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Feb 21, 2013

Garde defends former boss Wenger

Lyon manager Remi Garde believes his former boss Arsene Wenger "deserves more respect" despite Arsenal's barren trophy run, insisting his merits at the club should not be dismissed.

Garde, 46, joined the Gunners in 1996, the year Wenger began his tenure in north London, and the former midfielder hung up his boots three years later.

Having followed his mentor into the dug-out, the Lyon boss believes Wenger does not deserve the criticism levelled at him following his team's Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich, which raises the prospect of an eighth successive season without silverware.

"Of course I still think he's a great manager. When you think of the number of years he's spent at the head of the club and just how far he's gone with them! I can talk about that as I arrived at Arsenal at the same time as him when the club had not won anything for years," Garde said.

"He's criticised for not winning trophies, but for what he's brought to the club, he deserves more respect for his work. We're judged on results, but the way the judgement is formed is important, it mustn't overstep certain boundaries."

Garde found himself in a similar situation to Wenger in 2011 when he took over at Lyon from Claude Puel, who had failed to pick up a trophy in three seasons after the club had won seven successive Ligue 1 titles. Garde ended that streak with a Coupe de France triumph last season, and has kept his team in title contention this term.

His charges also remain on course to add a maiden piece of European silverware to the trophy cabinet when they head into Thursday's last-32 second-leg Europa League tie against Tottenham, although last week's 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane has left Garde's side with no room for error on home soil.

"We'll have to be patient, because if we concede a goal, it'll be difficult. We'll have to be solid, opportunistic and take our chances," he said. "I think they'll come to play as they know that if they score, it'd be very good for them. They'll go forward, and it'll be an open match, more so than the first leg."

While Garde confirmed Steed Malbranque has recovered sufficiently from a bout of flu to face his former club, the capacity crowd expected at Stade de Gerland will likely only get to pay tribute to Hugo Lloris, who left OL for Spurs last summer, as he sits among the visitors' substitutes.

Lloris perhaps had some sympathy for Remy Vercoutre, his replacement at Lyon, who was beaten by two sublime Gareth Bale free-kicks to give Spurs the upper hand in the tie. After being tortured by constant TV replays of the Welsh star's first-leg double, Vercoutre could not promise he would do better if faced with the same situation on Thursday.

"I think it'd be difficult to do anything other than what I did. When he's lining up his shot, you feel something is going to happen, the atmosphere in the stadium changes," the goalkeeper said. "I spoke about it with Hugo Lloris, who told me he works a lot on them in training. I worked a lot with Juninho, but I don't have any guarantee of stopping Gareth Bale's free-kicks," said Vercoutre, who added Lyon would employ no special anti-Bale measures.

"There's no specific plan. In the first-leg, we didn't change the way we defend, and we didn't even concede a lot of free-kicks in our half. We have to put a lot of intensity into our defensive work. We have to defend well as a team."

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