Remi Garde was welcomed to Aston Villa with mixed expectations. His lack of Premier League experience and his continental attitudes made him appealing to some who thought he might innovate the team and provide much needed energy, but made him unappealing to others who feared he would prove unable to adapt to the difficulties of the Premier League. Fans believed that his attempt to rescue Villa from the drop would go one of two ways: a collapse even more spectacular than the one led by Sherwood, or a great escape almost unmatched in Premier League history - there was no expectation for something distinctly in the middle of these two extremes.
Over 3 months later, it's fair to say that that is exactly what Garde's tenure thus far has been: distinctly average. Certainly Garde has been an improvement when compared to Sherwood's disaster earlier in the year, but in many of the same areas that Sherwood fell short, so has Garde to a lesser degree. Firstly, Garde's player management isn't exceptional. Whereas Sherwood tried to lead by forming unique bonds of friendship with the players with his down-to-earth, former player attitude, Garde has tried to form bonds based on respect. He doesn't pal around with the players on the sidelines the way Sherwood once did - rather, he relies on a consistent professional demeanor. Both techniques have been proven to work in the past, but Sherwood's failed when even he lost enthusiasm for the team - something the players picked up on. Garde has remained calm and composed at every moment thus far. Sometimes you can see the fury burning in his steely eyes, but he refuses to let that get the better of him in situations where Sherwood would throw a childish temper tantrum and then sulk back to the bench for the rest of the game.
Tactically, there is no question Garde has been an improvement on Sherwood. We haven't been able to see or understand the full capabilities of Garde's tactics because of both how shallow this squad is, and how dejected the squad seems at all time, but I believe that if Garde had had control of this team starting in the summer (a time when the players could have felt optimism for his system) we would certainly not be talking about this team as one of the worst in Premier League history. To put is succinctly, Sherwood's tactics were an abomination and lacked thorough thought, and while Garde's tactics haven't worked to the degree he would have liked, they have been respectable, professional, and consistent - three things Sherwood's certainly were not.
In his overall leadership of the club, I believe Garde's time so far has been effective because it haunts me to even imagine the things that Tim Sherwood would be saying right about now if he were still in charge. Garde hasn't turned on the players or said anything to cause even more divide in the organization than there already is - what could have turned into a catastrophic situation under any number of other managers has stayed civil on the part of the organization and players because of Garde's consistent professional demeanor. It's hardly justification for praise to say 'look how bad things could have been' but so far, Garde has kept away from actions which could continue to hurt Villa well past this season.
In looking at Garde's player management, tactics, demeanor, and overall leadership of the club, it's clear his appointment wasn't a mistake. Tim Sherwood needed sacking, and while the possibility remains that there were better managers for this particular job than Remi Garde, his appointment has proved to be safe. Safe won't save us now and wasn't going to save us a few months ago, but the appointment of Garde will help Villa prepare for a promotion bid in a health state on the pitch. What will happen with the upper positions of this club remains to be seen, but Garde's squad will at least be prepared to try and return to the top flight. Whether or not he has what it takes to lead a team through a grueling season in the Championship I do not know, but I do know that Remi Garde is the man who has single-handedly saved this club from complete collapse, and for that, we must be grateful.