

BLOSSOMING PARTNERSHIP

When Lyon sold its star forward Nabil Fekir to Real Betis this summer, Memphis Depay might have breathed a sigh of relief.

Depay is no longer competing with Fekir for a starting place, and a weight seems to have been lifted.

The 25-year-old Dutchman has started the season in excellent form, netting three goals and one assist in two games. Depay is forging a strong partnership with striker Moussa Dembele, who has also scored three goals.

Dembele’s outstanding aerial ability lends itself well to Depay’s crossing, while Dembele’s hold-up play allows Depay to move into open space from deep-lying positions.

Montpellier’s defense will not be looking forward to Tuesday’s visit from a Lyon attack that has produced nine goals so far.

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