Speaking to L’Équipe, Aston Villa manager Remi Garde looked back on his first few weeks at the helm of the Premier League strugglers. Extracts.
Aston Villa are 20th. Do you tell yourself that you have not started your England managerial career in the best place?
Of course the standings are paramount in the short term, but there are other things: I had quite a special meeting with the owner, and I needed this connection. The project is not simply about saving the club’s position in the Premier League. We have to rebuild a team that, according to what I have been told, was not sufficiently built with solid foundations. For the last three or four seasons now, Villa has only just saved itself. So things are not functioning well, despite having the ninth biggest budget in the Premier League.
On his first month in charge…
It is not like I am discovering a new type of job. It is certainly quite peculiar to arrive whilst the season is ongoing, at the head of a team who had just lost seven matches in a row. It was necessary that I arrived in an ambulance, in some way. The job is not different, for the moment, because I am concentrating on the team and in terms of finding solutions as to how we play.
Are you annoyed at Lyon President Jean Michel Aulas for not allowing you to bring some of your former coaching staff with you to Aston Villa?
No, I am not annoyed with him, because I understand his position, especially at the time at which I asked him. Aside from that, I did not have any choice but to ask him, and I am sure that he understood that I was going to do so. But I tried because it was very important for me, and it remains so. In terms of the role of manager in England, there are boxes that I still need to fill.
Your coaching staff is really quite small…
Yes, it is missing at least one person. But this has also allowed me to spend more time directly with my players, instead of immediately taking a back seat like a manager. I needed to be close to them at the start.
Would avoiding relegation be a feat?
Oh of course. I have said to the players: that is our title for the season, succeed in doing something that nobody can see us doing, and that has never been done.
If you are relegated, will you remain at Aston Villa?
My discussions with the owner also covered that. I wanted certain assurances, and he said to me that if the club was relegated that the project would remain in place, and that he was counting on me to keep it going. So I am working for the medium-term too.
But would you want to stay?
I would want to stay if I feel that everyone is behind me, yes. A season in the Championship, it is not what people dream of, but we can rebuild the foundations of this club quite quickly. Relegation, nobody wants that, but if we are in the Championship and the club still wants me, I will go again with Villa, the answer is yes.
Will the January transfer window radically change the face of your team?
Radically, I don’t know, but it could change, yes, and I hope that it will change. Sometimes, the window is not a welcome thing, it can destabilise a team, but in our case, we could benefit from it.
On Sunday you play against Arsenal and Arsène Wenger, is this a little bit special for you?
A little bit, but I do not want to overdo it either. It brings a tear to the eye because it is thanks to this club and the very same manager that I was able to discover nearly 20 years ago English football that I so love.
Have you spoken to him on the phone?
Not since I arrived. But I spoke to him before, yes. I spoke to him when I had other contacts with English clubs (Newcastle and Sunderland). I called him (this time), but I already had a great desire to come here. His advice is always very informative.
Arsène had always said very positive things about you, and generally speaking it is thought that he does not speak to his players…
He speaks only a little, but he always hits the nail on the head. That is Arsène’s strength. He is a great communicator, not in terms of quantity but in terms of quality. As he speaks only a little, when he does, everyone is always listening. And like all the managers, when he speaks to the press, he is also speaking to his players.