Following the scenes at Anfield on Monday night, Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier is not a popular figure amongst the Villa faithful. His widely reported comments following Villa’s 3-0 loss to Liverpool were a final kick in the teeth to fans who have been given nothing to cheer about recently. Houllier’s job has now been made a great deal harder. Not only does he need to somehow haul Aston Villa from the wrong end of the Premier League table; he must now tackle scathing Villa fans who feel his loyalties in some ways remain on Merseyside.
Houllier was welcomes back by the Anfield faithful, but quickly dismissed by angry Villa fans. Photo: AFP
I am an optimistic Villa fan, but I am beginning to wonder why. I was honest in my assessment of Gerard Houllier’s arrival at Aston Villa by suggesting that despite an admirable record as a manager, he simply is not the correct man for the job at Villa Park. I stand by this assessment; particularly in light of recent goings on at the club.
Villa’s torrid run of form has seen them slump to a lowly 16th place; only two points from the relegation zone. The fans have been exposed to some lifeless, flat and uninspiring performances of late, but until Monday they remained behind Houllier. I (like many honest football fans) am a believer that you cannot judge a manager until at least six months into a job. After which time the ‘dust’ has settled and the club are over halfway into a season. However, I make an exception when I make an assessment of Gerard Houllier’s credentials as Villa’s Manager.
What Martin O’Neill spent so long building at Villa has now been put to waste. Over the past few years Villa became a side full of pace, exciting football and without doubt potential. O’Neill’s tireless work ethic at the club ended in disappointing circumstances. Following a relatively lengthy appointment process, Houllier was given the chance to continue to build on the sturdy foundations that O’Neill left behind.
Monday nights trip to Anfield summed up the predicament that Villa find themselves in. Less than a year before, fans were reveling in an outstanding victory at Anfield; one which saw Villa produce a solid defensive display coupled with an exuberant attacking display. Houllier’s first visit to Anfield culminated in a 3-0 defeat and an angry set of traveling fans who felt robbed of roughly £40. This was a Liverpool team missing Gerrard, Torres and Carragher. To add further insult to injury, Houllier comments about the match were inappropriate at best. He stated “If I have got to lose 3-0, I would prefer it to be to them as I like Liverpool.” I do not believe that the comments were fully meant the way they sound, but for somebody so used to speaking to the press, Houllier has no avenue with which to evade a barrage from the media and fans alike.
The side now lack confidence, a vital ingredient that some of the world’s best managers can maintain in the face of adversity. Villa look like they lack heart on the pitch. Richard Dunne and James Collins have looked woeful of late; not working as a pair and looking like making a mistake with every touch. Brad Friedel appears a shadow of the player he was only a year ago. Villa’s undoubtedly taleneted youngsters are keen to do a job, but with little help coming from around them it is simply a job too big.
I do not believe that in light of recent events Gerard Houllier will be in charge of Aston Villa for any more than six months. Before the end of January Villa face Chelsea, Tottenham and Man City. You would be forgiven for thinking that all three of those teams will fancy their chances against what is certainly a wounded side. Houllier’s one potential saving grace could be in the January transfer market. If Randy Lerner can provide some funds with which to bolster a small, out-of-sorts squad, things may just change. I am awaiting the arrival of Djibril Cisse, who seems to follow Houllier wherever he goes. Villa are in desperate need of a quality centre-back, an influential central-midfielder and a proven goalscorer. I know what I will be wishing for this Christmas, but my chances of getting it are as likely as Gerard Houllier being an Aston Villa hero!