Over the past five years the Aston Villa job has been something of a poisoned chalice, and it appears that a month on from Remi Garde's appointment as the struggling Midlands club's head coach, the challenge at Villa may be greater than he had first anticipated.
Often a new manager can instantly galvanise a faltering team, but so far the former Lyon man has only two points to show from his first four games in charge at Villa Park and they remain rock bottom of the Premier League with seemingly no way of breaking out of the relegation zone.
There is a long way to go, however, and anything is possible. Here are the three areas that Garde needs to address if he is to keep the Villains in England's top flight.
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Investing in quality in January
It wasn't Garde's fault, but for Villa to lose midfield general and club captain Fabian Delph and their only consistent and potent goalscoring threat over the past three seasons in Christian Benteke, was catastrophic. Both players were star performers in last season's campaign which saw their side beat the drop and also reach the FA Cup final, but few people can blame either player for leaving for pastures new, particularly considering the destinations were far more attractive in terms of footballing prospects and salaries.
There is now under a month until the January transfer window opens and surely Garde will be looking to improve his squad. Creating chances and scoring goals have been Villa's main problems so far this season. According to the football statistics database WhoScored.com they have scored an average of 0.9 goals per game, which is the joint lowest in the league along with Swansea and West Brom, who are both teams which have conceded far fewer goals than Villa this season and who in turn, find themselves in better positions in the league.
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Rudy Gestede and Jordan Ayew both have three league goals apiece and Scott Sinclair has two, but none of these players are ever going to be capable of lifting their side out of the relegation zone in the same way the Belgian frontman Benteke had done in the past. Expect the Villa hierarchy to give their new manager a significant chunk of money for a new striker in January as they look to secure their Premier League survival once again.
Get the players playing for each other
It appears that the dressing room at Villa Park is somewhat fragmented at the moment, and it has perhaps been the case for a while. Like many Premier League clubs, their squad is comprised of an eclectic mix of different nationalities, which is sometimes a positive, and sometimes a negative. At Villa it appears that the players lack cohesion and togetherness, which could be caused by the players not really knowing each other well enough. Players have come and gone at Villa with such regularity that many must find it hard to settle. If they are to get out of their current dire position, however, they are going to need a strong collective fighting spirit, something they are seemingly devoid of at present.
Micah Richards has arrived with a point to prove after he was let go by Manchester City and he has demonstrated that he has all the credentials to be a reliable captain for his new side, but Garde needs more players who are willing to shoulder the responsibility.
Joleon Lescott's performances must improve and experienced players like Gabriel Agbonlahor and Kieran Richardson have to show more consistency and Premier League know-how if Villa are going to stop the rot. Villa evidently lack the individual talent of previous years, but in order for the current situation to improve, they will have to find some steely resolve and harmony which must be instilled in every one of the players by Remi Garde himself.
'Remi Gardiola' must prove his worth as a manager
Arsenal fans will remember Remi Garde not for his performances on the pitch in particular, but for being the first signing of the Arsene Wenger era. Garde never really established himself as a key member of the Arsenal squad, but the reasons why he was signed are now clear. Wenger wanted to change the footballing culture at Arsenal and the 30-year-old Garde was instrumental in him achieving this.
Ex-Arsenal team-mate Adrian Clarke said in a quote used by Sky Sports about Garde's influence on the Gunners dressing room: "It was almost as if he was there to teach the rest of us what Wenger wanted in terms of his passing, movement and attitude." His professionalism and intelligence are two key reasons why he has made the step up to management. Now he must prove himself as the manager Wenger always hoped he could become.
At Lyon he inherited a strong squad when he took charge in 2011, where Hugo Lloris, Lisandro Lopez and Bafetimbi Gomis for example were all key members of his playing staff. But the fruits of his labour are only becoming clear now. He invested a lot of time and trust into the club's burgeoning youth academy, and even though he brought success during his time as head coach, notably winning the Coupe de France in the 2011-2012 season, his real legacy has been the players that have graduated from the youth academy over recent years. International stars like Maxime Gonalons, Nabil Fekir and Alexandre Lacazette were all given the opportunity by Garde to shine at a young age and are players who are now coveted by every club in the world.
Aston Villa too have a young squad, with former Barcelona winger Adama Traore, Jordan Amavi and Jack Grealish to name but a few and Garde will be the perfect man to improve them as players. It may be a long time until the nickname 'Remi Gardiola' is used again, but over time, Villa's new French manager will be sure to make subtle changes to tactics, formation and personnel in order to revitalise a club which has simply under-performed for too long. It is probably the hardest job in the country and if Garde manages to turn their fortunes around, it will be the greatest success of his career to date.
Can Remi Garde keep Aston Villa in the Premier League? Give YOUR opinion in the comment box below!
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