Vieira hoping Nice can get firing against Lille
By I. Holyman
OGC Nice coach Patrick Vieira will hope his team can use the attacking style he hopes to instill in them to see off faltering LOSC Lille on Sunday and maintain their upward trajectory.
OGC Nice - LOSC Lille
After arriving from New York City FC to replace Lucien Favre in the summer, Vieira has found his first steps in coaching in Europe to be difficult ones. The former France international midfielder saw his team alternate the good with the bad and the ugly in the opening months of the campaign, even slipping into the bottom half of the table in mid-October after a run of just one win in five league outings.
Three successive 1-0 victories have pushed the Aiglons back into the reckoning for a European qualifying place, even if — with just ten goals scored from 13 Ligue 1 Conforama games so far — Vieira has yet to turn the side into the attractive attacking force of his dreams.
WATCH: Nîmes discover '1-0 to the Nice'
"I think it's important for my team to play a style of football. I always want my team to score goals, but what I really want is that my players go onto the pitch and try to win in a positive way," he explained to Four Four Two. "I want them to go forward, to play attacking football and to take risks. I want to see goals. When a team scores a lot of goals, the players enjoy themselves and the supporters get value for money."
With two wins and four defeats from six home games this season, Nice fans will argue they are yet to get that while Allan Saint-Maximin is the only player in the squad to have found the net more than once in the top flight this term; last season's leading scorer Mario Balotelli has yet to even open his account.
His team's difficulties have caused Vieira, regarded as one of the game's all-time great midfielders following a wildly successful career with Arsenal, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City, more than a few regrets his 42-year-old legs can no longer do what they once did.
"As a coach, I'm still part of the game we all love, even if it's more frustrating not to be on the pitch," he said. "You can prepare the game, give your team information, put little personal touches to your gameplan, but you have no control once the match has started and that's really frustrating.
"On the pitch, you have an active role and can control what happens. If you're sitting on the pitch, it's tough. Sometimes I'd like to put my boots on and take care of everything, but I can't do it any more."
Though Christophe Galtier's playing career was more modest, the Lille coach no doubt shares his counterpart's frustrations.
After a smooth start to the season eased fears they would endure a repeat of the 2017/18 campaign that was haunted by the spectre of relegation, the northerners have come unstuck in recent weeks, losing form just as Nice have found theirs.
WATCH: Lille held by Strasbourg
A run of four straight wins turned them into the closest challengers to leaders Paris Saint-Germain, but only slips by their rivals behind them have allowed them to maintain that position as they have recorded just a point from their last two league games while they have been beaten twice in their last three competitive outings.
"When I see the commitment in training, the annoyance after a defeat, I'm convinced we'll have a good season," explained the experienced Jérémy Pied, a summer arrival from Southampton who could feature against his former side this weekend.
"People here like the players to give everything and for the moment we're doing that. I saw that it was the club's best start for a while, that we got seven wins in nine games. That's great, but we mustn't forget last season.
"We haven't won for three games. We remind ourselves of last season, we bang our fists on the table. We want to bounce back, pick up the points and go as far as possible."
Nice: Benítez; Atal, Hérelle, Dante (c), Sarr, Jallet; Lees-Melou, Tameze, Cyprien; Saint-Maximin, Balotelli
Lille: Maignan; Celik, Dabila, J. Fonte (c), Pied; Thiago Maia, Xeka; Pépé, Ikoné, Bamba; R. Fonte