Villa Stumble On Get Out Of Jail Free Garde
Remi Garde’s CV and recent history at Lyon make him the perfect appointment for the Aston Villa hierarchy as they try to right years of wrongs in their recruitment process.
Garde’s desk this morning is unquestionably a messy one but be under no illusions as to the size of the club he has joined. Their list of honours rivals most of England’s heavyweights, with Villa sitting pretty in the top 5 of the most decorated English clubs.
Only Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Everton have won more league titles. There’s 7 FA Cups, 5 League Cups and the biggest of all, a European Cup. Throw in a Charity Shield and some other minor pots and it’s not exactly cobwebs and dust in the Villa Park trophy room.
But the club Remi Garde arrives at is in one in danger, to echo the chant of unsympathetic fans, of becoming not famous any more. For reference, see Nottingham Forest. If you still don’t understand, throw Leeds United into your Google machine. They are fallen giants with mountains to climb and former glories are but a distant memory in their corridors.
Garde however has the credentials to arrest the slide and more importantly for Randy Lerner and his minions, to do it on the cheap.
His study began as far back as his playing days at Arsenal where he served as a conduit between headmaster Wenger and his class of rowdy seniors. The Arsenal that Wenger joined was stagnant and littered with sceptical old boys. Immediately he banned chocolate and raised eyebrows were being traded at the sight of a skinny, bespectacled tutor as the players on the team bus sang “we want our Mars Bars back!”
Garde was brought in along with Patrick Vieira as Wenger’s first recruits and former defender Adrian Clarke recalls it was the diminutive 30 year old Garde who helped settle the troops:
At a time when the old guard were sceptical about Wenger and his methods, he was a link between them and the new gaffer. It was almost as if he was there to teach the rest of us what Wenger wanted in terms of his passing, movement and attitude.
But Lerner’s Villa are unlikely to have looked so far back for indications of Garde’s suitability. There wasn’t even enough homework done to get his name right when he was welcomed yesterday with an erroneous Twitter hashtag.
His reputation as a nurturer of youth at Lyon however will not have escaped their attention. At the French club he joined as a teenager years earlier, he faced problems of a different kind on his first day at the office as boss. The club was tackling meltdown. With their budget slashed, star players on big wages needed shifting. Hugo Llrois was one who moved on for cheaper than he was worth.
Garde had already served time as Director of Academy and the focus shifted to promoting some apprentices. The likes of Alexandre Lacazette became first team regulars.
He has now become a regular feature of gossip columns touting big moves.
Garde’s tenure at Lyon was by no means steeped in glory, a French Cup victory in his first season and the Community Shield equivalent his only silverware to speak of. But his task was one of stabilisation and it was passed with flying colours. Garde himself takes some of the credit for last year’s 2nd place to PSG and qualification for the Champions League.
There are reflections in his assignment at Villa and a stabaliser is exactly what they need. Recruitment has been ‘aggressive’ in the words of Lerner, but there’s nothing to show for it. Getting the best out of players already recruited and absorbing potential like Jack Grealish will be high on the priority list. There will unlikely be the luxury of heavy investment in fresh blood.
It’s a daunting remit as the empire continues to crumble at Villa Park. But maybe, just maybe, the owners at Aston Villa have blindly pinned their tail on the man who could finally soothe the pain at the wounded old Brummie dog.