Remi Garde: Aston Villa players better not be naughty at Christmas

Manager Remi Garde has cautioned Aston Villa’s players about letting their hair down at Christmas.

Remi Garde: Aston Villa players better not be naughty at Christmas

The Villa Park chief wants his squad to be professional and focused ahead of a key period in their survival fight.

They go to Southampton tomorrow seven points adrift from the safety line in the Premier League with Jack Grealish still in exile from the first team after he was pictured partying following last month’s 4-0 defeat at Everton.

Garde refused to confirm whether Villa will have a Christmas party but insisted whatever his players do during the festive period they must behave.

He said: “You think I should be worried? I can’t imagine when you have opportunity to play in the Premier League, in a big club, big games, that you could be disturbed by this time of parties. Even if it is Christmas.

“You can have Christmas with family and be prepared to play this game. If you speak to every European player they would like to play Boxing Day, this time to play is fantastic. You have to know this is our job, you do it in a way that you are prepared to be 100% focused. Of course, it is a party time but not for us. That is it.”

When asked whether Villa were having a party Garde said it was a “private issue”.

Grealish will not feature at St Mary’s but Garde hinted the 20-year-old could be back with the first team on Monday.

“It could be (fair to assume he is back on Monday),” he said.

“The way Jack is playing is more important for me. Now we have to look at the performance of each player and in the forthcoming weeks — I am more focused on that than what he did.”

Meanwhile, Ronald Koeman has revealed Southampton’s 6-1 defeat by Liverpool could lead to him changing his system for the visit of Villa.

Wednesday’s result, which cost Southampton a place in the Capital One Cup semi-finals, came despite them taking the lead in the opening minute.

Liverpool already appeared to have secured victory by half-time when they led 3-1, but Southampton remained increasingly open throughout an even more one-sided second half.

His team is on a run of three consecutive defeats in which 10 goals have been conceded, though even with Villa — bottom of the Premier League and low on confidence — their next opponents, Koeman is considering abandoning his attacking instincts through a fear his team is unbalanced.

“In the last few weeks the balance between attacking and defending is poor, really poor,” said the Southampton manager, who against Villa hopes to have captain and central defender Jose Fonte again available.

“That’s my responsibility. Maybe we have to change the system, maybe we have to play more defensively, more back, waiting. I don’t like that, because I’m a manager who likes to go forward, but we will will speak about that with the players what’s the best to do to prepare ourselves for this Saturday.

“Maybe it’s better to have and to create a little bit more defensive organisation in the team. Sometimes maybe it’s too open, too offensive, but that’s a question I have to ask myself, and the players.

“We need a good reaction. The pressure is on this Saturday. After the defeat and the high score, it’s different.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox