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Three coaching changes but same problems remain at Monaco

PARIS (AP) — There have been three coaching changes at Monaco in little more than one year, and the same glaring problems remain: the team can't defend properly and the midfield is struggling. Recently hired coach Robert Moreno faces the same frustrating issues as Leonardo Jardim and Thierry Henry had to deal with, but weren't able to resolve.

Jardim, the popular coach who led Monaco to the 2017 league title and the Champions League semifinals that year, was fired in October 2018. He was replaced by Henry, only to be re-hired after Henry was fired in January 2019, and then re-fired in December to make way for Moreno.

The bizarre managerial merry-go-round has cost millions of euros in compensation to both parties — including twice for Jardim. Monaco may have been better served sticking with one of them and rebuilding a shaky defense which just seems to be getting worse.

It also looks a big gamble to hire the 42-year-old Moreno since he has no coaching experience at club level — although he did well while in temporary charge of Spain by helping it qualify for this year's European Championship.

Monaco, which travels to play 19th-place Nimes on Saturday, has won only two of Moreno's six games in charge. His side has conceded in every game and allowed 13 goals overall. The latest example of poor defending came in Tuesday night's French Cup loss at home to Saint-Etienne — Monaco's third straight home defeat under Moreno.

One of those defeats was to runaway league leader Paris Saint-Germain, but the manner of that 4-1 loss only confirmed fundamental shortcomings. Here's a look at critical problems Moreno must resolve. LEAKY DEFENSE

Monaco has the third-worst defense — 36 goals allowed in 21 games — and is placed 13th in the league for a reason. This isn't Moreno's fault, considering the troubles had begun long before. In the past 59 games Monaco has allowed an alarming 93 goals.

Yet Poland center half Kamil Glik remains in the side despite being constantly exposed for a lack of pace. That was already the case last season, and in the second half of the previous campaign. Glik often drops far too deep to compensate, and the gap between defense and midfield is too large as a consequence.

Opponents are thus given far too much room and extra time to launch attacks, as Monaco's backpedaling defense retreats. Modest teams such as Saint-Etienne and Strasbourg — which won 3-1 at Monaco last weekend — have exploited this.

Moreno changed his center-back pairing against Saint-Etienne, replacing the 31-year-old Glik with the quicker Benoît Badiashile. Yet the 18-year-old Badiashile made little difference, and clearly needs time to gain experience.

FADING FABREGAS Cesc Fàbregas graced the Premier League with Arsenal and Chelsea, doing well for Barcelona in between. In England he won two Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the League Cup. In Spain he helped Barca win La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Club World Cup.

He was twice in the Premier League and UEFA team of the year. With Spain, he won one World Cup and two European Championships and featured in the tournament’s best team both times. Is this the same player trotting around midfield for Monaco?

Fàbregas is unrecognizable from the midfield general who was so good he broke into Arsenal's first team at the age of 17 and stayed there. He was always quicker in his mind than on his feet, but even so the 32-year-old veteran looks worryingly off the pace.

Once so good at closing down other midfielders by harrying them all over the midfield area he used to govern, he looks heavy-legged. His passing judgement, once razor sharp in its precision and electrically fast in its execution, seems muddled.

A regular scorer during most of his career, his stats for Monaco are underwhelming: one goal in 32 games since being signed in January 2019 by Henry, his former Arsenal teammate. At times he seems lost on the pitch. Yet that might be linked to the fact he is playing high up, where he doesn't have the pace to run onto passes.

When he was at his best, Fabregas operated as a sort of NFL quarterback — picking up the ball from deep and spraying short or long passes with equal aplomb. Then, when his team was in the ascendancy, he would burst late into the penalty area to use his velvety scoring touch.

Monaco's midfield includes Aleksandr Golovin — among Russia's standout players at the 2018 World Cup — and Tiemoué Bakayoko — a key player of Monaco's successful side in 2017. Yet Golovin, Bakayoko and Fabregas are too far apart on the field and Monaco's passing game is not functioning.

It is something Moreno must address, starting with re-positioning Fabregas further back.

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