EXCLUSIVE: Aliadière: 'Enjoying my football again'
By A. Scott
In part two of Andy Scott's exclusive interview with Jérémie Aliadière, the striker talks about coaches and his time with Arsenal, Middlebrough and Celtic before explaining why Lorient is the perfect fit for him.
Ligue1.com: What is it like to play under Christian Gourcuff? He is like part of the furniture at Lorient. What is so special about him and how has he managed to be there for so long in your opinion?
Jérémie Aliadière: I think he has his vision of football which means very good organisation defensively, a 4-4-2 system where everything is thought about. 'You have to do that, you have to come back here.' It's very tactical and obviously when we do have the ball he likes to keep possession, play one or two-touch football, lots of movement and triangles and all them things. And it's worked out here. He has always managed to find players who suit his vision and his way of playing and it has provided a lot of stability to the club to have someone like him.
When you talk about Lorient you talk about him and the style of football we play. Slowly the club is growing because he has managed to find young players or players who were in the second or third divisions, make them really good and sell them on. He seems to keep doing that all the time, and get it right. So the club keeps moving up and becoming bigger.
L1: You have worked under many different coaches, from Arsène Wenger to Gareth Southgate, to Gordon Strachan and now Gourcuff. Is it hard for a player to adapt to their varying styles?
JA: For me it was not hard to adapt here because, in my opinion, he is very close to what Arsène Wenger wants from his players. And there is a similar style of football to what Arsenal play, so coming here was not hard. What was harder for me was to adapt to the way Gordon Strachan plays, or the way Gareth Southgate plays, because it was not really the same type of football. It was about challenges and headers and things like that, which is not really my type of game. So it was harder to adapt to that type of football than the football we play here. What Lorient do is exactly what I was doing for all them years at Arsenal, it is very similar.
L1: Is there any truth in the stories that Arsène Wenger helped you get your move to Lorient?
JA: I actually don't really know. I know I was training with Arsenal before I came here for three or four months at the end of that season. I was looking for a club where I could enjoy playing my type of football again. When Lorient called me and said they were interested I was over the moon. It was a great opportunity for me. And then after that I heard that Arsène Wenger is in good contact with Christian Gourcuff. I heard that he had a word and said: 'Listen, he's been really good in training with us, so you should take him. He'll do a good job for you.' So that's what I heard, but I'm not 100 percent sure if that actually happened.
No regrets... or maybe just one
L1: You're 29 now. You went to England when you were still so young, so do you ever wish you had done things differently?
JA: No, I actually don't. I think that what I learned in my career at Arsenal, training and playing with all those big names, made me the player I am today. I don't regret that at all. I'm actually glad I have done that. What I would regret more is the choice I made after Arsenal. Going to Middlesbrough was probably not the choice I should have made at the time. I should have stayed at Arsenal or gone to another club where the football suits me better because at Middlesbrough it didn't. That I maybe regret but apart from that I don't. I have had bad luck and bad injuries which obviously didn't help my progression at Arsenal but that's life and that's what can happen in a career.
'Celtic fans were fantastic'
L1: What about your time with Celtic? You only spent a brief period there, but do you have good or bad memories of your time with them?
JA: To be honest I have really good memories because the fans were fantastic. The city and the stadium were amazing and I really enjoyed my time there. The only issue at the time was that (manager) Gordon Strachan said to me that I wasn't going to play any more than I was, so I really didn't have any other choice but to leave and find another club where I could play more. That was the only downside. I had a really good experience there. I played with good players and met good people. It's a massive club.
L1: Nowadays you are one of the senior players in the Lorient dressing room. Do you find yourself helping out the younger players at the club or do you leave that to the likes of Ludovic Giuly?
JA: No I'm not that type of character. I like to help as much as I can when people ask for my opinion but I'm more focused on my job and what I have to do right for the team on the pitch. I let other people do that. I do try to help the younger players as much as I can, if they are not doing things right, but it's not really my character. I'm not really a leader.
L1: Who of your team-mates really stands out? Everyone talks about Alain Traoré. Is he as special as he looks from afar?
JA: He's really good. He has a great left foot and a great shot. He's still young and has time to learn and get even better but he's a great talent and I'm sure that if he carries on working hard and doing what he has been doing then he will be a very special player in the future, definitely.
L1: Lorient are renowned for playing a possession game. Perhaps that has changed a little in the last 18 months but it is still something the club is recognised for. Some have even compared the playing style to that of Barcelona. Can you see the comparisons?
JA: I know the manager really rates Barcelona a lot. He watches a lot of videos of them play and loves the way they pass the ball. He would like us to be able to do that but sometimes you have to deal with what you've got. You can't turn a player into Xavi or Iniesta or Messi. You either have that in you or you don't. You can work as much as you want but after what counts is the result.
In some games, if you don't have the possession of the ball, you can still try to do something to win. I think he has learnt that this year. He always wanted us to have possession of the ball and pass it around, but sometimes it is difficult to do that in the French league. This is a very tactical league. When teams lose possession they often put ten men behind the ball, so to find a way through by just passing it around can be hard.
Sometimes you have to counterattack, try to score goals that way. And we have done that quite a lot this season. Results suggest that this has been one of the most successful campaigns that the club has had. That shows that, sometimes, having possession of the ball might not be such a great thing. Sometimes you have to create chances and score goals. It seems that, with the players we have, it suits us better just now to be compact and strong defensively. And when we do get the ball, we can get our attacking players to express their speed and power and score goals that way.
No synthetic concerns
L1: Lorient are one of only two clubs in Ligue 1, along with Nancy, to play on an artificial surface. As someone who has had a lot of injuries in your career, were you at all concerned about playing on such a pitch when you arrived?
JA: To be honest, when I came here I was very close to stopping my career, so I didn't really care about Astroturf! All I wanted was to enjoy playing football again. I knew Lorient could offer me that and give me pleasure when I come training every day. So I didn't really think about the pitch when I signed. But when you spend time here you do realise that the Astroturf is brilliant. In winter it makes it easier to pass the ball and play our game. But then it hurts physically when you fall.