Garde backs under-fire Wenger
Arsene Wenger has received a vote of confidence from the man who hopes to bring down Arsenal's biggest rivals on Thursday - Lyon manager Remi Garde.
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Arsenal's hopes of ending their eight-year trophy drought this season are all but over after they lost 3-1 to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League second round match last night.
The Gunners sit fifth in the Barclays Premier League and are out of the FA Cup and League Cup after defeats to Blackburn and Bradford respectively.
Some Arsenal fans believe it is time Wenger moved on but Lyon boss Garde - the first man the Gunners boss signed for the club in 1996 - thinks his compatriot is not being judged fairly.
Garde only made 43 appearances under Wenger after moving from Strasbourg, but he still holds the Gunners boss in high regard.
"I think that Arsene Wenger is still a top-class manager," Garde said ahead of Lyon's Europa League second round second leg clash against Tottenham at the Stade de Gerland.
"He has spent so many years at this club, he has brought so much to this club.
"I can testify because I used to be one of his players. He brought so much to the club, even if he didn't win so many trophies.
"I think he deserves more respect than what he is getting at the moment. Of course we know football is a business that is judged on results, but I think he deserves more respect and he is still a world-class manager."
While Arsenal are on the verge of elimination from Europe, Tottenham stand a good chance of progressing in their continental competition.
The Europa League, of course, is nowhere near as good as the Champions League in terms of prestige and wealth, but Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas is determined to win the competition for a second time.
His team are 2-1 up after the first leg thanks to two stunning goals from Gareth Bale at White Hart Lane, but Garde thinks Samuel Umtiti's thunderbolt strike for the away side last week could mean the French side advance to the last 16.
"We know the away goal is very important," said Garde, who took over as Lyon boss in 2011.
"We need to be patient. We have 90 minutes to qualify. It will be difficult but we can try to close them down and try to cut out their speed.
"To be able to qualify in front of the home fans would be exciting "We won (4-0 against Bordeaux) last weekend so we have a better mentality now."
Remy Vercoutre's head was left in a spin by the two swirling free-kicks - the last one in the 93rd minute - which Bale struck in north London last Thursday.
The Lyon goalkeeper admits it has been hard to forget that he was beaten twice by the brilliant Welshman, who has scored Tottenham's last six goals, but he hopes he will put in an improved display tomorrow.
"It was hard not to see (the goals) because of all the highlights that have been shown on television over the week," said Vercoutre, who replaced Hugo Lloris as Lyon's number one last summer.
"It's difficult to stop something like that. He is very good at free-kicks. Hugo tells me that he has been practicing a lot.
"You could tell that White Hart Lane was holding its breath (when he was about to take the second free-kick). I have had some practice with (former Lyon free-kick specialist) Juninho (Pernambucano) in the past so we will see if that helps."