The Frenchman only won two of his 20 league games in charge, but did he ever really have a chance of succeeding?
The 49-year-old Frenchman left the Premier League’s bottom club by mutual consent on Tuesday night after a run of six successive defeats, leaving them searching for their sixth manager since Martin O’Neill’s departure in August 2010.
When he originally replaced Tim Sherwood on a three-and-a-half-year deal in early November with the team anchored to the foot of the table, there was understandable optimism among the fanbase about what Garde could achieve at Villa Park.
His three-year reign at cash-strapped Lyon saw him lead a youthful side to a top three Ligue 1 finish and a French League Cup title before leaving in June 2014 for personal reasons, while his success in his homeland had also prompted strong interest from Newcastle United just five months before his arrival in the Midlands.
Those close to him like Gerard Houllier and Arsene Wenger spoke in glowing terms of the former Arsenal midfielder following his appointment, and while some supporters had wanted the club to go for a more tried and tested option like Nigel Pearson, there was good reason to think Garde could prove to be the superior choice in the long run.
Things even began fairly positively with a 0-0 home draw with Manchester City, but a dismal 4-0 defeat at Everton two weeks later served as a stern wake-up call and set the tone for the next four months.
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Not only did Garde ultimately fail to lift Villa off the bottom, but he leaves them 12 points from safety with just seven matches remaining and relegation for the first time since 1987 looking all but inevitable. There was some hope that things were going in the right direction over the winter after a few hard-fought draws against the likes of Southampton and West Ham United, but an 11-game wait for his first win left the Frenchman's side with far too much work to do heading into the run-in.
With only two victories from 20 league games, the harsh reality is that his 10 percent win ratio is the lowest of any Villa manager who has been in charge for at least 15 fixtures – worse even than the 18.4 percent Alex McLeish mustered during the 2011-12 campaign.
Certainly, the statistics will tell you that Garde was the wrong man for Villa, yet the current situation at the club makes it hard to see how even the most gifted of managers could have saved them from the drop.
A steady decline since wantaway owner Randy Lerner noticeably tightened the purse strings following the 2009-10 campaign has seen the club finish 16th, 15th, 15th and 17th in the past four seasons, and the danger signs were all there over the summer that this term could be the one when things come to a head.
After losing key men Fabian Delph and Christian Benteke to Manchester City and Liverpool, respectively, the club's hierarchy did the bare minimum to improve a squad which just scraped survival. Granted, a reported £52.5 million was splashed out on 13 signings, but their net spend when all was said and done came to just £8.1 million – the third-lowest total in the Premier League.
More significantly, their transfer policy itself was completely flawed. Jordan Ayew, Idrissa Gana, Jordan Veretout and the injured Jordan Amavi have all shown promise since arriving from Ligue 1, but with the rest of the squad underperforming, there has been far too much burden placed on their inexperienced shoulders.
Rudy Gestede, meanwhile, has failed to come anywhere close to replicating his Championship exploits in the top-flight, leaving the team without a reliable goalscorer to mask their various other problems like in the past three seasons.
Experienced duo Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott have also been colossal disappointments on the backline, and while Adama Traore remains a promising prospect, he looks like a signing made at the wrong time for the wrong club.
Quite simply, head of player recruitment Paddy Riley and recently departed sporting director Hendrik Almstadt – the men who led the summer recruitment drive over Sherwood – seemed to have no idea how to go about reshaping the squad, and that fact became all too apparent over the course of the campaign.
Garde clearly recognised he had inherited a squad without any leaders or genuine difference-makers during his first month in the job, and as he tried to instill his methods on the training ground, he also discovered that certain individuals were just not willing to pull their weight or be held accountable for the team’s struggles.
Senior players reportedly voiced their displeasure over his management style [h/t Telegraph], and while the beleaguered boss proved reluctant to criticise them in public as the defeats piled up, it was obvious he thought some were not up for the job.
The one glimmer of hope he had to turn things around came with the opening of the transfer window, but having been told he was going to be given funds to spend, the month came and went without a single new face arriving at the club.
Garde allegedly had Wahbi Khazri, Loic Remy, Mathieu Debuchy, Seydou Doumbia and goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic on a list of targets given to the board. He got none after work permit issues scuppered Kalinic’s potential £5 million switch from Hajduk Split and was said to have been left disillusioned at the lack of backing from upstairs [h/t Telegraph].
Worse still, Riley reportedly told him that certain players did not want to come to the club, only for the manager later to discover that some of them had never even been contacted about a possible move [h/t Telegraph].
With Gabby Agbonlahor, Alan Hutton, and Ashley Westwood all left to play key roles in the side, even the most distinguished manger would have had little chance of righting the ship.
Had Garde simply left on 2 February, the majority of fans would have been entirely understanding given the mess surrounding him, and whether his replacement will find things much easier in the Championship remains to be seen.
The recent boardroom reshuffle had led to some renewed optimism for the future now “football men” like David Bernstein and Brian Little have replaced Almstadt and ousted CEO Tom Fox as the club’s brain trust, but it is still mightily hard to see how Villa can make a full recovery as long as the disconnected Lerner’s fruitless search for a buyer continues.
The American once had great ambitions for one of English football’s oldest and most treasured institutions but now finds himself stuck in a loveless marriage, unable to escape as supporters direct their anger towards him. Missing out on the vast riches about to flow into the Premier League via the new TV deal will make his quest to sell even harder in the immediate future, and while the right managerial appointment will help paper over some of the cracks, the cleansing process cannot be completed until change happens right at the top.