Claude Puel : "In combat mode"
After the superb qualification of the Verts for the final of the Coupe de France, the General Manager of AS Saint-Étienne underlines the importance of the championship and of the match against Bordeaux, this Sunday (3pm) at the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium.
How did you experience the scenes of jubilation that followed your qualification for the final of the Coupe de France?
Our qualification gave our fans a fantastic scene to our fans, of our club and of our Football. It’s magnificent to see so many shared emotions.
Did your team recover well from this match?
We will see tomorrow how we behave and if we are able to be mentally present on the field. Qualifying after having played such a much is a good thing for the team and the club. In general, we recuperate very quickly in these cases but we can no longer dream. You have to know how to end the nice feeling of the Cup in order to quickly refocus on a very difficult match that will count for another competition. The Championship is our common thread and our priority.
Do these two objectives involve risks?
I have the habit of differentiating the competitions. The Coupe is something very special with consequences after every match but we have the time to think about this final. The championship is more important. We have to earn points. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work during the last match, now we have to do even more in the championship, starting tomorrow. It’s a match that is also going to be played out on a physical level if the physical aspect is lacking, but every point and every match will be important. Our competitors have also rolled up their sleeves, we saw this yesterday with Amiens against Marseille. We have to put ourselves in combat mode.
Is the victory obtained against Rennes a defining match?
We already had some good periods like our two periods in Lyon and Brest where we came back feeling very strong. We played good matches in Montpellier and against Reims. Overall, there are few matches in which we didn’t have the right mindset but we must improve in terms of quality. We must know how to score when we feel strong and be efficient throughout an entire match. We have not always known how to be productive but we have had our share of bad luck. Before the semi-final against Rennes, I said that we wanted to begin a positive period. In light of the scenario, we could have lowered our heads but we put the necessary components into place in order to make a difference in stoppage time. This time, the match turned in our favour. That means something, you have to know how to turn the tide.
What impact does the qualification have on the morale of the team?
The qualification brings a certain freshness and a breath of fresh air. It’s not easy for the team and the staff to bear this situation. Letting in goals in stoppage time or conceding a defeat due to the only opening of your opponent is psychologically difficult, especially when we’re not recompensed for our output in matches or at the training sessions. Having this possibility to express ourselves with a positive result at the end of a match is a great reward. It gives everyone a boost!
Your method is bearing fruit…
I do not have a particular method. I seek above all the respect of the club and of the team, my choices are solely sports related. The club, that’s what’s most important to me. We are all at its service and no one can put themselves above this institution. Once everyone has understood this principal, we can work. The case of Kolo (Timothée Kolodziejczak) shows that no one should feel isolated. For several weeks, his work at the training sessions and his investment has allowed him to return to the team. Everyone has the opportunity to come back even if, for a moment, they are not part of my choices.
Could the 4-3-3 system chosen to face Rennes be used until the end of the season?
We will determine this based on the state of our players. Yohan (Cabaye) contributed a lot with his technique and his position higher up on the field. It’s above all the quality of the players that counts, not the system. We have to know how to be mentally present when we do not have the ball but we must also have technical quality, game intelligence, inner peace and be able to score when you have the opportunity and the possession of the ball. It’s in this regard that we must move things up a few notches.
What does Bordeaux inspire in you, your next adversary?
Bordeaux is in the second part of the leader board but is a team capable of playing very well thanks to their good game principals. We feel that they work and there is a good mix of young and experienced players. Bordeaux has lacked the regularity necessary to position themselves higher in the rankings but I like the way in which they tackle matches. This match will prove to be difficult.