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PSG rampant without Neymar; Henry’s miserable debut

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PARIS (AP) Neymar was not missed as runaway French leader Paris Saint-Germain crushed Amiens 5-0 on Saturday for a 10th straight league win.

Neymar was given a few days off by coach Thomas Tuchel after playing for Brazil in the international break. PSG faces Napoli in the Champions League on Wednesday and is then away to bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.

Except for Neymar, PSG’s lineup was near full-strength and the defending champion easily extended the best start to the league. PSG is averaging nearly four goals per game, but should have scored even more at home. Some sloppy finishing will not have impressed Tuchel, who is trying to instill more intensity into the side.

“It wasn’t a great performance,” the demanding Tuchel said. “But we were serious and worked hard for each other.”

Winger Angel Di Maria set up the first two goals with superb delivery from corners, taken from the right and curled with his left foot. It should have been 3-0 moments later, but striker Edinson Cavani somehow shot wide when he had an open goal.

Germany winger Julian Draxler got the third, and a minute later France World Cup star Kylian Mbappe curled a shot through the legs of a defender for his ninth league goal. Moussa Diaby skillfully slotted home the fifth.

Thierry Henry’s coaching debut was miserable as Monaco lost at Strasbourg 2-1, finished with 10 men, lost top scorer Radamel Falcao to injury, and slipped to 19th place.

Henry, the all-time leading scorer for France and Arsenal, got an ovation from the Strasbourg fans when he walked out.

But his ambitions were undermined without his best two goalkeepers who were injured, and two defenders who were suspended. No. 3 goalkeeper Seydou Sy clumsily fumbled a header from midfielder Adrien Thomasson to gift Strasbourg the lead after 17 minutes.

Falcao limped off with what looked like a left-thigh injury in the 36th. Henry took a risk selecting Falcao, considering he played late Wednesday night for Colombia.

Henry then lost another forward, this time to a red card, when Samuel Grandsir was sent off midway through the second half.

Strasbourg made the most of it when South Africa striker Lebo Mothiba was released and confidently dinked the ball over Sy.

Midfielder Youri Tielemans’ injury-time penalty for Monaco was too late.

Second-place Lille remained eight points behind PSG after winning at Dijon 2-1.

Striker Nicolas Pepe scored a penalty and helped set up Brazilian forward Luiz Araujo just before halftime.

Emiliano Sala grabbed a hat trick as Nantes beat Toulouse 4-0 at home to move above Monaco into 18th place.

Last-place Guingamp drew at Caen 0-0, and Reims was held by Angers to 1-1.

Marseille, Montpellier, Saint-Etienne and Bordeaux play on Sunday and all have a chance to overtake Lyon in third place.

Marseille travels to play Nice; Saint-Etienne faces Rennes, and Montpellier hosts Bordeaux.

How tough is the task ahead of Henry’s Monaco debut?

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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.

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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.

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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.

[ MORE: USMNT’s Sargent moved to Werder Bremen first team ]

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 $207 million.

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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.”

Report: Former Arsenal star Henry favorite to be Monaco manager

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Thierry Henry’s first job as manager of a soccer team could be at one of his old stomping grounds.

Reports out of France and England have stated that the Arsenal legend is the favorite to be named the new manager of Monaco, after the club on the French Riviera sacked manager Leonardo Jardim following a poor start to the Ligue Un season. According to one report, Henry received encouragement to take the job from former Les Bleus teammate and current France National Team coach Didier Deschamps, though the report states there are still some details to iron out.

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Henry was subject of constant rumors and reports that he may take over at Aston Villa following Steve Bruce‘s dismissal, but the job eventually went to Dean Smith (no relation to the North Carolina basketball coach, as far as we know).

Since retiring in 2014 after four and a half seasons with the New York Red Bulls, Henry has held multiple coaching (and punditry) positions, mostly as a youth team coach at Arsenal working with different age levels. In 2016, he joined Roberto Martinez as an assistant coach with Belgium, and it was clear that he had the respect from Belgium’s star players during the 2018 World Cup. Since the World Cup, it’s seemed that Henry was looking for a full manager position either in England or abroad, but he was playing his cards close to the vest and waiting for the best opportunity.

Now two years off winning the Ligue 1 title under Jardim and with a squad that’s been decimated by sales across Europe, Monaco has struggled immensly this season. The club currently sit in the relegation zone in 18th place, with just six points out of its first nine games. The home loss to Rennes last weekend was the final straw after a ten-game winless and four-game losing streak at the start of this season that signaled the end of Jardim’s tenure.

Henry of course has plenty of history at Monaco. It’s the club where he first became a professional after graduating through the Clairfontaine and Monaco youth system, and he played a role as a left midfielder or left winger in Monaco’s 1996-1997 Ligue 1 title. He was also named France’s Young Player of the Year. His performances in Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League helped get him into the France National Team, where he joined Deschamps as World Cup winners on home soil in 1998.

If Henry gets the job, he’ll need time as he has a major rebuilding job at hand. Two of the club’s stars, captain Radamel Falcao and goalkeeper Danijel Subasic are both on the wrong side of 30, and vice-captain Kamil Glik is 30-years-old currently. Defensively, the club has only kept one clean sheet in the last ten games and some of the new signings, Nacer Chadli, Antonio Barecca and Aleksandr Golovin have failed to produce as expected.

Liberian President Weah criticized for honoring Wenger

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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) Liberian President and former soccer star George Weah is being criticized for his plan to award former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger the West African country’s highest honor.

Weah, who was elected president of his country last year, plans to honor Wenger and another French soccer coach, Claude Le Roy, at a ceremony on Friday.

[ REPORT: PSG won’t loan USMNT’s Weah ]

They both played crucial roles in Weah’s career.

Le Roy discovered Weah playing for a club in Cameroon in the late 1980s and recommended him to Wenger, then the coach of Monaco in France. Wenger took the advice, signed the Liberian and Weah went on to play for Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan, and became the first and still only African to win the FIFA world player of the year award in 1995.

Liberian sports minister D. Zeogar Wilson said Wenger is to be given the Humane Order of African Redemption with the rank of Knight Grand Commander. Wenger is expected to attend Friday’s ceremony.

But Darius Dillon, an opposition politician, criticized Weah on Wednesday for using the nation’s highest honor and the office of the president to recognize people who only played a role in his “personal life.”

Ligue 1: Falcao paces Monaco; Vieira loses on Nice debut

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PARIS (AP) Radamel Falcao came off the bench to score and set up another goal as Monaco opened its French league campaign with a 3-1 win at Nantes on Saturday.

A dull match quickly improved when Falcao came on midway through the second half. The veteran Colombia striker immediately started combining well with Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic, who set up a headed goal for attacking midfielder Rony Lopes with a deflected cross in the 69th minute.

With 10 minutes left, Falcao gathered a high ball near halfway and intelligently flicked the ball over his head into the path of Jovetic, who scored with a cool finish.

Three minutes later, Falcao was celebrating after tapping in Samuel Grandsir’s low cross from the right, after Grandsir was freed by Jovetic’s measured pass inside the penalty area.

“Falcao is an important player for us, it’s easier when you have players of his quality,” Lopes said. “We didn’t play well in the first half.”

Nantes salvaged some pride through striker Emiliano Sala’s goal in the second minute of injury time.

In Friday’s season-opening match, attacking midfielder Dimitri Payet scored twice as Marseille beat Toulouse 4-0.


Patrick Vieira’s first match in charge of Nice ended in a 1-0 home defeat to Reims.

The former France and Arsenal midfielder was not helped by the fact he had no recognized striker, with Mario Balotelli – last season’s top scorer – suspended and Alassane Plea sold during the offseason.

That left Vieira with midfielder Bassem Srarfi as a makeshift forward – and the Tunisia international was ineffective.

Midfield counterpart Moussa Doumbia scored for Reims after just three minutes.