After one year leading the Verts, the Stéphanois coach lays out his personal track record and wishes to offer to the Green Nation a victory against Dijon to finish the year.
What do you think of the Player of the Month award obtained by Wahbi Khazri in November?
Wahbi is a great player. I put him at the top of my list during the last transfer window. He’s courageous, sets the example, fights hard, that’s what people in this region like. Moreover, he’s clever, technical and skilled. No matter his position, he scores.
Halfway through the season, do you believe ASSE to be well placed in the rankings?
The current rankings are a bit shortened but 5th place suits us well. With the match against Dijon, we hope to improve our situation even more. To have 30 points at the break would be good but what’s important to us is to maintain our rhythm on our home turf. In regards of the game, our state of mind and our efficiency, we’re getting better. We have to continue on this path, which is more for our last game of the year and in front of our fans. That would be a great Christmas gift for them.
How do you explain the difference in performance in the Cauldron and as an away team?
On our home turf, we’re more concentrated because we don’t have the right to make errors or to be tired when we play in front of fans like ours. As an away team, apart from Paris and Lille, few teams have really outclassed us but there are always small setbacks that vex us.
What is your assessment of your first year at the helm of ASSE?
During the first six months, we succeeded in our mission. We restored the balance. This year, generally speaking, we’re where we want to be even if we only took one point during the last three games we played as an away team. But we have neither the time, nor the right to feel sorry for ourselves. In regards of the ambiance, is a very good assessment. Our contact with people and with the players is good but I have a job where you never really stop and enjoy yourself. I will conduct my true self-assessment when I end my career.
Do you consider yourself to be one of the driving forces of the club’s rebirth?
It’s normal, I’m in control and I’m the one that has to set the tone. You always have to smile and be positive in public. With my players it’s different sometimes, I tell them the truth, they know that.
What is your opinion of the young players that you’ve incorporated into the team since your arrival?
The youths are lucky that the club has a policy geared towards training and it’s up to us to give them a helping hand so that they continue making progress. William Saliba is only 17-years old but he’s taking a crash course. He went straight to the professional team without playing with the reserve players. This season, he played his first professional match, he played with the French national team. He’s asserting himself more and more and the experienced players help him because they recognize his potential. Some details show that he’s still learning. Assane Diousse is a good little guy, he works but he’s dealing with two very compatible players in the midfield. He has to be at the same level as Ole Selnaes and Yann M'Vila in order to play. Makhtar Gueye is very strong physically, he knows how to hold onto the ball, has good aerial skills. He’s one of the youths with potential.
Are you sensitive to the popularity you enjoy among AS Saint-Étienne’s fans?
This love that people have for me touches me and pleases me. They feel that we did not come here to wear a suit (sic). With Ghislain (Printant), we have to complete a mission, we rolled up our sleeves and we’re working. This year, the mission is dangerous but that’s what makes it great. Having some youths start with the professional team, that’s also a great mission.
What do you think of your next adversary, Dijon FCO?
Dijon began the championship well and they’re going through a difficult period right now. But Saturday, we’ll play on our home turf and whatever team we face, we’re duty-bound to give it our all because we’re frustrated by our results as an away team and because we want to give this gift to our fans. Then we’ll have a week to relax with family.
Did you already halt your program for recovery purposes?
After a short vacation week, we’ll begin work again January 30th here, in l’Étrat. We’ll buy skates if we have to start on the ice (laughs). We’ll have two or three training sessions that will be somewhat physical in order to prepare for January because it will be busy with the many matches.