This Is Villa Park

This Is Villa Park

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Aston Villa Football Club; Proud History, Bright Future.

Aston Villa Football Club; Prepared.
Were we ever prepared for the arrival of ex Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish? Were we prepared for our relegation fight last season under Gerard Houllier? Were we prepared when Martin O'Neill left us five days before the start of the 2010/11 Barclays Premier League?

Martin O'Neill, in his Aston Villa days and the 'Metro' headline.
It all started when Manchester City rumbled Aston Villa for one of their star players, for a second consecutive year. Once again, you could call it a very under hand operation by the new millionaires in the Premier League. Thanks to the blue half of Manchester, Villa were ducks under water, being drowned slowly but surely. As soon as the deal was done and hands shook - behind closed doors - Martin O'Neill; the manager that had shown us to sixth place in the table for three seasons, took us to Wembley twice for the first time in ten years and also given us chances in Europe; walked out. Disagreements with Randy Lerner and no money being out in the pot may have been the reasons for this shock news. Whatever explanation you can think of probably applied to Martin O'Neill's resignation.

Just five days before the start of a new season, one that many Villa fans were looking forward to; the possibilities of a cup, another last ditch attempt to jump for the worshipped fourth place finish and Champions League football to aim for; we had to start all over again. Right from the beginning, back to basics.

Kevin MacDonald was appointed as caretaker manager, with only five days to rebuild a destroyed team, that was possibly shell shocked, like most, at the resignation of their manager of four seasons. He did a remarkably good job, especially in the time he had. Bringing in Marc Albrighton into the first team and introducing Andreas Wienman and Barry Bannan into the Premier League, it exploited what talent lies a little bit closer to home.

'Express and Star' report that even the manger admits we're in a relegation battle.
You could say that this is when the Dark Ages returned to Villa Park when Gerard Houlier walked through the door. (In my opinion, I'd say that that is a harsh set of words.) Even though he won his first two games as manager against Blackburn Rovers in the League Cup and Wolverhampton Wanderers in his return to Premier League action, there were still worst times to come. With loses over arch rivals Birmingham City in the Carling Cup quarter final and a deathly Christmas period, it pointed us towards the bottom of the table holding up the rest of the league cause we were just so strong (writes with hint of sarcasm.) Arguments with players lead to an unhappy team playing game after game with as much intent and heart as a dead dog. However, we still finished in the top half of the table, in a healthy ninth position, thanks to wins against Arsenal and Liverpool.

As much as I hated the fact at the time that we were face to face with relegation and playing at Coventry, I still backed the manager, supported the team and made sure I sung my heart out at all games. Comparing that to others, I was one of those branded 'positive.' Now those who screamed abuse at the manager, booed the team they love and hung banners asking for the head of Houllier have suddenly come to the realisation that maybe if they weren't so hurtful towards the manager he may still be managing a team that was fighting for a top sixth place finish again this year. Even though, the likes of Richard Dunne, Stephen Warnock, James Collins and even perhaps Gabby Agbonlahor may not have been at the club, we would have had a manager that had a set long term plan for the club. He set his team out to attack what ever was threw at them, he had a positive set of tactics and took his time in building the foundations of a team that would be able to pass the ball around neatly, press the opponents as if spying on their prey and use fast tempo play in the final third.

'BBC Sport' exclaim the breaking news story.
Unfortunately, as a result of the Frenchman's health, he was forced to set down from his managerial post, paving the way for Alex McLeish. I still admire his amount of bravery and courage to come across the city, yet it may have been a regretful decision. With possibly the easiest of first six fixtures, I'm sure we all had high expectation, hoping for a full eighteen points. Regardless of the unbeaten start we were only getting draws, even after leading most games and sitting back for the rest of the match only for the opposition to take advantage of the fact.

I agree that it takes time to settle into a club, yet with a negative, defencive set of tactics, McLeish has made it harder for himself. Against Bolton, two weeks ago, Alex dropped the negative tactics and preached an attacking formation which paid of. The old fashioned 4-4-2, worked wonders even if it was only against bottom of the table Bolton Wanderers.
Defending set pieces has also been a very big problem, just as it was under Gerard Houllier. The most basic of skills in football, that even at grass roots level is mastered, man marking is demonstrated poorly. Even zonal marking is poor. Yet, this is still a team with three defenders that under O'Neill were one of the tightest defences in the league.

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