December 2, 2020
P. Vieira: "I'm in combative mood, the players too"
See what coach Patrick Vieira had to say before Thursday's UEFA Europa League tie with Bayer Leverkusen (kick-off 9pm CET).
Are you more focussed on the league game against Reims than the Leverkusen match, because Nice are almost out of the Europa League?
Let's be clear: I'm going to put out the best possible team to win. We're only focussed on tomorrow's game.
How have the last few days been for you?
Like the fans, the players and all the club's employees. It's a very tough moment, I have to face up to it. I'm the one overseeing this project. I'm the one who has to put things in place to turn the situation around. We all have to keep working to improve what's not working. All the players are affected. There's a loss of confidence. It's up to me to find the right way to give them their confidence back so that they can show their qualities and talent again.
What have you been saying before the game?
It's important to be a competitor. We've got this one game left at home, we know things are really complicated. We want to find certain values again and get back to winning ways. To do that, we have to put in all the necessary ingredients. I'm positive with my players and at the same time, I point out what's not going right. We are in a difficult period, we're lacking confidence and not getting the rub of the green. It's my role to make the players understand what hasn't been working, but also to make them understand we haven't become a bad team overnight. There have been games where we haven't been good, or we haven't done things that made sense. We have to get back to basics to reproduce the things we did in good performances.
How do you explain things have gone downhill so quickly?
We've lacked focus in certain games. There's also been a little naivety. It's about experience at the top level, and it's not a question of age. We've been naive in European games. We've conceded goals and not been able to score those which would have given us a little more confidence. It's those details that make the difference. When you don't win and you're doubting, it's difficult to put things right. It's important to stay calm and focussed to keep working, while being even more demanding on those points that make the difference. We have to keep digging in and to battle to manage to turn things round.
Is this the most difficult period of your career?
As a player, I went through some really difficult times and I never gave up. When I was injured or a substitute, I had to bounce back. I always hung in there. I always did that as a player, and I'll continue doing that as a coach. The results aren't good, but I'll keep battling, being even more demanding of myself. My aim is to win, to have good performances, and to get back our confidence so we can move forward.
Pierre Lees-Melou spoke of feeling ashamed after losing to Dijon. Is the game against Leverkusen a question of honour?
Pierre's words were strong. He's aware of the situation, as we all are. Dijon was our fourth defeat in a row and it's a situation that we don't accept. Players, staff, we're all affected by our results and performances. We have to face up to it and put in a display that, as a team, will enable us to turn things round.
What sort of mood are you in after all this criticism?
Combative. We're in a sitution where criticism is part of our job. The results condition everything that happens around us. I'm combative, the players too. We know our situation and we don't have a choice. We have to work and be even more demanding of ourselves to get the win that will give us confidence and will allow us to string together good results. I feel supported by the board, by the players. The players know I have total confidence in their attitude and their qualities. I have no doubt about my work, my qualities and my faults as a coach. I've no doubts about the players and their desire to turn things round.
How are you approaching this game against a side that beat you 6-2 in your first meeting and at a time when your team was playing well?
We lost the first game, but when you look at the first hour, we had situations, moments where we could have caused them more problems and been in the match with them. Up to the 75th-minute, it was 3-1. The last 15 minutes were unacceptable, because we stopped playing. Up till then, we had matched them. That means that we can do things to cause them problems. Tomorrow, we have to go onto the pitch with commitment and determination. We want the players to respect what we've planned, that they take off the handbrake and play. If we manage to do that, we'll cause them problems.