Monday, 1 November 2010

Houllier's still at the drawing board at Villa

I'd like rooom to sort out le Villa, s'il vous plait!
While Aston Villa extended their unbeaten run to seven against Birmingham City, there wasn't much ease and flow about their game.

Part of it was down to the tactics of Alex McLeish, who very effectively stopped Stewart Downing and Ashley Young in midfield.

But it was mostly about Gerard Houllier's inability to stamp his authority on the club. He's preparing and fielding Martin O'Neill's squad. Houllier has to fashion Villa to his mould.

A goalless draw is probably a fair reflection of a game full of bluster and effort, but there were no thoroughbreds in this derby.

Blues had a penalty claim, so did Villa. Ciaran Clark, Barry Bannan, Ashley Young and Nigel Reo-Coker might've snatched it.

What a good defensive unit Villa have. If you remember how James Collins, Richard Dunne and Stephen Warnock all made their debut in a 1-nil derby win at St. Andrews last year, they've never looked back since. No worries there for the new administration.

But Houllier is not yet a big figure at Villa Park. He needs to impress his personality on the team for them to rise again.

Saying things like "they will finish somewhere between seventh and twelfth" hardly echoes around the halls of Villa Park like the words of Churchill. And he's repeated that phrase.

All this after inheriting the baton from Martin O'Neill, who steered Villa to three sixth-placed finishes in a row.

Villa need to maintain the momentum of the last few years if they're to keep pace with Spurs and Manchester City. Liverpool's stunning decline affords clubs like these a great opportunity to gatecrash the Big Four Party.

Villa should take the initiative but it starts with Houllier cutting a bigger figure.