Bring back Kevin MacDonald?
There seems to be a lot of criticism levelled at Gerard Houllier at the moment. Many are justifying this criticism based on Villa's recent results and their lowly league position. Fair enough?
Well no, actually. O'Neill had plenty of time to build a 'squad' and Villa achieved sixth place 3 seasons in a row. Pretty good going, but without any real progression. You only have to look at Man City and Tottenham to see the kind of progression needed to go further than sixth, and a look at the top half of the table shows how teams like Bolton and Sunderland are also starting to progress. The noises coming from St Andrews are that Birmingham 'closing the gap' on Villa. Critics are saying that Houllier has the same squad of players as O'Neill but can't produce the results. These critics seem to be forgetting the curse of March, the sale of Villa's most influential player last season and the lack of any real incoming players. Add to that the long injury list and the fact that other teams know how we play (based on last season) and it's not a real surprise that Villa are struggling to find results.
Houllier is trying to change the way Villa play. Unfortunately this seems to have resulted in sideways and backwards passes. A lack of strikers (or at least quality strikers) has meant formations that don't appear to be very positive - but scoring goals is not the real problem - 2 goals against Man Utd and Arsenal are proof of that. The problem is how many Villa are conceding. Whilst Houllier picks the team, he has to stand by players that have performed so well in the past - he doesn't really have many options. Mistakes and general poor performances have cost Villa, and this is down to the players. There is a lack of creativity, particularly in midfield, the defence has looked disorganised and there is no bite in attack anymore.
Houllier has moved quickly to build up a quality team of coaches and scouts to add to the already successful Academy set-up. It will take time for this to have a big effect, but rest assured it will. Villa have already been linked with more players in the last 2 months than in the whole of O'Neill's tenure and the quality of these players is a vast step up. Only time will tell whether any of these links come to fruition, but it's clear that Houllier's pulling power is much greater across Europe than O'Neill's.
Houllier needs time, players need to get much better and fans have to be patient. This is a transition period for Villa, a period that will go much smoother if people get off Houllier's back.