A new era at Aston Villa signals wholesale changes under new manager Gerard Houllier. A fresh start maybe just what the club needs after 3 consecutive 6th place finishes and here we will look at some of the things we could expect from the new man at the helm.
HIT – Houllier’s teams, wherever he has been have been well organised and tactically very sound. Not unlike MON the Frenchman likes to set up from the back with a strong and regimented defence. Villa’s defence thus far this term hasn’t exactly been strong and regimented and Houllier will be looking to address this as his first port of call. His sides have all been good passing teams and certainly won’t be as direct as O’Neill so some much sought after changes in this department should see some smiles on Villa faces. Houllier, like MON will look to use his best assets as much as possible in the way that he groomed the likes of Gerrard, Carragher and Owen at Liverpool. The 63 year old is also not shy in offloading players so some deadwood could well be shed which is something that MON was always reluctant to do.
HIT – Houllier’s transfer policy was often questioned at Liverpool but he did seem to work better with less funds finding a few gems along the way. With Villa’s purse strings supposedly a little tight at the moment the wily Frenchman will have to look at some bargains in January to bolster the squad. The Villa faithful will be hoping that the new boos can reveal more in the elk of Dietmar Hamann and, the unheard of at the time, Sami Hyypia. In the same vain they will be looking to avoid the likes of Igor Biscan and Djimi Traore. Houllier’s scouting circles are vast around Europe and although they may not have been title winning quality, Houllier always found a exciting new youngster from abroad which could be just what the club need.
MISS – The Heskey – Carew debate among Villa fans is one that the big Norwegian wins but wasn’t always something that MON agreed with. The fans may have to be patient with Heskey’s goalscoring abilities, or lack there of, once more this season. Houllier is a known fan of the ex-England international after dishing out a massive £11m for his services. This backed up by the fact that whilst at Lyon he gave very few chances to big John, eventually swapping him with Villa flop Milan Baros, could mean that Heskey may well be favoured. Carew will have to prove his cult status at the club and work hard to get into the team which in the past has only provided Villa with more goals as Carew is far from prolific when he is starting every game.
HIT – When it come to working with young talent, which Villa have in abundance at the moment, Houllier may just be the ideal man for the job. As previously stated he helped to develop the likes of Carragher and Gerrard in his time at Liverpool and will look to do the same with our brightest stars. One thing that MacDonald has been praised for thus far is putting his faith in youth with starts given to Albrighton, Clark and Weimann this term with Delfouneso, Delph and Bannan all waiting in the wings. Houllier will be looking to keep these players in and around the first team as much as possible during his tenure at the club. The Frenchman is renowned for his work with possibly the top football academy in the world at Clairfontaine and will no doubt use this experience to progress the talent at Villa.
MISS – On the other side of the coin to his ability to find a bargain are some quite discouraging big money signings in his time at Liverpool. Considering the transfer fees of today the likes of £14m for Djibril Cisse may not look outlandish but the French striker failed to really impress at Liverpool and was Houllier’s last signing at the club. Add on to this are very own Emile Heskey for £11m and even more foolishly the £10m he splashed on El-Hadji Diouf and this may come as uncomfortable reading for Villan’s. It could be said that all managers make bad signings and was certainly the case in MON’s rein at the club but keeping these to a minimum must be a priority, we don’t want another Bosko Balaban put it that way. Although Villa’s budget may not warrant such concerns now, if the club are to progress the time will soon came when Lerner will have to spend big again and it must be done so wisely.
HIT – A main criticism of MON’s time at the club was his reluctance to do his shopping overseas. Time after time he looked to sign British talent which is something that we do love about the club and the British nucleus of the team should remain. However, these dealings only took us so far and O’Neill failed to produce signings that could push us further up the table. Often home-grown talent is massively overpriced, hence Man City’s ethos of buying massively overpriced players from abroad, but often you can pick up a bargain from the top European leagues and Houllier will be looking for a few scalps of his own. Some continental flair to support the likes of Ashley Young and Stephen Ireland is an ingredient the club has been missing for years since Paul Merson, who came from as far as London.
MISS – Questions surround whether the players are all in favour of the appointment with many first team regulars throwing their weight behind Kevin MacDonald’s interest. Perhaps most worryingly club Captain Stiliyan Petrov was the main follower of the Scotsman’s cause and was vocal in his support on numerous occasions. Add to this the likes of Stephen Warnock, James Collins and Luke Young all coming out in their support for the caretaker boss and Houllier may be an unwanted appointment for some. At the end of the day they are all big boys now and consummate professionals at that so any support they did show to MacDonald should transfer immediately to the new boss so one would hope the rumours are much ado about nothing.
HIT – Houllier definitely has a point to prove in English football after a terrific start to his time at Anfield. The Frenchman orchestrated a treble winning season at the club which may not be emulated anytime soon. Houllier guided Liverpool to FA, League and UEFA Cup glory in 2000-01 finishing 3rd in the process. The club then pushed on to 2nd the following season though Houllier began to suffer from health issues and the club was said to have declined in form from that point on. Houllier departed the club in 2004 after failure to qualify for the Champions League despite a significant transfer budget before joining Lyon. In his two seasons at the club he won the Ligue 1 title in both but left after disagreements with the chairman over, what were deemed as failures in Europe. Houllier has now returned to management after 3 years and will be looking to prove the critics who initially applauded him, wrong.
I make that 5 – 3 to the hits so hopefully we’re in for an exciting season with some much needed changes in personnel and tactics. The club really needs every Villan’s support at this time and I for one will backing the new manager in 2010-11!
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