14 August is the anniversary of the signing of Rémi Garde by Arsenal. But you will not find it noted much since it is also the day we signed a certain Patrick Vieira.
Curiously although the two were utterly different players and at different stages in their careers, but have a link – for both have continued in football after retiring from playing. Patrick is at Man City, and Rémi is at Lyon.
Since we’ve recently had an article about Patrick, I though I would return to the career of Rémi and catch up with Olympique Lyonnais
Rémi Garde was born on April 3, 1966 in L’Arbresle in France, and started his footballing with Lyon in 1982, when they were a league 2 side. He became captain, was a part of the promotion winning side and in 1990 played for France getting the first of six caps. In 1993 he joined Strasbourg before coming to Arsenal in 1996 – joining while Mr Wenger was still at Grampus Eight.
He came to Arsenal on a free transfer, and played most of his 31 games at Arsenal as a backup to Vieira or Petit. He got a league winners’ medal for the1997/8 season but was limited by a knee injury, which forced his retirement at the end of the 1998/9 season.
It is said that he came out of retirement shortly after leaving Arsenal to make a few appearances for Carlisle United, but I have not found verification of that – or indeed an explanation of how he got a link with Carlisle.
Rémi Garde then started to appear on French TV – sometimes alongside Arsene Wenger before returning to Lyon as coach in 2003 becoming part of the title winning team that worked under Paul Le Guen, Gérard Houllier and Alain Perrin. He moved upwards to become director of the club’s training centre finally becoming the club’s manager on my birthday (although I doubt that he knew it!!!) – 22nd June 2011, replacing Claude Puel.
It is, I believe, important to understand the significance of Lyon in French football, if one is to understand the importance of the appointment of Garde to the manager’s position.
Although the club was formed at the end of the 19th century, the modern club didn’t really come into being until 1950, and didn’t win the league until 2002. But then it won the league seven times in a row! They have played in the Champions League 11 times, reaching the semi-finals last season, and they are currently building a new stadium which will be open in 2013. Such is their measure of their recently acquired importance that they were members of the G14, when that group represented the top clubs in Europe.
Despite the recency of their success Olympique Lyonnais is very popular throughout France, second only to Marseille. They have also been noted as the biggest earners in French football – although the takeover of PSG by outside investors may well change all that. In an interesting link with Arsenal Olympique Lyonnais also has a successful women’s team which has won their league seven times and was UEFA Women’s Champions League in 2011.
But there’s always a down side, and after the seven in a row achievement came Puel, during whose reign Lyon have won nothing. The last trophy of the era was under Alain Perrin, who gained the double in 2007/8.
This past season Lyon came 4th in the league, but won the Coupe de France (the French FA Cup) and the Trophée des champions (equivalent of the Community Shield). As a result the club is in the Europa League this season.
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