Ligue 1 Daily – Monaco decline entering critical period

Amidst the ever-changing landscape at the top of Ligue 1, there is one club that has fallen completely out of the title picture in recent years. Week 17 stretched AS Monaco’s winless run to five league games, a sequence that leaves the club teetering over the relegation zone. Saint Etienne arrived at Stade Louis II – themselves without a win since beating Lyon to go top of the league in September – and proceeded to siphon what little confidence the home fans had, emerging with a 2-0 win that lifted Les Vertes back into the top half.

Monaco’s current predicament is a harsh contrast from the bright lights of the 03/04 Champions League final – where they lost to Porto after eliminating both Real Madrid and Chelsea on the way. The man who took them to only their second European final left just a year later and with him went Monaco’s title aspirations. Following Didier Deschamps’ departure, the club’s final league position deteriorated annually. It took just four seasons to go from third place and a Champions League final to fans having to come to terms with a 12th placed finish in Ligue 1.

And it seems that decline is not over. Goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier was at a loss to explain his side’s poor form. He told the official Ligue 1 website: “We need to start putting the ball in the back of the net because we are creating the chances. It is just like last week and the 1-0 loss to Rennes, we should have won tonight. Saint-Etienne are not any better than us, perhaps they just have a little more confidence. Yes I’m worried. I’m here for Monaco but the problem is, I don’t know what is going wrong. I do not have any answers.

Ruffier’s point about the team’s goal scoring prowess is valid – Monaco have notched just 15 goals in 17 games – whilst defensively they have conceded 17 goals, less than leaders Lille and third placed Lyon. The growing pressure on Coach Guy Lacombe is beginning to tell. The tactician was removed from his technical area during the defeat to Saint Etienne, after match officials bore the brunt of his frustration as his forwards continued to waste goal scoring openings.

Monaco have two games remaining before the league pauses for a winter break – they visit Paris Saint Germain on Saturday and face Sochaux at home four days later. The latter provides Les Rouge et Blanc with an opportunity to rectify their winless run, as Sochaux can boast just a single victory on the road. Despite Monaco winning an equal amount in front of their home crowd, Lacombe will know the significance of ending the barren run before the break point of the season.

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