10 Games in: Gerard Houllier’s Record and Review

Many neutrals and Villa fans had their doubts over the appointment of Gerard Houllier 2 months ago but how has he really done in his opening 10 games at the club. The pessimistic may have seen the choice of the Frenchman as somewhat of a sideways step after his tenure at Liverpool was left on a low point with the Anfield club. Despite this, Houllier had a terrifically successful spell at the club leading them to Community Shield, UEFA, FA, League Cup (x2) and Supercup glory, a feat which has surpassed any of his successors at Liverpool. After health issues seemed to stunt his progress with the club, many in the Merseyside remember Houllier as a negative and uninspired tactician as he looks to answer the critics who doubted him. Villa have had a stop-start season to say the least and some impressive performances and results have been overlooked due to the sides current inability to close out games. Here is why I believe the new manager has done a decent job in his opening 10 fixtures and why Villa should not be counted out of a European finish. In-depth Managerial Review

Houllier’s Brilliant Big Brad Selection

October 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Match Reports 

Wednesday 27th October 2010

Aston Villa 2-1 Burnley (AET)

Villa have made it through to the Quarter Finals of the Carling Cup thanks to a 2-1, substitute inspired win over Burnley after extra-time. Villa dominated much of the first half and should have been in front but a lack of goals is still a real worry ahead of the Blues derby on Sunday. Burnley capitalised on Villa’s poor finishing and came out strongly in the second 45, putting the home side on the back foot for much of the half. It took substitutions from Houllier to change the game with Heskey and Downing both introduced to great effect. The former put the home side ahead with 5 minutes remaining but Villa failed to protect this lead with Burnley equalising on 89 through captain Clarke Carlisle. A stunning goal from Stewart Downing sealed victory for the hosts despite a Marc Albrighton red card in extra-time. Extended Report and Ratings

Aston Villa vs Burnley Match Preview

October 26, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Aston Villa, Injury News, Match Previews 

Wednesday 27th October 2010

Opponent: Burnley

Venue: Villa Park

Kick Off: 19:45

Villa will be hoping to take advantage of some shock exits in the Carling Cup to strengthen their chances of another Wembley date next year. The competition has seen the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham knocked out thus far leaving Villa as third favourites behind Manchester United and Arsenal. Houllier’s men will have to overcome a tricky 4th round tie against Championship outfit Burnley to reach the Quarter-Finals of the tournament which they have won on 5 occasions. New manager Gerard Houllier will have fond memories of the Carling Cup as it was his first trophy as Liverpool boss. He went on to secure another final victory in his time at Anfield and Villa will be hoping the Frenchman’s impressive record in the competition continues. The home side will be big favourites but injury problems and a huge game against Birmingham at the weekend could prove potential banana skins. Full Match Preview

Petrov Blow Paves Way for Sidwell with Delph Ahead of Schedule

October 25, 2010 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Injury News 

Aston Villa captain Stiliyan Petrov faces two months on the sidelines with knee ligament damage. The injury which the midfielder picked up in the first half of the 1-0 defeat to Sunderland is worse than manager Gerard Houllier had first feared. The Frenchman confirmed that the 31-year-old faced a lengthy lay-off at Villa’s open training session at Villa Park today. The Bulgarian will now face a scan next week to determine whether surgery is required on the injury that is already looking to keep him out until the New Year. Likely Replacements

Lady Luck Not Shining On Houllier’s Villa

October 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Reports 

After another tight game at the weekend led to a disappointing defeat it seems that Gerard Houllier may just need a little luck to revert back to winning ways. Decent performances in the club’s last 3 games have bought just 1 league point and perhaps the reason for this being 1 league goal. After starting promisingly against Tottenham, a club whom Villa have previously seemed to fear under MON, Albrighton gave Villa a deserved lead. Rafael van der Vaart proved to be too hot to handle, despite arguably warranting a point from the tough clash at White Hart Lane. The champions of Chelsea were next up at Villa Park and Houllier’s men more than matched their opponents for most of the game. Other than two efforts that hit the woodwork for the visitor’s Villa had more real chances and could have nicked the points late on through Reo-Coker. Saturday’s defeat to Sunderland was probably the most crushing of the lot after again starting brightly, Villa were beaten by a Richard Dunne own goal. Sunderland Match Report

Heskey Makes the Difference at Villa Park

September 24, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Match Reports 

I won’t be submitting a match report on Wednesday’s game as I was way and unable to watch the tie unfortunately. From the highlights I’ve seen and what I’ve read, a poor start to the match was turned around by some profitable changes by new manager Gerard Houllier. Villa fans should take heart in the fact that it appears the Frenchman can change tactics and indeed the game if things aren’t going so well. MON always seemed reluctant to make changes both pre-match and during games to revitalise flat performances. Who would have thought that Emile Heskey would be introduced to the usual groans when needing to score goals, and change the game with 2 vital contributions? His goal was uncharacteristically well taken and didn’t go in off his face or stomach and one could even say that he meant it! The strike signified his first touch of the ball after being brought on in place of the ineffective John Carew. Perhaps more impressive was the inch perfect cross to kill off the game and provide Ashley Young with a simple tap in to seal the game 3-1 in Villa’s favour.

Good displays from the youngsters on show will also encourage Houllier and the faithful with the likes of Lichaj, Clark, Bannan and Delfouneso all playing major parts in the victory. With the team that was fielded, 3-1 has to go down as a magnificent result and the players showed a fight that hasn’t been there since the 1-0 win over Everton last month. The manager also was confident enough to bring young Nathan Delfouneso into the fray once Gabby had picked up an injury which will please many fans who have been longing to see the striker given a chance at the club. Undoubtedly there will be large scale changes once more ahead of the derby with Wolves on Sunday though Heskey may well be rewarded with a start ahead of Carew who has been pretty dire thus far. I would imagine Ashley Young will revert back to starting in a central role after netting 2 goals from that position after being moved off the wing against Blackburn. A full match preview will follow along with predictions and injury news.

Aston Villa vs Blackburn Rovers Pre-Match Predictions

September 21, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Aston Villa, Pre-Match Predictions 

A third attempt at my new prediction feature, in which I have been too optimistic it seems in the. After predicting a draw with Stoke and a win against Bolton I’m still going to stick to my Villa guns and predict a win for Houllier in his first game. The team line-up represents a much tougher challenge than the Bolton game which I guessed correctly with the new manager bringing in new ideas and tactics but I’ll have a punt. Please test yourself against my predictions and I’ll give an honourable mention anyone who can get the team line up and result bang on!

Blackburn Rovers (Home) – 22nd September 2010

Possible Starting XI: (4-4-2) Friedel, L Young, Cuellar, Collins, Warnock; Albrighton, Ireland, Reo-Coker, A Young; Agbonlahor, Heskey

Key Man: Gabby Agbonlahor

Goalscorer(s): Gabby Agbonlahor, James Collins

Minute of First Goal: 37

Final Score: 2-1 (AET)

Villa Rally Behind Houllier, Dunne Injured and Owen No Go

September 20, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Injury News, Villa Manager 

After a pretty poor result against Bolton on Saturday backing up a loss to Stoke the previous Monday, Villa fans are looking forward to seeing the tactics Gerard Houllier employs in his first games in charge. The Frenchman along with his new assistant Gary McAllister took their first training session today and a string of first team player’s have backed the new manager to lead them to glory in the future. Read more

Houllier to Kick Off Against Blackburn

September 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Aston Villa, Villa Manager 

Today it was confirmed that this Saturday’s home tie with Bolton will be caretaker manager, Kevin MacDonald’s last in terms of first team duties. Aston Villa announced an agreement with Gerard Houllier in a press conference last Friday but it was unknown when he would be enabled to take the reins. It has now been established that the Frenchman’s first game as manager will be against Blackburn Rovers in the Carling Cup. Read more

Aston Villa vs Rapid Vienna Preview

August 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Injury News, Match Previews 

Thursday 26th August 2010

Opponent: Rapid Vienna

Venue: Villa Park

Kick Off: 19:45

Thursday night sees the home leg of Villa’s Europa Cup Qualifying tie against Austrian unit Rapid Vienna. After a decent, if unimpressive result in Vienna left the tie in the balance at 1-1 Villa will be looking to exact revenge on the side that knocked them out of the competition at this very stage last season. A depressing night almost exactly one year ago saw Villa crash out on away goals after only managing a 2-1 home victory in response to Rapid’s 1-0 aggregate advantage. The season could have been so different if Ashley Young had not missed a penalty to send the Villains through and the same player may well be the key to victory this time around. The departure from the competition may well have benefited us in the long term with two much needed domestic cup runs and a Carling Cup robbery by Manchester United and more specifically Phil Dowd but we’re not bitter.

The first leg saw caretaker boss Kevin MacDonald field a very youthful starting XI and it seemed to be working early on in the game. An impressive run and delivery from Marc Albrighton was converted by Barry Bannan for his first senior goal. However after that high point we struggled especially from high balls into the box and looked shaky with an unfamiliar back four. The inevitable reply from the home side came from an inevitable source after a cross from Rapid star man and captain Steffan Hofmann was glanced in by target man Nuhiu.

Hofmann will no doubt be the man to target in this game and stopping his impressive deliveries into the box will be imperative. A much changed side is expected after a dismal display against Newcastle though many first team regulars are expected to return from the first leg. Brad Guzan may still be preferred in goal although it is likely that Friedel will come in and a much stronger back four will be required as a clean sheet would ensure progression to the group stages. Richard Dunne will need to improve after a far from inspiring display against the Toon and last season’s regular partner at the back James Collins may be in line for a return. Carlos Cuellar is also back in contention after recovering from injury and will look to push Luke Young for a starting berth.

In midfield new signing Stephen Ireland is available and wingman Ashley Young is expected to start. Young could be crucial to success as the Vienna back line also looked far from solid in the last game and MacDonald will be looking for him to cause the sort of trouble’s that Marc Albrighton was able to cause early on last time out. The aforementioned Albrighton may be given a rest after starting all of Villa’s opening 3 games so far and captain Stiliyan Petrov should also come in.

Up front the goalscoring return of Gabby Agbonlahor in a 45 minute spell in a friendly this week see’s him back in contention and Carew and Heskey are also fit and available. Pace may be preferred as Vienna’s ageing centre backs were caught out on occasion by Emile Heskey in Vienna. I predict that despite losing 6-0 at the weekend, MacDonald will stick to a familiar set up and as long as we can get at the defence, progression to the next round should not be an issue. A clean sheet would mean that we would not even need to score but an early goal would really help settle the nerves and a much improved defensive display will be required. Two known absentees are Stewart Downing and Stephen Warnock who will be rested after starting all of Villa’s games thus far.

Martin’s predicted starting XI: Brad Guzan; Habib Beye, Richard Dunne, James Collins, Luke Young; Ashley Young, Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker, Stephen Ireland; Gabby Agbonlahor, Emile Heskey

Martin’s predicted result: A comfortable 2-0 win for the Villa