Profile: Lyon head coach Remi Garde quietly impressive and tipped to succeed Arsene Wenger at Arsenal

Lyon head coach Remi Garde is tipped to succeed Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Photo: PA

If, as several tabloid newspapers have suggested in recent months, Lyon manager Remi Garde is the man in pole position to succeed Arsene Wenger as Arsenal boss, he could go a long way to endearing himself to Gunners fans by masterminding victory over the club's arch-rivals Tottenham in the Europa League on Thursday.

Garde never played in a North London derby in his three years at Arsenal - the 45 appearances he did make were, probably by the Frenchman's own admission too, somewhat forgettable.

Indeed, even Arsenal's official website profile of the 46-year-old former utility player rather sheepishly point to Garde being most famous for having signed on the same day as Patrick Vieira in 1996. "I was 30 and from France, with little status," Garde said of his arrival at Highbury. Put like that, making a name for himself was always going to be an uphill battle.

More than 16 years on, the subtext of his Arsenal connections apart, Garde's return to North London at the helm of Lyon is the latest step on his journey towards establishing himself as a top coach.

The signs are promising. For a decade in the 2000s Lyon dominated French football, but as results faded and financial realities started to bite the club found themselves on a downward spiral. Top players - Michael Essien, Juninho Pernambucano, Florent Malouda and Karim Benzema, to name but four astounding talents to have graced the Stade Gerland - were sold, and by 2011, after three years without a title, time had run out on coach Claude Puel.

In his place came Garde, accepting at 45 years of age his first full-time managerial job at the second time of asking - he rejected the Lyon job in 2007 after Gerard Houllier's departure - and two years in the club are again challenging for honours. Second in Ligue 1, six points behind leaders PSG, and with a decent shot at Europa League glory too, Garde has been quietly impressive.

His decision to wait until his mid-forties before taking the Lyon job is in marked contrast to his opposite number Andre Villas-Boas, who at 35 is still five years younger than his starting goalkeeper on Thursday, Brad Friedel. It is also entirely in keeping with a man who has often shunned the limelight in favour of sensible career advancement - the reason why he was content at Arsenal to be labelled with the tag of "Patrick Vieira's support act".

Some might regard that as a rather backhanded compliment. Still, Garde can take a degree of inspiration from it ahead of Thursday's fixture: Vieira scored more goals against Tottenham for Arsenal than against any other club.

Remi Garde on Arsenal duty in 1998. Credit: PA