Recalling Rémi: Garde joins Arsenal, 1996

Today Arsène Wenger and Rémi Garde will face each other as Premier League managerial opponents for the first time when Arsenal meet Rémi’s new club, Aston Villa. This marks a significant point in the story of the Wenger’s 19 year affair with the English game, because as we will discuss, Rémi represents Wenger’s earliest influence at Arsenal.

Rémi Garde’s entry for the 1999 Panini album (Credit: @OldSchool Panini)

Rémi famously arrived at Arsenal aged 30 from Strasbourg on the same day as Patrick Vieira, 14 August 1996. Although they are hailed as Arsène’s first signings, Wenger did not actually join the club from Nagoya Grampus Eight until over a month later, on 30 September 1996. In fact, both signings were made on his recommendation.

ArseWeb’s rumour entry for 15 August 1996 provides a fascinating insight into the sentiment prior to Wenger’s announcement: the signing of the two Frenchmen added weight to the rumours that were circulating about his impending appointment. In a strange twist of fate the rumour entry for that day then mentions that Arsenal were being linked with Tim Sherwood, the very man Rémi has replaced as manager of Aston Villa:

In addition Remi Garde said something rather revealing:
“I’m glad to be signing for a club like Arsenal and working with Arsene Wenger.”
We are also still being linked with Tim Sherwood. The Mirror claims that a £4million deal is being finalised.

Rémi recalls the initial absence of Wenger, but that they were already in regular contact:

“I spent more time on the phone than face to face because as you will remember he was still in Japan. I was at the Colney training centre. He called me every night to have news and find out about how it was going in the training sessions and everything.”

This adds weight to the idea that Garde (fluent in English and his native French) was brought in as an ‘inside man’ for Wenger, allowing him to gauge rapport within the dressing room, adding an experienced Francophone ally to a mostly traditional English Arsenal team, easing the transition and inclusion of other ‘Continental’ players he was adding to the squad.

Rémi’s arrival at Arsenal did make a big impression on the players at the time, as Martin Keown comments:

“I remember when Remi Garde first arrived…you could say it was the beginning of a French revolution at the club…We watched these arrivals with great interest…you could not fail to be impressed by him and the other French players Wenger brought in. I remember training with them at the gym and thinking: ‘These guys are serious professionals. They mean business.’”

ArseWeb documented Garde’s debut, in a match report by Derek Brownjohn for the three-nil win over Leeds United at Highbury in October 1996:

“Remi Garde made his long awaited debut with about 10 minutes left, coming on for the injured Wright (a slight groin strain apparently which should only keep him out of training for a couple of days), to complete a thoroughly satisfactory day for the Highbury faithful.”

Rémi replaced Ian Wright in the eightieth minute, and was rated half a point higher that Steve Morrow in the report for the day:

“Morrow 6.0 Probably not fair to judge him on only about 10 minutes.

Garde 6.5 Ditto, though he looked to have a good confident touch.”

Garde went on to win a league winner’s medal in 1997/98, after which he announced his retirement, only to renege. He continued for another season, until finally retiring in June 1999, having been out since that February with an injury.

In total, Rémi made 43 Arsenal appearances, including 16 as a substitute. He was always a ‘squad player’, but his arrival and departure marked important moments of transition: the start and end of Arsène’s Generation 1.0 team. It was Generation 2.0 who would go on to win the 2002 double and form the foundation for the ‘Invincibles’ team of 2004.

Garde became a pundit, and subsequently worked his way up from coach to become manager at Lyon in June 2011. He left at the end of the 2013/2014 season, and took a sabbatical before joining Aston Villa on 2 November 2015.

Wenger, and his old colleague Gérard Houllier (also once of Villa), played a part in advising Garde to take the role at Villa Park. On joining Rémi reminisced about Arsenal, and Wenger’s legacy:

“I remember the club at Arsenal 20 years ago without training facilities, without a modern stadium like they have today…All this has to be credited to Arsène…A football club is not only the results you get today but also how you will build for the future for yourself or for another manager for or another chairman or owner.”

Clearly, Garde still retains great respect for his former boss. By the close of today, we’ll find out whether mentor was able to outmatch the master.

Would we be happy with Barry at Arsenal?

We all know by now that the close season means one thing – transfer speculation galore. Throughout the next couple of months, Arsenal will be linked with a host of players, the moves for which will probably never materialise.

This is part and parcel of the media keeping interest in football high when there aren’t many significant games. It starts of as a bit of harmless fun, but when Sky Sports News continue to talk about ‘their sources’, it can get extremely annoying.

Anyway, where am I going with this? Well, it seems we may have some transfer speculation with a bit of substance. Don’t be surprised if it drags on throughout the summer, but unlike so many – this one seems realistic. Gareth Barry is reportedly interested in a move to the Emirates.

The Telegraph wrote a piece this morning which claims that the Aston Villa midfielder is holding out for a move to Arsenal in a bid to participate in regular Champions League football. Liverpool are also tracking his progress after missing out on his signature last summer, but it is being suggested that Barry would rather join Arsenal.

Would we want Barry to join though? It is thought that Arsene Wenger would need to spend around £12m on the England midfielder, who has one year remaining on his contract at Villa Park. Is this a good deal for Arsenal? Personally, I think that Wenger could do a lot, lot worse.

Ever since the departure of Mathieu Flamini last summer, Arsenal have been crying out for a holding and battling midfielder player to do away with the problem of being light-weight in the centre of the park. Barry – who Wenger has watched several times over the few months – could be the answer.

Often when a player is linked, I try to picture what role they would play in the team and Barry fits the bill in my opinion. Playing alongside Fabregas, he would look very much at home. It’s hard to say who he could emulate, but I see him as an Emmanuel Petit type figure.

This is purely me speculating though and I would really like your opinion on this. Is he the type of player you would like to be watching at the Emirates? Could he add something extra to the midfield? Which former player could he play a similar role to?

Looking at this initially though, I think it would be a good signing. A midfield of Walcott, Barry, Fabregas and Arshavin sounds pretty good to me. I guess we will just have to wait and see how this one develops.

By Thomas Rooney

Arsenal 0 – 2 Aston Villa highlights – Arsenal don’t have what it takes..

Arsenal 0 – 2 Villa: Clichy 70 og, Agbonlahor 80

Today didn’t start well for Arsenal, we lost the coin toss, and Villa chose to switch sides, so we were attacking the north end in the 1st half, the players prefer to attack the north in the 2nd! Overall I witnessed a a very disappointing Arsenal lose to Villa, with two goals in the last 20 minutes.

It could have gone better for Arsenal, we had most of the possession, but we couldn’t break into Villa, who defended in numbers, and cut out our passes. In the first half Villa got a penalty which was badly taken and Almunia saved, but apart from the goals they didn’t have many chances. Villa’s goals came on the break, both times an Arsenal player was fouled in the build-up.

The refereeing was shocking all game, Denilson got a yellow within minutes of kickoff, while Villa went unpunished for their fouls for much of the game. One of our best chances of a goal was ruined by Riley stopping play for a VIlla player down, while Sagna went down seriously injured in the second half and play didn’t stop – leading to Villa’s first goal.

Agbonlahor and Young’s pitiful celebrations right in front of our section didn’t really do much for my impressions of them, Agbonlahor taunting Arsenal fans, and they wonder why people throw things at them?

I think all in all we can say that Arsenal aren’t consistent enought to win the title this season. We still have defensive frailities which haven’t been resolved, and when we have Adebayor and Van Persie both out we don’t look like scoring.

Bendtner is a player with potential, but he can’t play on his own up front. On that point, I don’t think we got the tactics right today. Starting with 5 in midfield and Bendtner upfront worked against Man Utd, but we could have exploited Villa’s weaknesses better if we had started with Adebayor and Vela paired, which is what the Boss did at the end of the game.

A poor result, a 10 years ago we were a very different team, and I wouldn’t expect us to drop points at home. We are now 9 points adrift. Arsenal can challenge for the title still, but right now we haven’t got any consistency at all. I’ll leave you with Wenger’s comment (BBC):

“We can play very well, but at the top level performances have to be consistent. I always say the first sign of quality is consistency, so this was frustrating after beating Manchester United.”

Highlights here

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Gallas promotes his leadership skills as Arsenal look to close gap on leaders

This is a guest post by sports writer Thomas Rooney

First of all, attention has to be paid to the fantastic week Arsenal have had. Since my post last Friday, the Gunners defeated Manchester United (highlights here) to keep their title hopes alive, then on Wednesday the ‘kids’ proved how talented they are once again as they brushed aside Wigan in the Carling Cup (highlights here).

All in all, it has been a remarkable and pleasing turnaround that could just kick start the season once again. Of course, a lot of hard work would be undone if Arsene Wenger’s side fail to continue their return to form against Aston Villa this weekend – so here’s to another three points!

Speaking ahead of the clash at the Emirates, Arsenal captain William Gallas has hit back at critics that have suggested he doesn’t have the correct attitude to be the club’s skipper. Ever since his bizarre reaction to the 2-2 draw at Birmingham last season, his leadership skills have certainly been under the microscope.

Gallas believes that he has always been a decent captain for his side though and insists the criticism he occasionally receives is only after poor results. The Frenchman said that after the Manchester United win ‘everyone was saying my leadership was good’ despite questions over it before the game.

To be honest, I think he has a point here. As we all know, football is a results business. Gallas went on to say that he actually thought he had ‘a better game against Spurs’ which emphasises how much a win means to fans.

As long as the team wins, the criticism will be heavily reduced. That’s why Gallas finished by saying that at the end of the season the only thing that matters is that Arsenal have a trophy because ‘everything else is forgotten’.

So, the Aston Villa game tomorrow. Martin O’Neill’s side have been hailed as the only team capable of breaking the top four places in the Premier League and they certainly have a team of more than capable players. They only sit three points behind the Gunners, so a win is an absolute must for the home team.

As far as team news goes, well the ‘big guns’ are set to return despite the impressive showing in the Carling Cup at the weekend. Emmanuel Adebayor and Manuel Almunia should take their place in the starting line-up, as will the already mentioned Gallas. Robin van Persie is suspended though and Emmanuel Eboue is still suffering with a knee injury.

Arsenal are unbeaten in 19 Premier League matches against Villa, but have failed to beat them in the league at the Emirates as yet. Two 1-1 draws have been produced in the last couple of seasons. This time around though, I expect a confident Arsenal performance against a team that will be rather down after their home defeat to Middlesbrough last weekend.

By Thomas Rooney

Gilberto is on the way out, is Barry on the way in?

So reports coming out of Greece say that Gilberto is in Athens for a medical with Panathanaikos. Henk Ten Cate, the new manager wants Bert to bolster his midfield.

Meanwhile Martin O’Neill has been quoted in The Sun confirming Arsenal’s interest in Gareth Barry.

“Myself and Steve Walford both know Arsene Wenger’s assistant Pat Rice. He phoned Steve to ask how the Liverpool thing had gone and said that they might show an interest. At the end of the conversation Arsenal said ‘that’s fine’ and that they’ll let us know. That is exactly what happened.”

So there;s nothing concrete, but it would seem that we are interested. This does make sense, especially as Gilberto may leave.

We looked stretched at times last season and although I have said before that we could cope with our problems by bringing through players like Diaby, it would ease the strain on the squad if we signed a new defensive midfielder

Last season one of our failing points was the lack of depth in the squad and this needs to be addressed if we are to mount another strong challenge for the title and improve on last seasons performance!

What do you think?

Arsenal Snatch A Vital Point

The game on Saturday was not the best I have seen Arsenal play this season, 1-1 against Aston Villa. I would have been disappointed with that result had you asked me before the game, afterwards I think I will take the point. Villa are a team who are very hard to beat and we did struggle at times, 1 point is better than none!

To see the highlights click here.

Villa scored in the 28th minute through a Senderos own goal. Gallas lost Agbonlahor while trying to claim offside and the England U-21 striker put in a low cross which bounced off Senderos at the near post and past Almunia. It was disappointing and we did seem jaded to be honest. At points I though Gallas looked really lost and the same for Adebayor. Although in the opening 15 minutes we didn’t play badly, once Villa had taken the lead they played well, with very organised defence and made a lot of quick counter attacks utilising the height of Carew and Agbonlahor as well as the pace of Ashley Young.

Clichy looked quiet for much of the second half, he did his job but normally he does rampage up and down the flank, he looked a little subdued, whether that was because of last week or because Ashley Young was a handful I don’t know. In any case things were looking desperate as the second half went on. Theo had made some good moves in the first half, and played well on the right cutting in but little came of our attacks. Bendtner came on for a struggling Diaby and made some difference, but the bench looked sparse, Arseblog seems a little worried about this, and true, when I saw Gilberto and Denilson come on for Flamini and Senderos I did think it looked like a sign of a threadbare squad. In any case we kept pushing for the equaliser. As I counted down the minutes of extra time and the stadium emptied disgracefully(a very sad and annoying sight which shouldn’t be happening to a great and successful team like Arsenal), I became more and more nervous, there was still some hope, and in what must have been the last 10 seconds, just as the Villa fans started singing in celebration at their victory, Clichy put a deep cross into Adebayor at the back post who headed it down for Bendtner to control and finish from the edge of the 6-yard box.. The relief was incredible, everyone went crazy and it felt good to get something so so late out of a game which looked lost!!

Wenger said after the game:

“We had a hangover from last week definitely – you could see that in the first-half…I must say that I was impressed by Villa. Until the last minute they didn’t give us any space, or time on the ball and they are team who are very difficult to beat…I believe the point we gained today will have a big impact on the Premier League, and staying top helps. You know you go through a spell like that and I believe that the point gained can have vital importance.”

That point could indeed be crucial, now that we are sitting only one ahead of Man U in the table. This title race is one of the most tightly contested of recent years, it doesn’t make for easy watching!! Arsene makes a good point that even going through a bad spell we are still gaining some points, its good to see the likes of Bendtner and Theo getting the crucial goals when others aren’t playing so well, Gunnerblog picked up on that here.

One bad point that Wenger picked up on was the Villa fans singing songs about Eduardo which weren’t so nice. I heard them myself and really it was just sad. Wenger says:

You expect better from people who come to football stadiums. It looks that intelligence and stupidity can have no limits. Unfortunately stupidity has won.”

There was some trouble between fans after the chants and several have been arrested, one Aston Villa fan is in hospital for head injuries after falling down steps according to the Telegraph.

We have to face Milan at the San Siro midweek now, the players will have too pick themselves up for this game, we are the underdogs, but that will suit us. Milan are masters of two-legged matches and we will have to aim for a goal, meaning they wll have to push forward and get two. That might give us more room to counter attack, but we shall see how Wenger plays it. Hopefully some of our injured players like Robin VP will be back, but that doesn’t look too promising at the moment. We shall have to wait and see.