Thierry Henry returns to Ligue 1 for the first time in 19 years this weekend, tasked with dragging a crisis-hit Monaco away from the relegation zone after a miserable start to the season.
The Arsenal great came through the youth system at the principality club in the 1990s, and is now mirroring the start of his playing career with his first job as a head coach, after a two-year spell as assistant to Roberto Martinez with the Belgian national side.
The 41-year-old has a difficult job ahead of him, with Monaco occupying the relegation play-off spot and only above the bottom two on goal difference, and he knows that his immediate job is just to arrest the slide. “How do you define success? It’s difficult.
At a big European club success is winning the Champions League,” said Henry ahead of his first game in charge at Strasbourg on Saturday. “At other clubs, it’s winning the league or helping players get better. “Long term, it’s really far away when I know the situation we’re in here and what we need to do.” Leonardo Jardim was sacked as Monaco boss last week after a hugely successful spell in charge which saw the club win the French title in 2017 and finish as runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain last season, but the constant changes of playing personnel eventually got the better of him. Monaco have gone 10 matches without a win since beating Nantes on the opening weekend of the Ligue 1 season, including home defeats by Angers and Rennes in recent weeks.
Their fans will be desperately hoping that Henry, who scored over 400 goals in a glittering playing career, can coax the best out of under-performing youngsters like Youri Tielemans and Aleksandr Golovin. “For me, a coach is supposed to make people better first and foremost,” 1998 World Cup winner Henry said. “Improving players for me is already a success, but then you have different types of success.”
PSG host Amiens on Saturday eyeing a record-extending 10th straight win to start the season after Kylian Mbappe’s four-goal heroics inspired a 5-0 thrashing of Lyon before the international break.
The teenager ran riot at the Parc des Princes that day, saying that he “should have scored more”, and Amiens will be hoping Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani are distracted by Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Napoli. The French striker has already scored 10 goals in just seven matches for PSG this term, and even featured on the front cover of Time magazine earlier this month.
The capital-city giants broke the 82-year-old record held by Olympique Lillois for most consecutive victories at the start of a French top-flight campaign, and coach Thomas Tuchel gave the players who were not on international duty the week off as reward. With the title already all but in the bag, it could be tempting for PSG to take their foot off the pedal and focus on European matters, but the runaway leaders have shown no signs of that so far, netting 32 times. With Lyon and Monaco both out of sorts, Lille have taken the early advantage in the race to qualify for the Champions League — Christophe Galtier’s men sit second, eight points adrift of PSG and three clear of Marseille.
Player to watch: Florian Thauvin
The 25-year-old winger has been in red-hot form since the start of last season, and his Marseille side make the short trip to take on Patrick Vieira’s Nice on Sunday. Thauvin, who has scored 44 league goals since returning to France in 2016 after an ill-fated spell at Newcastle, will be looking to make a point after an underwhelming display in France’s friendly draw with Iceland.