Christophe Galtier

CHRISTOPHE GALITER IS THE MOST UNDERRATE MANAGER IN LIGUE. HE REALLY DESERVES A MOVE TO A BIGGER CLUB SOON

One of the biggest stories in football from last season was French side Lille winning Ligue 1 after a decade. Having ended the dominance of , who have been perennial victors since the arrival of Qatari ownership, have had a faltering start to the current season under a new manager.

 

Les Douges are currently 12th on the table, having picked up just four wins from a dozen games. The more surprising fact is that the group of players are pretty much the same as last year, minus the departures of goalkeeper Mike Maignan and defensive midfielder Boubakary Soumare as starters. That brings the influence and abilities of former manager Christophe Galtier into even sharper focus.

 

Galtier worked wonders for four seasons at the club, under a constant overhaul of the best players who were lured away. His new team, OGC Nice, are sitting in the runners-up spot, seven points behind leaders PSG. They smashed Lille 4-0 back in August, and there are already the quiet whispers of Galtier repeating his magic from last season. So, how good is Galtier and how much longer before a top job across Europe comes calling?

 

LES DOUGES OF WAR

Galtier arrived at Lille in December 2017, taking over from Marcelo Bielsa with the team in the relegation places. Lille were hemorrhaging defeats that season, a lot having to do with the dysfunction till Galtier’s appointment. However, with three consecutive wins from the club’s final four league games, Lille avoided relegation by a solitary point. The 2018-19 season really announced Galtier as someone who can challenge for the title. 

 

The club brought in key players such as Jonathan Bamba, Mehmet Zeki Celik, Jose Fonte, Jonathan Ikone and Soumare. All of these would go on to lift the championship in two years’ time but back then, they were no slouches either. Lille finished 2nd, conceding the fewest goals (33) with Nicolas Pepe hitting 23 goals and Bamba 14 across all competitions. The team only suffered two defeats since the turn of the year, and despite losing Pepe, Rafael Leao and Thiago Mendes, managed to finish 4th in 2019-20.

 

Once again, before the 2020-21 campaign, they had to sell top-scorer Victor Osimhen along with key defender Gabriel. Not to be deterred, Galtier identified top replacements in Burak Yilmaz, Jonathan David, and Sven Botman- all of whom became starters immediately. Using a well-drilled 4-4-2 which became a narrow 4-2-2-2 when they were out of possession. The plan was to move quickly out of defence, and advance through the wide areas quickly using the electric pace of Bamba and Ikone.

Lille players celebrate with Christophe Galtier

Galtier and his players celebrate winning the title. Image credits: espn.co.uk

 

Up top, David was the agile one who darted in and out of spaces while Yilmaz served as the target man. While defending, Lille pressured intensely in the opponent’s half and forced them to attack down the wings. They were comfortable in dealing with crosses into the box, given Fonte and Botman’s supremacy. Maignan was an active goalkeeper, coming out to catch and being excellent with his reflexes. The result? Only three defeats across the entire season, fewest goals allowed (23) and the highest points tally (83) in their history on their way to the Ligue 1 trophy. 

 

Galtier won the Manager of the Season award (his third, the second one coming in 2018-19), Maignan was the Best Goalkeeper and everyone appeared well pleased. However, the relationship came to a fraught end after disagreements with the new president and he moved onto Nice where he has continued his brilliant job. But before looking into the present and the future, one has to appreciate the past to understand the true essence of Galtier.

 

SAINT-ETIENNE HERO

His first coaching job was with ASSE, back in 2009. Much like Lille, Les Verts were in the relegation zone and had just fired Alain Perrin, a long time mentor of Galtier. Once again, Galtier guided the side to safety, avoiding the drop by one point. Using the tools at his disposal, including a burgeoning Dimitri Payet and Blaise Matuidi, they finished 10th the following season. The 2011-12 campaign saw the emergence of another star in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

 

His 16 goals enabled the side to qualify for Europe by finishing 7th. Galtier by then was already making a name as someone who gets the best out of his players no matter the match situation or opponents. Having to work on a shoestring budget as compared to rivals, Galtier had no choice but to see the best players come and go once they display their potential. Along with Aubameyang, some of the other names to have come under the tutelage of Galtier include Kurt Zouma, Max Gradel, Josuha Guilavogui, Faouzi Ghoulam and Allan Saint-Maximin.

Saint-Etienne celebrate winning the Coupe de la Ligue

Image credits: sportspopulaire.com

 

A number of high-placed finishes, helping them continue their European sojourns. The peak, however, was the 2012-13 season with Saint-Etienne winning the Coupe de la Ligue. It was their first piece of silverware in 32 years and Galtier was also the joint recipient of the Manager of the Season award.

 

Since he left the club, they had a couple of good seasons but the atmosphere with Claude Puel in charge is not great. There have been instances of fan violence, ultras revolting against the manager, disruptions on matchdays as Saint-Etienne sit bottom of the Ligue 1 table with no wins. What they would give for a man like Galtier to come and rescue them once again. But the manager is now with his new troops who are making waves at the opposite end. 

 

NICE PRESENT AND BETTER FUTURE?

Galtier and his new club had a massive summer, bringing in the likes of Jean-Clair Todibo, Calvin Stengs, Pablo Rosario, Justin Kluivert, Mario Lemina among others. He has stuck with the 4-4-2, with many aspects from his time with Lille being incorporated. The importance of wide players, a complementing centre-back pairing and two attackers who provide different levels of danger.

 

The result has been tremendous with Nice winning seven games already, and making a habit of scoring goals in the final 15 minutes of the game. Galtier is overseeing the development of several youngsters including Youcef Atal, Evann Guessand, and Khepren Thuram. If Nice can sustain this pace, they are well on course to qualify for Europe and maybe even clinch silverware.

 

Moreover, Galtier personally should be more in demand than he is with one potential destination being the Premier League. Newcastle United are in the market for a new coach, and Galtier fits the bill. He has clear principles of working which has brought success, he has the ability to get the best out of a squad that is not the best amongst its peers and most pressingly, he knows Saint-Maximin well who is the Magpies’ star player. With the new ownership structure, there will be no shortage of funds for Galtier who can spend lavishly in January to bring in reinforcements.

Other than Newcastle, bottom dwellers Norwich can also seek to avail the services of Galtier as the Canaries have a young squad but are underperforming by a long margin. For the time being, he remains one of the best in the business and Ligue 1 knows the gem they have on their hands. 

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