A few days ago we heard the news that Remi Garde had left Aston Villa by mutual consent after only four months in charge. This morning it’s hard to know who will be more relieved, the club and its fans or Garde himself. This season has seen Aston Villa lurch from crisis to crisis and Garde’s tenure proved to be no different. He leaves with a record of two wins, six draws and twelve losses in 20 games giving him a win record of just 10%.
Garde arrived at Villa Park boasting a successful playing career. He is a former French international centre-back who has paled for the likes of Lyon and Arsenal, his Arsenal career began based on a personal recommendation from Arséne Wenger. After spending time on the Lyon coaching staff post-retirement; his managerial career began with the club in 2011 and in that time his side claimed the 2012 French Cup and Trophée des Champions (equivalent of the community shield), an impressive feat considering 2011 marked the start of PSG’s stranglehold on French football. Garde went on to guide his side in to the Champions League before leaving after the 2013/14 season citing personal reasons.
Ever since his appointment in November 2015 questions have been asked of Garde. Firstly, he was criticised for not having any Premier League experience. This has been proven to be a vital factor in a Premier League relegation battle as proved by the way Tony Pulis used his experience to keep Crystal Palace and West Brom in the Premier League in consecutive seasons and the way the vastly experienced Sam Allardyce has overseen a significant upturn in form with struggling Sunderland. Secondly, many questioned the ability of a relatively in-experienced manager who had only known life at the top of the table, to save a Villa side who had sacked Tim Sherwood after a six match losing streak and sat bottom of the Premier League with just four points from eleven games. As it turns out, these criticisms were justified and it is certain Garde has left no legacy at the doomed club.
It could hardly have been a more difficult start for Garde, his first game in charge was at home to Manchester City. Amazingly, Garde’s new side put in an impressive performance against the two-time champions to come away from the game with a 0-0 draw. However, this spirit didn’t last as Villa continued to struggle to pick up points. A run of three draws in four games in December and a run in January which saw the team edge past Wycombe after a replay in the FA cup along with a 1-0 league victory over Crystal Palace followed by two credible draws against surprise packages Leicester and local rivals West Brom briefly entertained talk of a revival. Unfortunately for Villa fans this was as good as it got as later in January Man City played them off the park to beat them 4-0 in the FA Cup fourth round, this result sent the team plummeting into its current run of seven league defeats in eight.
The low point in that run, which saw the league’s lowest scorers only four times, was undoubtedly the 6-0 home defeat to Liverpool in which Villa put in a woeful performance devoid of any effort, passion and quality. After the game the feeling of anger amongst the fans was ratcheted up when Joleon Lescott (according to him accidentally) tweeted a picture of an expensive sports car.
Ever since, that game the accusations of a lack of passion have moved from the players on the pitch to the manager himself. Garde found himself in the firing line for apparently being unable to motivate his players and sitting motionless as he watched his team being ripped to shreds by a vastly superior Liverpool side. After the game Garde told the media that ‘the level of spirit was not the same amongst all players,’ this drew particular criticism from former Villa and Liverpool striker Stan Collymore who said that it was Garde’s job to motivate the players and that if he was unable to do so he had no choice but to go. A statement that is hard to argue with as it has been proven many times that once a manager has lost the dressing room he is essentially a dead man walking.
As the weeks rolled on and the defeats kept coming Garde continued to point to a lack of spirit and quality within the squad without suggesting any ways in which he was going to turn it around. This meant that by the time the team were defeated against Swansea on 19th March Garde sounded like a broken record and the team looked a shell of its once great self, leaving the two no choice but to part ways after only 147 days.
Although, this mess was no means completely Garde’s fault. Aston Villa have been on the decline ever since the 2010/11 season, this was the last time Villa finished above 15th in the Premier League (they finished 9th) and just the season before they were perhaps hard done by in their League Cup final defeat to Manchester United. Ever since then, waning interest in the club from owner Randy Lerner has seen big name departures such as James Milner, Gareth Barry, Ron Vlaar, Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke go un-replaced, leaving Remi Garde with a side that perhaps only Harry Houdini could mastermind an escape with. Garde was dealt a near fatal blow when no money was made available to him in the January transfer window, Aston Villa were expected to be one of the busiest teams but they were inactive, this ultimately sealed their Premier League fate.
Therefore, Garde should not be blamed for all of Aston Villa’s problems but his reign should still be seen as a disappointment, he was unable to put his own stamp on the team, he never looked as if he had any authority either on the touchline or within the dressing room and as a result the Villa fans were served up the same drab and passionless performances that had been used to all season long and were denied the chance to see their team put up any kind of fight to stay in the Premier League. Aston Villa’s team bears no hallmarks of Remi Garde’s time in charge and few would argue he has left any legacy at all at the club. In fact, by the time you are reading this he may have already been forgotten.