French great Henry set for coaching debut with Monaco

(AP Photo/Olivier Anrigo)

By JEROME PUGMIRE

AP Sports Writer

PARIS (AP) Thierry Henry's managerial career could hardly be starting under more challenging circumstances, with struggling Monaco leaking goals, hit by injuries and low on confidence.

The French great, who started his glittering playing career at Monaco, takes over a side sitting 18th in the top flight.

Monaco has won just once in 11 games - including two defeats in the Champions League - and the poor run cost Leonardo Jardim his job .

"The reality is morale isn't at its highest," Henry said ahead of the trip to Strasbourg on Saturday.

Strasbourg is ninth and the Alsace-based side is hard to beat at home.

Henry will be without No. 1 goalkeeper Danijel Subasic and No. 2 Diego Benaglio - who are nursing thigh injuries and sat out Thursday's training session.

Monaco also has two defenders suspended - Jemerson and Andrea Raggi - and another out injured, while Henry must decide whether to select veteran striker Radamel Falcao, who is returning late after playing for Colombia on Wednesday night.

Jardim often rested Falcao after internationals, but Henry may have no choice but to pick his leading scorer.

Monaco won the domestic title and reached the Champions League semifinals in 2017, scoring more than 150 goals. However, the side Henry has inherited is a far cry from that swashbuckling team.

The 41-year-old Henry helped France win the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship. He is the leading goal-scorer for his country and for Premier League Arsenal, and thrilled fans with his speed and skill.

He exudes confidence but, given Monaco's precarious situation, he has little time to talk about his vision for the club.

"I prefer to think only of the present. What the team needs right now might not be what the team needs in two or three months. When things are calmer perhaps we can talk about those things," Henry said.

"It's not going to be easy to get the team to understand how I want to play. It's always better to have the team at the start of the season, so they know the ideas."

Henry was previously Belgium's No. 2. During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he was praised by coach Roberto Martinez for his work helping fine-tune the squad's fleet of forwards .

His focus now is to shore up a Monaco defense which has leaked 13 goals in nine league games.

"We must become a team which doesn't let in goals," Henry said. "What the team needs now is security and balance."

Because it's his first job in charge, Henry will be relying on his backroom staff more than other coaches might.

"It's important to have staff members who can say `no' to you, challenge you on certain points, and perhaps have a different vision of things," he said. "The most important thing is not having people around me who just say `yes, yes.'"

Monaco has a huge scouting network and a reputation for developing players before selling them on for massive profits. The best example is 19-year-old France forward Kylian Mbappe , who shone in 2017 before joining Paris Saint-Germain in a deal worth 180 million euros ($207 million).

Henry knows how it feels to be a young star. He made his Monaco debut at the age of 17 in 1994 and four years later he was a World Cup winner - just like Mbappe is now .

"We live in a (different) generation," Henry said. "When I grew up, you needed to make the first step to the senior players, the first step to the coach. Now, you have to go to the new generation, understand their codes. The way they (arrive) sometimes to training, the way they walk, the little lean they have ... my coach would have sent me straight back to the dressing room (for that).

"Sometimes you have to laugh, sometimes you have to be hard and sometimes you have to let them be. The trick is when. If you stay stuck on the way you grew up, then there will be a fracture, that's for sure. You have to adapt and be patient."

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Updated October 18, 2018

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