Ahead of their Round 10 clash away to PSG, new Angers SCO boss Gérald Baticle discusses his methods, which range from encouraging audacity to intense video analysis, as well as his playing philosophy and the special relationship with strike prodigy Mohamed-Ali Cho. Interview.
Gérald Baticle, you face PSG at the Parc des Princes on Friday evening, a game that is always special for any Ligue 1 Uber Eats siden. What is the number one challenge when you face Paris?
To play our game. The risk is not to play it at all or to play it out in your heads before the match even starts. You can't go to the Parc as observers and go back to Angers thinking, 'Ah, if we had done this or that...'. No, what happens is what happens, but you have to play your game, that's really my number one challenge. You have to be at 100% of your capacities, not be inhibited and not be too respectful or too admiring. We must not be fearful.
This match comes just after a busy international break, which means that PSG's South American internationals are not expected to play. How does that affect your approach?
It doesn't change anything. When you look at the PSG squad, there are 25 internationals. If four or five are missing, even if they are perhaps the biggest stars, there are still many left! We have to prepare ourselves as well as possible to perform well, whatever the names lined up on the other side, because we will be up against a big PSG team.
'I want to play boldly, take risks'
For people who haven't had the opportunity to see Gérald Baticle's SCO play this season, can you tell us about the style you're looking to give your team?
We try to have a solid defensive base because I think that the basis of a team is defensive solidity. Once you are solid, you can attack a lot, you can attack in numbers and in confidence because you have peace of mind if you lose the ball. The second thing is to try to play forward as soon as possible to cause problems for the opponent. I want to play boldly, take risks. We try to put our players in one-on-one positions and, once we're in the right areas, we can use our talent to make the difference and show our audacity.
To continue on your playing principles, how did you build your style?
First of all, we all have an individual streak. I'm a former striker so I like to attack, I like to see goals. What thrills me are goals, beautiful goals, some goals that are perhaps less spectacular but which are beautiful in my opinion because, when you have been a striker, you know how difficult it can be to be in the right place at the right time to put it in. You know how much energy it takes in terms of concentration, visuals, marking... As far as the pure method is concerned, my style comes from meetings, experiences, and the coaches I have known during my playing career. At the time, I sometimes took notes on the exercises we did, on the principles, the phases of the game, the automatisms to be found... I also have experience as an assistant, as a coach of the U19s, experiences during which I was able to set up exercises, test distances, processes. Through all this experience, I have invented a method. A method that you then have to adapt to your squad. It's not an exercise that is good, it's the way the players do it, the involvement they show, that makes an exercise good. When you propose an exercise, you have to sell it well, give the players the why and the how, the objectives to be reached, the reasons why you work in this way... You have to make them want to put the energy to apply it as well as possible. And when you succeed, you can have good results.
Last summer, you took over from Stéphane Moulin, who had been at the SCO for 16 years and head coach for 10 years, a rare longevity. Was the fact of arriving in this context an advantage to give a new impetus or, on the contrary, was it more difficult to change a manager who had been in place for so long?
I didn't really deal with the past. Angers was a very good opportunity because I could arrive before the start of the season's preparation. Before the players went on holiday, it was done. I had time to prepare, which is a big advantage. As for Stéphane Moulin's succession, I see it as a responsibility because he had a great time at the club. It's a responsibility to succeed someone who has written a great page in the club's history.
Since the beginning of the season, you have been relying a lot on young players, especially Mohamed-Ali Cho. At only 17 years old, he has become a regular starter under you. Did you expect him to grow so quickly?
Yes, and I want all my players to grow, whether they are 17 or 36. Some of them are not yet solid enough and they need to get stronger, others are already solid and they need to get stronger. I expect all my players to progress and perform well. 'Momo' listens well and is very involved in his work. We have to help him develop his professional conduct because he is young - he didn't show up with a method, he has to learn it. In a way, he is an apprentice. He has to develop his method and through that, he can make progress. And it is by progressing that he will be able to use his full potential. It would be a pity to have such potential and not have the right method to exploit it 100%. That's what we're trying to do with 'Momo' and we're making good progress because he's a hard worker. But we are also making progress with more experienced players who are getting involved and changing their habits, by going to the gym for example, when they didn't go before, because they are convinced that it's necessary to perform well at the weekend.
Which aspect of Mohamed-Ali Cho impresses you the most?
His maturity for his age. After that, his strong quality is speed - he is impressive in this area, but it is not enough. His speed is an athletic quality that needs to be transformed into a footballing quality. We work every day so that he can use his speed at the right moment, in the right calls, the right runs, so that he can make the difference. He has strong qualities that we try to turn into effective and decisive ones.
During your career as a striker, you scored 80 goals in the French championship. At OL, you have worked with some big names in the striker's position. Does Mohamed-Ali Cho ask more of you than the others?
It's certain that he asks for advice. He wants to progress, he's a hard worker. It's very interesting for my staff and me to develop such potential, it's great. When a player listens, it gives you energy and makes you want to give, to help him, to carry him, to take him to the level where he should go. We are in this phase: we help him to go as high as he can and we are on the right track. But it's certain that 'Momo' and I share the same nature - that of the striker. At a glance, we can understand each other. When I give him advice, he certainly feels that I am a former striker. When I see a ball lying around, I can sense before anyone else where I should be. It's the same thing for goalkeepers; a former goalkeeper will have a head start on someone who has never been one. This mindset is what makes us get on well.