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

Dark Day for Villa

August 27, 2010 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Aston Villa, Villa Manager 

It seems relaunching this site has cursed Villa to some extent. A 6-0 crushing defeat to Newcastle being followed up by an unceremonious dumping out of the Europa Cup at the hands of an old enemy. Villa lost 3-2 at home to Rapid Vienna who have knocked us out at the same stage in consecutive seasons. The tie ended 4-3 on aggregate against a side who we should be beating comfortably. Please see the full round up on the Match Report page of the site. Although it is early days it appears that one of last season strongest defence’s would now struggle in a junior Sunday football league. Conceding 9 in two games against inferior opposition does not exactly instill confidence for the rest of the season.

Will Kevin MacDonald call time on his short reign thus far at Villa Park and more to the point should he? It is clear that the player’s would like to know who will be leading them into the new campaign and the uncertainty appears to be affecting them. Mistakes were made tactically in the game resting players who, after a full pre-season and just 3 games under their belts, should not need resting. I feel the outcome would have been different had Warnock started in place of Beye who was at fault for 2 of the 3 goals. Curtis Davies was poor once more and should do his talking on the pitch rather than moaning to the media about not being played because frankly Curtis, if you’re going to play like that every week you’re better off in the reserves.

Stephen Ireland looked in good shape but may be wondering what he’s gotten himself into since joining the club and the likes of Heskey and Albrighton also put in good shifts. It was in the defensive third where we looked dismal and when the ball is delivered into the box at the moment we appear to be giving away free gifts to opposing sides who are more than happy to accept. Are some players surplus to requirements at the club and who do you think should be bought in?

In other news youngster Harry Forrester will be hoping to gain some invaluable first team experience at a decent level after agreeing to join SPL side Kilmarnock on loan. The 19 year old forward who was signed from Watford has impressed in the reserves and we wish him all the best for the season and look forward to him coming back bigger and better.

Who do you think should be the next manager? Where is it going wrong on the pitch at the moment? I want to know your opinions or if you just want to have a good moan about the club that’s fine by me. The site is now fully up and running and updated so keep checking for updates and surely things can only get better? Or maybe worse?

Aston Villa vs Rapid Vienna Match Report

August 26, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Match Reports 

Thursday 26th August 2010

Aston Villa     2 – 3     Rapid Vienna      (Rapid Vienna win 4-3 on aggregate)

The nightmare returned to Villa Park tonight as the Villains crashed out once more to Austrian outfit Rapid Vienna. It was exactly one year ago that Vienna came to the Midlands and managed a 2-1 defeat which saw them through on away goals. A case of lessons not being learned may have eventually lead to the home sides downfall once more and a feeling of de ja vu was not what the doctored ordered for Villa. Another penalty miss cost us dear and spurned opportunities at one end were only bettered, or worsened in this case, by woeful defending at the other.

Villa set up with a strong line up with recalls for fit again James Collins, Carlos Cuellar and perhaps not so fit again Gabby Agbonlahor. Brad Guzan kept his place in goal from the first leg though ever presents thus far, Stephen Warnock and Stewart Downing were rested alongside Richard Dunne.

Villa were unable to maintain a 2-1 lead in the game and could have been helped by a more convincing scoreline in the first leg to ease the same nerves that were present last time. MacDonald decided to field a weakened team in the first leg which was something that MON had done the season before and was punished for and, although the team that started should have managed to see off Vienna, some questions must be asked of the caretaker boss.

The game started well for Villa with a chance falling to Gabby Agbonlahor after just a minutes action. The pacey striker could only find the keeper’s gloves however with a left footed strike after a neat through ball from Ashley Young. Young was impressive throughout the first period and after a lovely ball from Petrov he delivered a teasing low cross that was this time converted by Agbonlahor. The signs were good for the home side who looked comfortable and new signing Stephen Ireland began to settle into the game and pull the strings for Villa.

A real blow occurred when Agbonlahor, who had been bright, pulled up with what appeared to be a calf strain and was replaced by Marc Albrighton in the 38th minute. The young winger played admirably once more upon his arrival into the game and engineered a chance for himself early in the second half which he dragged wide. Dismal defending from makeshift left back Habib Beye began what proved to be a defensive collapse. After dallying on the ball the full back failed to clear his lines before being dispossessed and the resulting cross was headed home well by Atdhe Nuhiu.

Ashley Young was then bought down in the box after a clear foul by Marcus Katzer but the referee overlooked the penalty claims. Moments later the home side were awarded a somewhat more dubious penalty for a supposed tug on Emile Heskey. Captain Stiliyan Petrov stepped up but his effort was tame and easily saved to the goalkeeper’s right before Heskey’s reputation preceded him missing the follow up when it was easier to score.

Villa did then make the breakthrough after a flicked effort by Petrov was saved and the ball was shipped back out to Ashley Young. The wideman delivered and the ball was half cleared to Habib Beye on the edge of the box who’s volley was turned in via the midriff of Heskey, his first goal since February. The travellers hit back immediately and went ahead on away goals after a confusing clearance by the shaky Curtis Davies went behind for a corner. The resulting corner lead to a flick off a Villa head finding Mario Sonnleitner who’s header just crept over the line after Guzan got a hand to it. The American stopper would have hoped for more as his feet slipped from beneath him and he failed to get a strong enough hand to the shot.

More poor defending by Habib Beye saw the visitors claim a breakaway third goal to kill off the match. The Senegalese international gave the ball away on the halfway line and was exposed out of position when substitute Christopher Trimmel picked out fellow bench warmer Rene Gartler to tap home. The striker was left free at the back post by Cuellar due to poor full back play, reinforcing the fact that the Spaniard is a centre half and should be employed in that position. Despite Villa’s best efforts, replacing Reo-Coker with Delfouneso and throwing James Collins up front, they could not conjure another goal and the sinking feeling returned to the Villa faithful.

Villa Player Ratings

Brad Guzan – 5 – unconvincing, should have done better with the 2nd Vienna goal

Carlos Cuellar – 5 – rusty, struggled for pace against winger and caught napping at the back post

James Collins – 6 – strong, good dominance and an attacking aerial threat

Curtis Davies – 5 – poor, obvious that he is not up to match fitness after months without playing

Habib Beye – 4 – dismal, at fault for 2 goals and nervous out of position

Nigel Reo-Coker – 6 – average, assured in possession but could have scored

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – industrious, good ball retention but awful penalty

Stephen Ireland – 7 – promising, controlled and looked comfortable after slow start

Ashley Young – 6 – faded, superb start and assist but faded and became agitated, some poor crosses

Gabby Agbonlahor – 6 – injured, good until replaced with neat if simple finish

Emile Heskey – 7 – tireless, great work rate and link up from the big man who deserved his goal

Subs

Marc Albrighton – 7 – lively, ran at the defence and caused problems with decent delivery

Nathan Delfouneso – 5 – no time to impress, should have been used earlier

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