Arrogant comments and accusations of slapping players: Albert Riera’s Bordeaux on course for historically low finish

Not for the first week Albert Riera’s analysis of the game had fallen short of the result and raised the hackles of his opposite number. His FC Girondins de Bordeaux side had lost 2-1 away to AS Saint-Étienne, in a bizarre match where Riera had been accused of slapping an ASSE player

For Riera, his charges had been far “better” than the team 11 points and 11 places above them in the league, and he wanted the press that gathered to know, “You can write that in bold.” The ASSE manager, Olivier Dall’Oglio was the latest to hear about how his side had been far inferior, and was evidently fed up with the sentiment, “Everyone analyses their match as they want. We didn’t see the same match, but that’s not a problem, I’m not wasting my time on that.

It has become a rite of passage for Bordeaux to arrive on the weekend with a new jab ready for their opposition manager. Riera has clashed with Régis Brouard (former SC Bastia manager), Omar Daf (Amiens SC), and even Ahmed Kantari (Valenciennes FC). In each case, Riera has come across to the rest of the league as arrogant, and keen to settle old scores. 

A look that does not hold much value when his team are 14th in Ligue 2 and six points away from the relegation zone. Bordeaux have only spent three seasons outside the top division, and last season’s third-place finish was supposed to be the club’s nadir, a record that will certainly be broken by the Spaniard this season with the club lingering near the bottom of the pile on course for their worst ever campaign.

‘What does Riera believe? That we’re not able to see his positional play?’ 

After beating Valenciennes (the bottom side in the league), Riera declared that his side were not them, “We have the quality to make more than four passes in a row.” While, when Brouard was sacked earlier in the season, the Spaniard was keen to point out that “when I arrived I said that I had 23 or 25 playing systems. Someone said, “You just need a system!” That someone is no longer a coach today.” 

The problem comes with the sense that Riera has brought an arrogance to the post that the results and performances have not yet backed up. A manager who earned his coaching badges alongside Xavi and Xabi Alonso has yet to improve results for Bordeaux, as Brouard retorted to L’Équipe, “Sometimes you can feel like you were better and it didn’t work, but for him, it’s recurring. What does he believe? That we’re not able to see his positional play? If you look at the goals they concede, there are still similarities.

The paper also quoted John Williams, the Amiens sporting director, who was frank on the subject, “At some point you also have to win. If Bordeaux were first, people might think no less of it but at least they wouldn’t say anything.” Despite, the rest of the league having slowly turned against the manager, the Bordeaux’s president, Gérard Lopez, reportedly remains appreciative of his manager’s communication style. 

How long this will remain the case will have to be seen, Bordeaux are on course for a historically low finish and there is a feeling that Riera’s presence and attitude stands as the antithesis to the values the club prides itself on. As an ex-player who wished to remain anonymous told L’Équipe, “Traditionally, Bordeaux inspires a certain class and restraint. It’s not arrogance or polemics.

GFFN | Nick Hartland

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