An awful run of results for Gerard Houllier has left Villa in 16th ahead of Monday night’s tie with Liverpool. Despite some decent performances a lack of results has led to a surge in the amount of players linked with the club ahead of the January transfer window. Read how reports suggest that Villa could be in for a change of No.1 as well as links to advanced midfielders and familiar faces up front. Don’t get too excited as Houllier has said that he only plans to bring in new faces in January and has also said that a striker is probably not one of them but this has not stopped the reports! Enjoy!
Speculation was rife this week after a second abject performance in 3 games cast doubts over Brad Friedel’s credentials as he nears his 40th birthday. Reports suggest that Houllier has decided not to offer the veteran keeper a new contract which could see a departure in January. I can’t help but think this is rubbish to be honest, to replace a first team keeper half way through a season is almost unheard of. Rumours are linking Friedel with a return to America and the MLS which I think could well happen but not until the end of the season. In my opinion Villa would be missing a trick not to offer the Big Brad a role as goalkeeping coach to tutor the young stoppers at the club like Parish and Siegrist.
Allan McGregor is reportedly being lined up as a replacement for the ageing American with Brad Guzan not quite able to force his way into the reckoning as much as he would like. The Rangers and Scotland keeper has been monitored by the club for some time and was also watched by Manchester United who have since signed Anders Lindegaard, another Villa target. The 28-year-old is a decent age for a goalkeeper who should be coming into his best years. McGregor has played in 13 of Rangers 14 games this season but despite the club topping the table having lost just one game, the club have only kept 3 clean sheets in the league. McGregor is thought to be valued at around £6-7m and has proven himself as a quality shot stopper.
Charles N’Zogbia has been linked to the club in the past but a supposed renewed interest under Gerard Houllier may interest the French playmaker. Though the left winger has been around for a long time in the Premier League he is still just 24 and could represent a shrewd capture were this to be true. N’Zogbia has consistently proven himself as Wigan’s most influential player with a decent knack for outstanding goals. A reported £7m price tag may be a bit short of the mark in my opinion for a player who plays such a vital role for Martinez’s side. Whether the club need another winger is another matter as a left sided player would surely be a replacement for Villa’s top scorer this term Stewart Downing although I believe that N’Zogbia can influence a game in an attacking sense far more than Downing and on the opposite flank to Albrighton, could be a frightening prospect.
Habib Beye was bought from Newcastle by Martin O’Neill in the summer of last year and has failed to establish himself as a first team contender. The defender, now 33, is reportedly a high wage earner at Villa Park and rumours suggest that Randy Lerner is keen to cut the wage bill with players like Beye, Sidwell, Davies and Carew all in the line of fire. The Senegal international is extremely prone to the odd error and despite showing decent pace and versatility, he continues to fail to show a great deal of decent defending when called upon. Bye Bye Beye in my opinion!
With Stephen Ireland not lighting Villa Park alight thus far, due to lack of opportunities in my opinion, Houllier is reportedly looking for a creative midfielder to tutor the likes of Barry Bannan. Arsenal midfielder and vice-captain in the absence of Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky is thought to be unhappy of the amount of playing time he gets at the Emirates. With issues of wage bills being slashed I would have thought that Rosicky would not fit the bill coming from high flying Arsenal unless the Czech midfielder is willing to take a pay cut. Similarly to McGregor and N’Zogbia, Rosicky is believed to be available for around the £6m mark which may be a little too high for a player who is now 30-years-old. A lack of goals has marred Rosicky’s career in England with a record of around 1 in 8 after 11 months without a goal for Arsene Wenger’s side. At the right price and the right wage why not but I feel that value for money will be an issue for a player approaching the twilight years.
Stephen Ireland has had a torrid time since joining Villa as part of the deal seeing James Milner join Manchester City (is the City bench nice and warm by any chance James? Hate to say I told you so!). Ireland has had niggles and illnesses stunt his development at Villa Park and has fallen out of favour with Houllier after an apparent lack of effort according to the manager. I believe that Ireland was never really keen on a move to Villa and wasn’t the biggest fan of being used a as a makeweight. One would hope that this would spur the midfielder on to prove himself but it hasn’t really worked out that way. A loan move in January has been suggested with the likes of Stoke and Celtic being mentioned. It is clear that the bald headed player has the talent and I still want him to show it at Villa in a deal which excited me in the summer. Give him a chance I say!
With a lack of fully fit strikers and more importantly a lack of goals from up front, Villa have been re-linked with a few familiar faces on the transfer front. After admitting an interest in out of favour United striker Michael Owen at the beginning of the season, Houllier was scuppered by Sir Alex Ferguson who said he would not sell the former England international. Fergie claimed that Owen would get enough game time at Old Trafford which is something that Owen clearly didn’t agree with. Since making that statement Owen is yet to start for United due to injuries and the front man has made just 1 league start all season though he was substituted at the break. Owen has one goal to his name in the league this term and netted against Villa in the League Cup final last year. Houllier appeared to rekindle an interest today stating that he would love to be reunited with Owen at Villa Park. A fit Michael Owen is still going to get you goals and is the sort of striker that Villa haven’t seemed to have had in a long, long time. Cut price deal would be ideal for Villa.
Djibril Cisse is a controversial figure if not only for his ever-changing hairstyle and facial topiary. The Frenchman was brought by Houllier whilst at Liverpool before he suffered a horror leg break against Blackburn. Electric pace and a decent finish have seen him recapture his form, after various stints in England, with Greek side Panathinaikos. The outspoken striker is now 29 but should still have a good few years in him yet. His record in the Greek league, and yes I know it’s only the Greek league, still makes for impressive reading. In 12 games this term Cisse has netted 13 times including 5 braces and 6 in his last four starts. His record last season was almost as impressive scoring 23 in 28 league appearances as well as 5 in 8 in the Europa League. Yes please!
Despite Harry Redknapp claiming that Keane was their best player in pre-season this year, the Irishman has been officially put up for sale in January with a permanent move being favourable. Keane has been linked to Villa, I think 273 times before now and is inevitably on the radar once again. The journeyman has started just two of Tottenham’s 16 games this season culminating in what Redknapp said was the hardest decision of his career to leave Keane out of the entire squad last week. In a successful spell with Celtic on loan at the end of last season Keane showed that he still has an eye for goal netting 12 times in 16 games across the border. If he does come I’d be happy but if not, please don’t ever link him with this club again!
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