When Montpellier drew 1-1 with Monaco, AC Milan loanee M'Baye Niang accomplished what Monaco centre-forwards Radamel Falcao and Emmanuel Riviere did not do—score.
Here is a scouting report on Niang's performance against Monaco.
What Formation and Position Did Niang Play?
Ligue 1 graphics showed Montpellier manager Rolland Courbis starting Niang up front in a 4-3-3, supported by Anthony Mounier on the left and Remy Cabella on the right.
This formation was corroborated by L'Equipe.
However, the average positioning of the Montpellier players indicated that Courbis deployed a compact 4-4-1-1, with Cabella in a deep-lying forward position (coined the nine-and-a-half role by Manchester United forward Robin van Persie), while Niang started in the No. 9 position.
Niang must YouTube Filippo Inzaghi's Milan goals to understand that the closer you are to the goal, the more likely you are to score.
A trend in Niang's performance against Monaco was his preference to escape to the flanks, mainly the right, thus taking himself out of the game.
In the above illustration, there are four—yes, four—of his teammates on the right wing.
Where is Niang? On the right wing, surrounded by three Monaco players.
Inzaghi would have been right where the question mark is.
For that play, Niang was not switched on, which is a summation of his two seasons so far at Milan, hence why he has yet to score a Serie A goal.
This is not the first time Niang has failed to play his position properly, as per Michael Cox at Zonal Marking:
In the central role, Niang is not Pazzini.
His [Niang's] hold-up play was poor, and it was frustrating that he dropped into deep positions, trying to receive the ball into feet.
He should have been playing on the shoulder, and at 1-0 he hit the post from a huge, accurate ball over the top of the defence from Montolivo.
That was Milan's best chance of the night, and demonstrated what Niang should have been doing.
In the game against Monaco, Niang attempted high-risk Zlatan Ibrahimovic-like passes resulting in careless turnovers.
If Niang could pass the ball like Ibrahimovic, then you would be willing to accept the inaccurate passes knowing he will make it up with assists.
But Niang does not have that capability at this present moment.
In 57 league games since the 2010-11 season, he has totaled two assists.
Point being: Niang needs to keep it simple when he is trying to pass. Quit trying to be Ibrahimovic.
Another constructive criticism of Niang's game against Monaco was not being involved enough.
1,360 - M’Baye Niang has put an end to his goalscoring drought of 1,360 minutes in the league (Ligue 1 + Serie A). Relief.— OptaJean (@OptaJean) January 10, 2014
This has been a reoccurring theme in his career so far.
When he was 16 years of age, a journalist asked then-Caen manager Franck Dumas if Niang was struggling due to inexperience.
Dumas was terse in his response.
"No, it's because he needs to move his (expletive)," Dumas said, as per Tom Williams at The Guardian.
He was an aerial presence by winning six headers and was quick to react in poking home the rebound from his penalty being saved by Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
Niang has scored in successive games on loan at Montpellier (Rodez [French Cup] and Monaco [Ligue 1]).
He arrived at Montpellier without any form, frustrated by what he perceived as unfair treatment from the recently fired AC Milan manager Massimiliano Allegri, Niang has shown resolve by getting himself on the scoresheet.
Grading Niang's Game vs. Monaco: C+
Aside from contesting headers and tucking away the rebound from his missed penalty, Niang was missing in action throughout the game.
With his speed, he should have received the ball and relentlessly took on Monaco centre-back Eric Abidal, who had conceded the penalty by kicking Cabella instead of the ball.
Niang had the advantageous match-up against Abidal but did not exploit it.
Montpellier will be depending on Niang to be more proactive as the No. 9, to make meaningful runs and not retreat to the wings.