‘Rémi who?’ Garde tipped to succeed old boss Arsène Wenger

 

With every bad result the clamour grows for Arsenal to dispense with their most successful manager. But who could possibly follow Arsène Wenger?

The answer may be found in France. Rémi Garde never made much impact as a player at Arsenal; signed on the same day as Patrick Vieira, he was always in the shadows and retired after three injury-hit seasons. But despite being a manager for just 18 months he is now second favourite with the bookmakers to replace Wenger, behind only Pep Guardiola.

Garde is largely unknown on these shores outside the Arsenal cognoscenti, but when Wenger was appointed in 1996 it was, for most, a case of “Arsène who?” And that turned out rather well.

Wenger, though, had a lot more experience than Garde, who took over at Lyons in June 2011.

It is what he has done since, as well as his links with Wenger and Arsenal, that have catapulted him into contention. Garde took control of a Lyons team which had lost its way in recent years after winning seven successive titles from 2001-2008. Claude Puel, the former Lyons manager, spent £125m over three years without success. Garde, who was on the coaching staff for several title-winning years but  more recently was running the academy, stepped up with a brief to slash the budget, mainly by shifting non-performing “stars” and promoting youth. He has not only done that, he has also steered the team past big-spending Paris Saint-Germain and done it while cruising into the knockout stages of the Europa League. Lyons are in that competition because Garde just failed to secure a Champions League place last season, but his team did win the French Cup.

Garde could have been Lyons manager earlier; he was offered the chance to replace the departing Gérard Houllier in 2007 but turned it down preferring to work with the youngsters. That indicated a man who knows his own mind – as does a public contradiction of autocratic president Jean-Michel Aulas over transfer policy – and who is planning for the long-term. It is also similar to Guardiola, who eschewed the chance to become Barcelona’s technical director in favour of learning the management ropes with the (largely) young men of Barcelona B. That turned out rather well, too.

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