Philippe Clement wants to “start a family” in Monaco.

If AS Monaco have started a winning streak with three consecutive wins, it may be because their players are smarter. Away from the pitch, they recently focused on “team building”, i.e. the cohesion of the group. A testament of the Monegasque coach Philippe Clement.

Since the arrival of the Belgian technician, a basketball hoop has been installed in the training center near the canteen. This may seem anecdotal, but it means one thing: Philippe Clement wants to make La Turbie a place to live. “I don’t want this to be a factory where everyone comes and goes,” he explains. “I want to start a family, do special things together.

With that in mind, last week (Tuesday) the coach didn’t call his players to practice, but to a very special outing: a paintball session. “He already did that in Bruges,” says Tomas Taecke, a supporter of Philippe Clemens’ former club for Het Laatste Nieuws. “At the end of October he was shot in the throat during a paintball and he had laughed at the press conference. He also organized padel tournaments because they had a field in the complex but they did it elsewhere too. In Belgium he is known for doing that something.The Brugge coaches before him, Michel Preud’homme and Ivan Leko, were quite authoritarian, shouted a lot.When Clement arrived, it was quiet league titles not only for the club but also for all the staff, he always has small events put together with the players and their families.”

Paintball and BBQ

If the names of the paintball session’s main victims weren’t filtered, Youssouf Fofana makes sure there were targets. “It was a first for me, but people were way too comfortable, they were the ones being targeted,” he said, smiling. After a string of poor results, it was time for Philippe Clement to push what he called “team building”. “It’s important to have a connection between the players,” admits the coach.

“The more you work together off the pitch, the more you want to do it on the pitch. I’ve heard several players say they miss doing things together. It hasn’t been easy lately with COVID, the international break. ” The rhythm of a European season also left the Monegasque few opportunities to see themselves off the pitch, like the Tchouaméni-Fofana doublet, who are struggling to find a niche. “We try to go out from time to time, but for the past few months we’ve played every three days and it was difficult to go to restaurants,” laughs the second. “We were going to do one next week but we’re playing Nice on Wednesday. So it’s still postponed to May.” Others manage to find the time. On Tuesday, notably German players Ismaïl Jakobs, Alexander Nübel and Kévin Volland attended the Monte-Carlo tennis tournament, invited by their compatriot, 3rd in the world in the ATP rankings, Alexander Zverev. “With Axel Disasi, we were waiting for Tsonga or Monfils, but that doesn’t matter,” laughs Fofana. “We will try to go there for the final on Sunday.”

Total cohesion

Philippe Clement’s idea doesn’t stop with the cohesion between the players, it’s a club he wants to unite. While paintballs were flying between members of the professional group, club employees played a match at La Turbie with some of the staff and the performance unit. At the end of the day, the two groups met over a barbecue. “Through this dinner we were able to strengthen the bonds with the people who work in communications, the gardeners, the cooks, security.” takes care of Youssouf Fofana followed by Kévin Volland. “It’s always good to have good energy,” said the German striker. “We work together every day, we see each other in the centre, on the field or in the dressing room, but then everyone goes their own way. It was really good to be together, to be able to talk between teammates and friends that we are less used to discussing, the staff but also all the people who work for us, not talking about football but also about private life. It’s the first time we’re doing something like this. I think it worked because we won the following games”.

Facts followed by effects

After that day, AS Monaco emerged from the after-break with two victories against weakly placed sides (Metz, Troyes) which they found difficult to beat, before failing to match their direct rivals. “We’re a young team and inevitably don’t have to win several games, it’s a new situation for some players, even the oldest,” acknowledges Kevin Volland. “We were in a bad situation, sometimes bad luck and suddenly there is frustration, people who think too much. In this case, team building helps us a lot.” Satisfied with the effect (currently short-term) of the operation, Philippe Clement plans to renew the experience. “I have other ideas for the next few months,” admits the Monaco coach. “It’s important to work hard and players do that, but you also have to do fun things.” What if the road to Europe went there?

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