June 11, 2019
U17s: Patrick Cordoba’s appraisal of the season
An excellent start, followed by a drop in performance, before bouncing back at the end of the season. This is the way that Patrick Cordoba’s season went, in a year in which his side finished in fourth place in Group D in the national league. The experienced coach looks back over his first season with the club, which was equally marked by the excellent victory at the Tournoi de Montaigu last spring.
How would you analyse your first season with OGC Nice?
In terms of competition, the outlook was positive, with one small regret. We started well, playing for the top places throughout the first half of the season, but then we didn’t show up in some important matches. February cost us a lot, with defeats against Pays d’Aix (2-1) and Monaco (1-2), and then a draw at Marseille (0-0). We had a very bad run before and after the winter break.
How would you explain that?
We may have drifted a bit. We played with a very young team and maybe the youngsters got ahead of themselves and lacked concentration in key moments. Matches are won in the details, and the difference was made there. What happened this season needs to encourage them to win constantly.
Such a great start must be difficult to manage...
It's frustrating because you lead the way and then you finish in fourth. But whilst the league is important, it's not a priority. It's great to be playing at the top of the table, but the main thing remains the development of the lads. To see your side start somewhere and then to take them to the next level.
"Progress was consistent"
In what areas did you see progress?
In all areas: both tactically and technically. Mentally too, even though we were caught out in this area, lacking consistency, both individually and collectively. But on the whole, the kids stuck to the plan. It's not easy with the guys born in 2003 who were coming up and several changes in the squad due to players playing up in the U19s (17 players from this age group got a chance to feature in Emerse Faé's side this season). I am satisfied because the progress was consistent.
At the end of April, you also won the very prestigious Tournoi de Montaigu (U16s)…
Yes, it was a great performance, particularly because we stuck to our philosophy: we won by playing good football. We were committed to what we have been working on throughout the year, adhering to the club's wider project. That's a real positive.
"Links between coaches that make us develop"
This season, you have discovered a new way of working, with group training sessions for all age groups. What do you make of them?
The objective is to give the youngsters points of reference. We start with a common theme and a philosophy. That way the youngster isn't lost when he rises up the age groups. It's a choice of style and we are pleased with it. These links and conversations between coaches allow us to progress too. We (the coaches) also rotated between the age groups: for the youngsters, the work doesn't change, just the spokesperson. It's to be worked on and deepened a bit more next season. We are in the process of defining our common approach with the other coaches.
What will your objectives be for next season?
They will remain the same: to have a good league campaign, but above all, to see the youngsters evolve and progress on a daily basis, so that they can look to move up.
What will be your areas of focus for improvement?
There are always things to improve, in the way we work. Our conversations as a coaching team allow us to progress and to provide a better education for the players. We are deep in conversation about our ways of working for next season. It's not only for the coaches but also for the fitness coaches and everybody else in the academy.
You have extensive experience as a coach. What has changed since you started in this job?
Everything is now put in place so that the youngster can optimise his performance, particularly here. There is what happens on the pitch, but also everything that goes with it: the lifestyle, the nutrition, the treatment. In Nice, there is everything a young player could need in order to progress. But then, you can't let the opposite effect set in, in that the player feels that he has already made it - that can cause a player's development to stagnate. But on the whole, it's very, very positive. We maximise the chances of developing a youngster in every area of the game. We also try to develop their personal skills, to put them on the path for success. For example, on Monday and Wednesday, we have mandatory breakfasts. That reinforces the need for a good breakfast in order to perform in training.
There is also the interaction with former Aiglons, like they had recently with Kamel Larbi and Cédric Varrault.
It's really very interesting! Especially when there are the two very different profiles that you see in football. I have seen people let their career slip by, despite being extremely talented, and on the other hand, others who have succeeded through hard work, despite less technical ability. It's a real benefit that the former players play the game like that. It makes a big difference in giving the youngsters that extra something.
It doesn't necessarily impact on the U17s, but Patrick Vieira called up lots of young players to the first team this season...
That confirms the image that I had of OGC Nice before arriving here: one of a club that has confidence in its youngsters. For a coach, it's beneficial: your work pays off. For Alain, Laurent, Emerse, who have been working in the academy for several years, it's nice to see their youngsters reach this level. It's equally very important for our recruitment. It's a key argument when you want to convince a young player to join your academy. And I know what I am talking about (he already worked as a youth scout, Editor's note).
What will be the make up of your squad next season?
It will comprise players born between 2003 and 2004. There are new players that will arrive, as well as those already at the club. Some of those born in 2003 will stay with me, others will move up to the U19s, whilst keeping the balance between the sides.