Writer: Steve Wade
Date:Monday December 27 2010
Things are not looking good at Villa and a relegation battle looks on the cards come early February, when shortly after playing Man United, Villa find themselves participating in a genuine six-pointer against Fulham.
The case against Houllier gets more convincing with every match and even judged on his own terms he is not doing very well.
Is he the right fit for Villa?
He has upset the fans with his faux pas at Liverpool and was not exactly very contrite when criticised for it: the guy who showed the empathy the fans thought was their due, was taken off forum duties because he had said something Houllier didn't like.
That Houllier ego keeps emerging but based on what exactly?
His coaching staff have introduced a fitness regime which Petrov described thus: 'If I was any fitter I would be dead!'.
His coaching methods have produced a rash of injuries, especially to older players.
He has publicly criticised a player who was suffering with low confidence and now that player wants to leave the club, which will result in a financial loss.
He has laid the ground for the departure of Ashley Young, with his 'if it was for crazy money' quote.
He has demanded that players move closer to the club, when they should be concentrating on their games not moving house and he has signed a player who is chauffeured from a long distance to the training ground (Pires).
He is evidently trying to recreate his Liverpool glory days by repeating the same things - signing Robert Pires, as a sort of Gary McAllister - but while McAllister was a revelation at Liverpool, Pires is obviously not at Villa.
He is playing young forwards (Defouneso) over experienced (Carew), as if he has Michael Owen & Robbie Fowler on the books. He has not.
He has moved a player who was one of the best wingers in the Prem last season, into the centre.
He has upset a player who was one of Villa's best performers last season and relegated him to 3rd choice because he objected to the way he was treated or the way the team was being coached.
The defensive unit which was the basis for Villa's success last year has remained intact and mostly injury-free, and yet they have gone backwards to such an extent that they have become a liability, under the guidance of Houllier's coaches.
Villa's first choice goalkeeper has lost form under the influence of Houllier's coaching staff.
He is telling us in as strong language as good PR permits, that he is not going to sign any players in January because in his words, he wants to give the young players more experience. While it seems obvious that several higher-earners are about to be shipped out and have been made unavailable for team selection, to fulfil the owners plan to reduce wages to below 70% of turnover.
He seems to have conveniently fallen out with exclusively high-earners.
Bearing in mind the fact that there seems little sign that he has managed to improve Villa in any way whatsoever and that it seems he is going to have to work with what he's already got, does he look like he's the right manager for Villa?
He certainly isn't winning many football matches.
Given that Villa are undertaking a massive restructuring of the club, as they bring wages down from 78% to 70% of turnover, is Gerard Houllier the right manager for dealing with such a situation?
Isn't the real problem, that Villa are living in cloud cuckoo land if they think they can live within their meagre means and play pleasing football? Isn't Houllier just a symptom of that self-delusion? And doesn't that delusion promise disaster, just as the Ellis delusion did when he brought in his first managers during his first austerity plan?
The same promise of exotic football, as when Dr Joe arrived - the same delusion.
Haven't the club and the fans got to face the fact that their peers in respect to turnover (Everton and West Ham) demonstrate perfectly, how under the constraint of similar budgets, the pragmatic battlers at Everton succeed, while the dreamers at West Ham have mostly failed?
O'Neill was an example of football pragmatism, whether at Leicester, Celtic or Villa.
Graham Taylor was one of Villa's greatest pragmatist, who understood what a club like Villa needs.
So surely, Villa need another?
Bearing all this in mind, should not Villa's owners and fans alike be seeking the services of Sam Allardyce, the biggest pragmatist of them all?
Not pretty but pragmatic.
Anything else just looks like sleep-walking into disaster.
Villa fans might see Houllier's football as pleasing to the eye but is it working?
Sometimes things can look rather better than they actually turn out to be.
Date:Monday December 27 2010
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