Last weekend, shortly after Villa’s loss to Swansea, many newspaper reporters expected Rémi Garde to be leaving his job as Aston Villa manager within 48 hours. The word on the street seemed to sync in with the newspaper talk. A week later though and the Frenchman is still at Villa Park and the Mexican stand-off over his pay-off rumbles on into another week.
Garde has simply had enough, let down by the players and also by the board who failed in getting any signings over the line in the January window, after promising him the chance to get his own men in when he took the job.
Garde was expected to at least get to the end of the season, when perhaps there might be a clause in his contract for reassessment by both parties due to relegation. The bookies have Garde at 14/1 to still be the Villa manager come the start of the new season, and with Garde still taking Villa’s first team training sessions, there is value there. Come the end of the summer, it’ll either be him or some other guy in charge.
The Right Man?
Back in February last year when ex-Villa CEO Tom Fox was looking for a replacement for Paul Lambert, MOMS wrote a feature listing 30 Managers that could/should be considered for the Villa job. Garde featured low down on the list in a batch of managers that were considered ‘interesting, but risky’.
This is how we described Garde:
‘Whether he’s the real deal is open to debate. Would he have the stomach for the relegation battle ahead? Too many question marks perhaps to take a punt on Garde in Villa’s current situation.’
Ironically, he ranked higher than Tim Sherwood, who Fox gave first stab at the job to; Sherwood was in a bracket classed as perhaps ‘out of their depth for the job’.
For the record, Sherwood was described as so:
‘I can see logic in a short-term appointment in terms of giving the team an adrenaline shot, but is he really the best man out there for the job long-term?’
Perhaps Lerner should have employed MOMS as the club prophet? Certainly our salary would have been a snip compared to the £1.25m wasted on Tom Fox. Plus, we would have saved the club millions on manager payoffs (add it to the millions we would have saved the club on not employing McLeish too).
Anyway, back to Garde…
The question mark about him being the ‘real deal’ was mainly based on his record at Lyon. Those who feel sorry for Garde and paint him as this promising top-class manager, seem to paint a rosier picture of his record in France than the reality. In short, during three seasons as Lyon boss, Garde did not inspire Lyon beyond anything that they were perhaps expected to do.
Winning the French Cup in his first season and then the equivalent of the Charity Shield, were his top achievements, but you only have to look at Villa’s cup run last season and then Wigan’s FA Cup win (and relegation) before that, to see success in cups can paper over the cracks of league reality.
In the first league campaign as manager in 2011/12, Lyon finished 4th. The first time the French club had finished outside of the Top 3 since the 1997/98 season. In 2013/14, Rémi Garde’s last season in charge, the club finish 5th, the club’s worst finish in 16 seasons.
True, Lyon were not the force that won seven Ligue 1 titles on the trot between 2001/2 to 2007/08, but the season after Garde left having seen Lyon finish 5th in the league, Lyon under Hubert Fournier finished 2nd, only losing out on the league title to the oil-money rich Paris St Germain.
As the club’s manager, Garde failed to reach the heights he’d experienced both as a coach under Paul Le Guen and an assistant manager to Gérard Houllier during Lyon’s dynasty of title domination. Of course there was the economic reality of having to regularly sell their prized assets to the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid, but they were still in a reasonable position to buy the best in France to keep them on the path to European qualification. It may have helped their cause though, if they weren’t splashing a reported £12million on the likes of Aly Cissokho (from Porto), when rebuilding though.
In that context, Garde’s record in France with Lyon considering the club’s pedigree is nothing more than the least that was expected at such a club.
Right Guy Wrong Time?
Of course, there is the claim that Garde being Villa boss was the ‘right guy at the wrong time’. If he leaves, we’ll never know. Any boss would have been better off joining in the summer though, with a chance to build his ‘own’ team, but would Garde’s squad had been much different considering the committee that Fox had set up and the French players that were brought in?
Maybe Villa wouldn’t have signed Lescott, Richards and Gestede, but the rest? Garde, publicly at least, seemed happy enough with his squad to take the job. He also believed he could keep the club up with the squad.
Two wins in 20 games is entering the territory of Dave Bassett though, who chalked up two wins in 21 games when he put in the nails in Nottingham Forest as a top-flight club in 1998-99. Despite a decent first display against Manchester City in his first game in charge, the defence continued to be unorganised and leak sloppy goals, while the players continually looks disinterested.
Should he have inspired and organised the existing players more? Did the board loose faith in their manager at the time of the January window?
There would have been at least some loss of faith by the board in their manager, but there’s no doubt Garde was let down in a big way by the failings of the Villa board. Yes, a work permit issue robbed Villa of a new goalkeeper in the form of Lovre Kalinic , but which one of the club’s glorified analysts in Hendrick Almstadt or Paddy Riley were meant to be doing their due diligence on the visa situation before trying to buy him?
If players are needed, the job of the Villa board is to get transfers over the line, whatever the situation. After all, the team were only two wins from being realistically back in the survival fight and they were at least being competitive in matches during January. A couple of new key players could have made a big difference and re-energised the team too.
There is a tendency to assume the positive in the hypothetical when you deem a manager is smart and intelligent. Garde is that, but he hasn’t shown the more red-blooded qualities of leadership and inspiration that Villa badly needed in their time of need. The kind of qualities that might have even lifted Lyon up a place or two in the league under his management
While MOMS has always declared that ultimately the fault for this season’s pending relegation lay at the feet of the departed CEO Tom Fox, Garde like Sherwood before him, is far from blameless.
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