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Houllier's unhappy Anfield return

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Phil McNulty | 07:34 UK time, Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Anfield

Gerard Houllier felt the warmth of The Kop amid sub-zero temperatures as he made his return to Anfield - but was soon experiencing an icy blast of harsh reality as Liverpool inflicted a damaging defeat on his Aston Villa side.

Houllier, as expected, was well received by supporters who still respect the successes he brought them during a six-year tenure. He touched the "This Is Anfield" sign as he made his way to the familiar territory of the technical area and enjoyed the strains of "You'll Never Walk Alone".

Sadly for Houllier, it was downhill all the way - and very rapidly - once the pleasantries had been dispensed with on what turned out to be a grim night for Aston Villa and their manager.

Houllier has a host of happy Anfield memories. This game will not be one of them as the struggle he is enduring in his effort to reignite Aston Villa was exposed in painful detail.

Houllier applauds the Liverpool fans on his return to Anfield. Photo: AFPHoullier applauds the Liverpool fans on his return to Anfield. Photo: AFP

The only minor victory he enjoyed over Liverpool counterpart Roy Hodgson came in the closing stages of Villa's 3-0 defeat when he heard his name sung with affection by The Kop. Hodgson is not yet afforded this luxury. Indeed, he is still treated almost as if he does not exist by his own supporters.

Houllier made no attempt to apply cosmetics to an ugly Villa performance and continues to have minimal impact on results on the pitch. Villa have managed only two wins in the last 12 games and occupy a Premier League position that is too close to the relegation zone.

The Frenchman will be attempting to lay foundations behind the scenes but the brutal truth is that Villa are currently a pale shadow of the side that occupied the upper reaches of the table regularly under Martin O'Neill.

Villa may have arrived at Liverpool depleted by injury and minus the suspended Ashley Young but this was no excuse for their dreadful showing as Hodgson's side made light of the absence of both Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher because of injury, as well as Fernando Torres, who was with his wife after she went into labour.

Villa looked a team ready to be beaten almost from the kick-off and this display will not help Houllier win the hearts of those fans who remain sceptical about his appointment. But on a day when Newcastle United were roundly, and rightly, condemned for their hasty sacking of Chris Hughton, patience is required.

Houllier needs wins swiftly, though, and the mixture of scorn and sarcasm heaped on Villa by their hardy travelling support did not send out good signals.

The true time for judgement will come when Houllier has had the chance to fashion a team that is more in his own image - and this will call for heavy backing from American owner Randy Lerner.

The Houllier stamp during his time at Liverpool was ruthlessly efficient defence and cast-iron mental strength, both qualities conspicuously absent in this Villa side.

Brad Friedel, now 39, is not the goalkeeping force he once was. Photo: PABrad Friedel, now 39, is not the goalkeeping force he once was. Photo: PA

The major worry must be that Houllier appears to have taken charge of a defence in terminal decline. Richard Dunne and James Collins, so solid in the past, now look vulnerable and worryingly pedestrian. Even goalkeeper Brad Friedel, so reliable for so long, has started to look frayed around the edges.

Villa's defensive discipline went walkabout as Liverpool struck twice in 16 minutes through David Ngog and Ryan Babel, with Maxi Rodriguez rounding off the win with a wonderful third goal.

Houllier has a batch of talented young players and is willing to use them but youthful enthusiasm is swiftly sapped in a struggle and they must be handled with care.

The only stars of the show for Villa were their fans, who illuminated a subdued night by turning on their team in light-hearted manner, although there was real venom in the blast they delivered towards the players at half-time.

"It's Just Like Watching Brazil," they lied as Villa slumped, while cries of "Ole" greeted passages of roughly two passes. Good knockabout stuff but the satire could not disguise the frustration.

Villa face Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City in their next five games, so things may well get worse before they get better for Houllier. But it would ludicrous if he was under pressure at such an early stage after only taking over in September. And unlike Magpies owner Mike Ashley, Lerner has shown he possesses lots of common sense.

For Liverpool and Hodgson, this was an impressive win at reduced strength and hinted once more at recent improvements. True, West Ham United and Aston Villa presented lame opposition but they were put away with the minimum of fuss, while there was still plenty to please Hodgson in defeat at Spurs.

Hodgson has suffered criticism this season, plenty of it justified, so he is entitled to feel a measure of satisfaction at a victory that moves Liverpool up the table.

The often derided figure of Babel looked happy in a central role, while Raul Meireles is now producing the quality that made him so highly regarded at Porto. Lucas was influential alongside the Portuguese as the Gerrard-sized hole in Liverpool's midfield was filled with comfort on this particular occasion.

David Ngog celebrates after puttign Liverpool in front. Photo: APDavid Ngog celebrates after puttign Liverpool in front. Photo: AP

No such joy for Houllier as his hopes of a winning return to Anfield were reduced to rubble. And this performance suggests it will take major and painstaking reconstruction by the former Lyon boss to get anywhere near the successes he enjoyed on Merseyside.

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Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    what a surprise another pro liverpool mcnulty blog

  • Comment number 2.

    These days it really is some achievement to be humiliated by Liverpool. But back to Houllier, i've never really been a fan, though with the youngsters at villa, they have a decent chance to build a team for the future, but for the moment i think they're a team in transition who might still lose some of their best players ie ashley young.

  • Comment number 3.


    If it is ludicrous to say your mate Houllier is under pressure then why write this pathetic article?

  • Comment number 4.

    I don't get the praise for Uncle Roy picking Babel in a central role, or any role for that matter. He was basically forced into it due to lack of fit players. Before last night Babel had played about an hours worth of league football, all from the bench, hardly a ringing endorsement from Roy.

    I don't think you'll find any Liverpool fans who haven't previously seen Babel have a good game, whether out wide or through the middle. The problem he has is that his next performances are absolutely shocking. The reason he has never had a long run of games is that when you're playing at the top of the table as Liverpool previously were, you can't afford a constantly play a player who has a 1 good game in 5 (except for maybe Messi).

    Still a competant performance against a poor Villa side. Good to see Lucas and Meireles (was he Roy's choice?) getting some well deserved praise also.

  • Comment number 5.

    two blogs in 24 hours. Phil, they must be working you hard....or is your end of year review (just like mine) coming up where you have to justify your existence in the BBC.

  • Comment number 6.

    Houllier needs time to settle, just like any new player in a new club. Hope Aston Villa stick with him. I am pretty sure he will do well.

    With regards the Liverpool fans, they way they treat Hodgson is unjustified. He is a decent guy who will come end of the season either finish in fifth or sixth place (possibly even fourth). Then the Kop will start singing his name.....How fickle football fans can be...and we blame the owners..

  • Comment number 7.

    1. At 08:25am on 07 Dec 2010, andy wrote:
    what a surprise another pro liverpool mcnulty blog

    =======================================

    Was there another game on last night he could have blogged about?

    Anyway, we played well last night, good to see us creating chances and scoring goals without Gerrard or Torres playing. Admittedly Villa were poor but you still have to beat what is put out in front of you. Lucas is starting to look like a good player and Meireles looks better with every game. Let's see how we do against poor old Newcastle.

  • Comment number 8.

    Is it me or are Liverpool playing better without Gerrard in the middle. Lucas has discovered that he can pass after all, and other players are finding the space to play without Gerrard taking over all of the time. Wouldn't be surprised if they don't sell while a good price might still be possible, subject to finding a buyer of course, but City could probably be persuaded if they think somebody else is interested.

  • Comment number 9.

    Great blog Phil, i do hope that Houllier gets a good run at Villa.

  • Comment number 10.

    Lerner is a fantastic owner but he must act quickly and Houllier needs to be binned, sooner rather than later else we'll be playing Championship football next season. He is out of touch, has appalingly negative tactics, seems to have poor man management skills and we have dropped like a stone since he took over. A completely over rated manager.

  • Comment number 11.

    As a Villa fan I have to say I hope Houllier does not get a good run at Villa.

    He has had injuries yes but IF YOU COME INTO A CLUB ON THE BACK OF A WORLD CUP SUMMER AND OVERNIGHT DOUBLE THE TRAINING WORKLOAD ON PLAYERS THEN YOU WILL GET LOTS OF INJURIES.

    He has also turned a team that is hard to beat into a shambles in 3 short months. He has turned one of the best defences in the league into an outfit that ships soft goals week in week out.

    He has not been able to instil one ounce of confidence in the team since his arrival and he has said things from the very beginning that have alienated the fans culminating in saying "I don't mind losing to Liverpool, I like Liverpool" The guy is an embarrassment.

    He is tactically naive playing Ireland on the right and starting Pires against Arsenal and his transfer targets are all old enough to be my Dad and I am 37! I do not want him stamping his authority on the team in January if that authority is players who are in semi retirement like Pires, Juninho and Cisse.

    It will be embarrassing sacking him so soon after appointing him but with the greatest respect to these teams not as embarrassing as taking trips to Scunthorpe and Derby County next season. If Houllier stays we will be relegated mark my words and that is an apocalyptic scenario I do not want. HOULLIER OUT.

  • Comment number 12.

    I assume the people hoping Houllier gets a good run at Villa are Birmingham fans as he is absolutely awful! How can you take a side that has finished 6th for three seasons on the trot and have them sat in 16th, looking likely to drop even lower?

    Under O'Neill the team was built on a strong defence and the ability to counter attack swiftly and dangerously. Minus Milner this is still the same team and now we look soft centred throughout the defence and have no goal threat. Players like Dunne, Warnock, Young and Carew look a shadow of the players they were under O'Neill.

    Don't get me started on his 'fitness' regime which has seen 12 players on the injury list.....

  • Comment number 13.

    Andy, I think you could be onto something there.

    Now if only there was another position Gerrard could play that wasn't in centre midfield, where at times in this position he genuinely looked World Class even though he doesn't want to play there. (Watch out Glenn Johnson!!)

    And if only Liverpool had a manager who had the foresight to see that the team comes first before the individuals. Oh hang on.....

  • Comment number 14.

    1. At 08:25am on 07 Dec 2010, andy wrote:
    what a surprise another pro liverpool mcnulty blog

    -----------------------------------------------------

    There are only 3 small paragraphs about Liverpool; they were involved in the match too, so it's probably only fair they get a little mention. This blog is quite clearly about Villa, so everyone who keeps going mental about bias should calm down.

  • Comment number 15.

    'this will call for heavy backing from American owner Randy Lerner.'

    ...he wont get it wil he - wasn't the lack of backing that caused O'Neill to quit? Villa have a few young players coming through like Albrighton and Houllier has been brought in to manage their introduction into the side. Out have gone Barry and Milner and in has come an ageing Pires. Who's next to go - Young?

    Was little baby Torres born in England or Spain by the way?

  • Comment number 16.

    I thought it was a strange appointment from the start.. a man who had been moved into one of the 'upstair roles' elsewhere because of his previous health problems and possible desire to take a step back from management..

    I think people who are complaining about him taking almost the same O'Neill team and turning it into a shocker are being unfair though.. O'Neill's team had started to look stale and needed freshening.. he wouldnt do this and even baulked at the selling of Milner for the ludicrous fee of 24mil.. I think Houllier will ship out some players to free cash and then start to rebuild the team.. this is what is needed and he should get the time to do this..

    Fans seem to forget this is how teams used to operate.. take players.. make them better and then sell them for a profit and try to bring in maybe 2 or possible 3 with the fee received.. Now we want teams to retain players but continue to buy year in and year out.. the best example of this being teams like Villa and Everton.. good solid players who could be sold to make way for new but the managers and fans wont accept the risk involved..

  • Comment number 17.

    If Houllier talked about the Villa players half as much as he's been quoted about his fondness of all things Scouse he might start endearing himself to the Villa fans a little more.

    In all honesty i couldn't give a monkey's about his fondness for Liverpool, the fact Villa aren't as big as Liverpool etc etc. I'm not one for shoot the manager at the first sign of trouble but this is getting beyond a joke. Dunne is clearly not fit and is bang out of form. Pires never will be a starter. The injury record is absolutely shocking.....almost makes West Ham's injury list seem minor.

    I'm at a complete loss......i'm sure i walked into the door to the pub last night to watch the game and not a door to past of O'Leary etc.....

  • Comment number 18.

    1. At 08:25am on 07 Dec 2010, andy wrote:

    what a surprise another pro liverpool mcnulty blog

    _______________________________________________________________

    What?!

    It's a blog about Aston Villa!

    Honestly, McNulty's last few blogs have been about Villa, Newcastle, Blackburn, Birmingham, West Ham, Spurs, Bolton, and England.

    And STILL he gets accused of writing too much about Liverpool!

    It's pathetic - some people just need a reason to whinge, even if there isn't one.

  • Comment number 19.

    Not being funny but how can this blog not have a slight Liverpool slant?? It's mainly about Villa and Houllier. Villa who played Liverpool last night and Houllier who....yes....used to manage Liverpool (as if we needed reminding).

    Get off Phils back. Other than some obvious Houllier back patting it's a pretty sound blog.

  • Comment number 20.

    Once again Martin O'Neill over achieved and since his departure another club have declined.

    'Lerner has shown he possesses lots of common sense.' Surely common sense suggests you keep a succesful manager?


  • Comment number 21.

    He needs to be given time.Look at his first year at Liverpool,he finished 7th,but after that went on to become a very succesfull Liverpool manager until his health worries

    However this does all show how good martin o neil was

  • Comment number 22.

    Why is Villa's defence so shocking? O'Neill has spent over £34 million on defenders during his tenure, whilst showing the door to the likes of Liam Ridgwell and Gary Cahill.

    Still thay had to make way for those world beaters such as Curtis Davies and Zat Knight, despite even them both being moved on themselves.

    And now it seems the £10million pairing of Collins and Dunn aren't up to standard either?!?

    Randy L must have money to burn.

  • Comment number 23.

    I cannot believe what's going on at Villa, everything is wrong. Our rock solid defence from last season has crumbled to dust this time round, we cannot score for love nor money and we are sitting 16th in the table after 15 games! I'm a true fan of this club and I agree with the view that Houllier should be given time, however, there are problems that need to be sorted out.

    We've got a host of injuries but the side that started last night was full-strength minus Petrov and Young. Liverpool were missing the significant figures of Gerrard, Torres and Carragher but they turned us over. There are certain players in the Villa squad - not naming any names - that need to ply their trade elsewhere. Our finances are a mess and we can't afford to be carrying any passengers - such as a certain ginger midfielder on £45k a week!

    Worrying times at the club and while I have confidence in Houllier sorting things out I still think he owes the fans much more than what we've seen so far this season. West Brom is MUST WIN because with Chelsea, Spurs and Man City in the next 4 after that, we could be in the relegation zone on Christmas day.

  • Comment number 24.

    well. haven heard from both sides and knowing fully that we're talking bout d once impressive Aston Villa (for about 3 seasons now). I hereby deliver my judgement that Houllier (or whateva is d spelling of his name) should be sacked (but not in d manner of Chris Hughton.). hope I dont get moderated on my 1st day on d beeb. **praying fervently*

  • Comment number 25.

    It seems that Villa are scoring goals, 2 v Man Utd, 2 v Arsenal, 3 v blackpool, yes 2 of those games were loses but it seems to me they're on the verge of a good run.

  • Comment number 26.

    2 blogs in 2 days. Tomm's blog headline will be how SAF will win the Champs League this year.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm sorry Phil but I don't think it is ludicrous if Houllier is under pressure. I am a seriously concerned Villa fan. The league is a lot stronger then it used to be - there is no relegation fodder like there used to be. You look at Newcastle (who, despite the pressure will probably appoint a good manager like Jol and finish higher than Hughton would have taken them - regardless of the morals of that), WBA and Blackpool and I'd confidently assert that 2 of them are staying up for sure and Blackpool - the way they thrown themselves forward in every game are going to win there share of games between now and the end of the season. Blaming injuries is one thing but realistically we are only really now missing Petrov. Reo Coker barely kicked a ball last season and we have our full strength defence (in theory) and our 2 best strikers fit. You look at our fixtures between now and the end of February and I'm saying to you that I can only see one winnable game there - Sunderland at home. Our next two games are against WBA at home and Wigan away - we need 4 points minimum or we will very likely be bottom of the lot by February 2nd. I know i'm pre-empting results in a very unpredictable league but when you watch a team look so weak and play with so little heart it's very difficult to see it improving. If Torres, Gerrard and Carragher played last night we would have lost 6 or 7. At least. And not for the first time this season either. Sorry, but if Houllier doesn't get results in the next two games he should be under massive pressure and Lerner needs to either back him with substantial money in January or sack him there and then. We are not too good to go down and that is the only direction we are heading at the moment.

    Also worth noting that O'Neill is not blameless in this - this is his squad and he well and truly dumped us in it by walking when he did. Likewise the board should take some responsibility for letting that happen. All in all the club is absolute mess.

  • Comment number 28.

    Villa have a lot of good young players as they showed in that electric performance against Utd. I think they will finish around sixth this year, which - failing major investment - is just about the best they can hope for. Maybe in a couple of years those players - Allbrighton and Co - will be pushing them towards the CL, but - more probably - they'll be playing for Spurs, Utd, Liverpool.....

  • Comment number 29.

    Let's face it, under O'Neill we took three strides forward, under Houllier we've taken four strides back. I don't want to go on about O'Neill as I'm sure he's very smug about the current Villa situation but I didn't want him out personally - and I'm sure there's many-a-hypocrytical Villa fan who did want him out that are cursing the fact that he's left now - but, it's true. How can we progress so much under the Irish man that we were playing two-up against the likes of Man Utd at Old Trafford (and beating them) and now under Houllier we're playing just one-up against Blues in the League cup (and losing)? It's an embarrassment! Things need to be sorted, how can we give him time if his second season will be in the Championship? O'Neill knew we had a small squad so managed to keep training tight in order to keep players fit for 9 months of the year. Why is it that four players have groin injuries? Because Houllier hasn't got a clue, that's why? I'm a concerned Villa fan and wish that it was our Gerard that was absent last night, not Liverpool's.

  • Comment number 30.

    I hope O'Neill is finding it hard to sleep at night because it isn't unfair to say that this is mainly his fault! He left us a few days before the season, he was miserable all pre-season and this rubbed off onto the players and he didn't sign anyone all summer! Someone said earlier that our squad was stale at the end of last season, well he had months to chop and change but he did nothing all summer! Now we have Carew, Sidwell, Davies etc. STILL at the club and our only acquisition was Stephen Ireland in exchange for James Milner (which couldn't really be helped but the timing of that deal also left a stink in my nostrils). Last summer was possibly the worst preparation for a season possible!

  • Comment number 31.

    Villa are more or less in the same in position as Liverpool were during the start of the season. But, Liverpool are regaining their confidence and they are playing better with every game and Aston Villa should hope to do the same.

  • Comment number 32.

    I think O'Neill is on a beach in Barbados, so I imagine he is sleeping like a baby slightly tipsy on Pina Coladas!

  • Comment number 33.

    Villa are a very strange beast at the moment, hovering above the relegation zone is not where there fans expected them to be i would imagine!

    Someone made a comment about doubling the training following on from a World Cup summer is bound to lead to more injuries. I would agree with this statement in principle, but most of the Villa squad did not take part in the World Cup!

    Liverpool are proving to be a mid-table enigma. There does not seem to be consistency there, and i really cant see them breaking into the big 4 champions league places for the foreseeable future, yet they can raise their game on occasion to deliver a bloody nose to the larger teams in the league (i.e. Chelsea)

    I think the January transfer window will be interesting for them. There is lots of talk of Hodgson being replaced by the end of the season, and if that is the case, would the new owners really entrust him with a transfer kitty in January?! Will Reina and Torres go?

  • Comment number 34.

    We're going down, simple as that, we are directionless.

    We had probbaly 8 of our first choice 11 on the pitch, so don;t believe the nonsense about the team being full of kids.

    I'll support the kids as they our future, but we have gone backwards at a rate of knots.

    The most disappointing thing about last night was the negative approach, Liverpool were there for the taking and we played 1 up.

    If we conced first we don;t have it in us to battle back, if we score first we always concede, we are in serious trouble, wven when we play well we can;t win games, we have dropped so many points this season from winning positions, its unbelievable.

    We've gone from one of the best defences to one of the worst in a few months, we used to be good at set pieces at both ends, now we aren't, we obviously aren't doing much work on defending at the training ground.

    We have 2 massive games next, if we lsoe them both, we are in serious trouble.

    Villa fans, take your heads out of the sand.

    Lerner open your cheque book, but who would even want to join is now?

    I wonder if Lerner regrets letting our previous manager go and not backing him further in the transfer market?

  • Comment number 35.

    For a club which finished 6th consecutively for three seasons, even that is seeming impossible ...

  • Comment number 36.

    Thats Houiller sacked then, is it ??

  • Comment number 37.

    sirlemons11 is a proud member of the knee-jerk brigade!

    We will not go down, if you really fancy us to go down, put a bet on because you would win a large chunk of wallet stuffing. Get real Sir, get real.

  • Comment number 38.

    Villa will not go down, that I am sure of- but they will most likely finish in a position that has not been associated with Villa for the past few years or so ...

  • Comment number 39.

    Next up for Villa, West Brom at home, then Wigan away - pretty "managable" fixtures, I would say - but then comes the real test, Spurs at home, Man City away & Chelsea away ...

  • Comment number 40.

    I remember Villa fans having a go at Martin O'Neal because he was failing to push them to top 4. It looked strange because Villa fans should see that with the resources available he was overachieving.

    I look at Liverpool fans, not realising that, with the resources available for players, Hodgson is doing the best he can. A run of results on the subsequent 7 - 8 matches could see them knocking the top 4 door.
    And all these on the aftermath of Newcastle sacking the manager who brought them back to the premiership and guiding them to safety, early, with no investments available.

    Are football fans mad?

  • Comment number 41.

    An inane debate about mid table mediocrity ain't going to do your ratings any good Mr McNulty.

    You need to get back to discussing the business end of the table if you want any interest shown. Houllier failed at Liverpool and now he's failing at Villa. No mystery there and hardly the material for an interesting blog.

    Need to do better!

  • Comment number 42.

    WordsofWisdom? pah!

    "Ain't" isn't a real word so why bother punctuating it?

  • Comment number 43.

    'He has had injuries yes but IF YOU COME INTO A CLUB ON THE BACK OF A WORLD CUP SUMMER AND OVERNIGHT DOUBLE THE TRAINING WORKLOAD ON PLAYERS THEN YOU WILL GET LOTS OF INJURIES'

    None of Villa's injured players took part at the World Cup so that argument meakes no sense

  • Comment number 44.

    I'm Phil McNulty and I'm BBC Sport's chief football writer. I cover the biggest, best, most interesting and most hotly-debated sport in the world. Here are some tips on taking part and our house rules. You can also follow me throughout this season on Twitter and join me on Facebook (requires registration).

    AND IM THE BIGGEST LIVERPOOL FAN GOING.

  • Comment number 45.

    Good blog phil. Villa were poor last night. Happy for the win but just like west ham the opposition did flatter us. Hopefully woy can get a run of wins together but im not holding my breathe. As for villa, they need to scramble their wallets and sign some defenders in january otherwise things will get worse.

  • Comment number 46.

    What I meant about World Cup year is that even though many Villa players were not in the final squads but it does put extra pressure being ready for the call.

  • Comment number 47.

    He has to go. His comments about Liverpool and the fawning over their fans would be enough, even without his abject set of results. Houllier is yesterdays man, too old and too out of touch for the Premier League.

    He lost the dressing room awhile ago, now he's lost the Villa fans. Dead man walking.

  • Comment number 48.

    people talk about the squad rafa left, but the squad mon left after spending millions is disgraceful, couple of aging stars and the rest are youngsters who barely got a game under o'neill, last night exposed the myth of mon

    arsenalforlife; do you really think livepool fans would be singing hodgson name after some of the defeats they have had this season such as losing at home to northampton town, he had them BOTTOM of the table at one stage, some perspective is needed, liverpool replaced a man who won the champions league with a man who has won nothing despite being in the game since the year dot, it would be like arsenal replacing wenger next year if he fails to get champions league with steve mcclaren and mcclaren then having arsenal bottom of the table

  • Comment number 49.

    does anything else think that the FA's plan all along was to get the best foreign players to play in the premiership so that they'd all have kids born here, and are then eligible to play for England?

  • Comment number 50.

    If I was a Villa fan I would be worrying unless Mr Lerner decides to splash some cash in January.

    I disagree with you Phil that Friedel looks 'frayed around the edges'. Every keeper has rocky patches and it looks like this is Brad's turn. You have to remember that he has been so consistent over the past few years with Villa and Blackburn, that as soon as he makes a mistake it is quickly highlighted. It also doesn't help with the defence he has in front of him.

    Investment is clearly needed as the youngsters who have been standing in clearly aren't ready for the week in week out grind the premiership has to offer. After last season I thought Villa had the foundation to build on the squad they had, in a similar way to Tottenham. Now they have lost Milner and O'Neill it just shows there are some definite gaps in the squad to plug.

  • Comment number 51.

    What a shame to see Villa having a hard time after their pathetic ridiculing whn NUFC went down. That said, I don't want to see them go down and think they're a side that'll stay up and move up the table albeit not to the European spots that they occupied under MO'N.

    I know Houllier won a few cups at Liverpool but I didn't expect him to still be so well received by their fans. I remember Robbie Fowler being pretty scathing of him in his book (although he had personal reason) and exposed him as a poor man-manager with an obsession with good press.

  • Comment number 52.

    I wish people would stop talking about Martin O'Neill and saying he has overachieved.. I can't be bothered checking on the fees he paid for the squad he assembled but if memory serves me correct they were all sizeable.. this is not overachieving because he didn't get to spend 20mil on one player etc.. get some perspective please..

    He did well.. sustained it.. then couldn't use his ability to push on even further.. he then jumped ship using the old favourite of not being backed enough by the board financially..

    and to be frank he did much the same at Celtic although unfortunately he left at a time when his wife was ill which is a different matter to his departure at Villa..

  • Comment number 53.

    "47. At 12:30pm on 07 Dec 2010, NorthfieldVillain wrote:
    He has to go. His comments about Liverpool and the fawning over their fans would be enough, even without his abject set of results. Houllier is yesterdays man, too old and too out of touch for the Premier League.

    He lost the dressing room awhile ago, now he's lost the Villa fans. Dead man walking."


    Thought you were talking about Phil there for a moment ...

  • Comment number 54.

    I think Houllier will turn it around but he not getting any younger. He's only a short term solution whichever way you look at it.


  • Comment number 55.

    I was relieved when Aston Villa removed Agbonlahor. He should have been going past Konchesky all night! Except Villa never (rarely) got the ball past mid-field! I don't know what the problem is with Fabio Aurelio - I have always thought he was a fast paced, attack minded player and he rarely gets a look in these days! And the last couple of times he has been put into the mid-field.
    What has happened to Stephen Ireland? He looked a shadow of his former self! Without Gerard I half expected him to boss the midfield, but Lucas and Meireles took care of that very nicely! Now if only Liverpool can keep up this attacking football, they might start to go up the table!

  • Comment number 56.

    So West Brom next. To lose to West Brom often ends a managers tenure. The Baggies could end up bagging a double in as many weeks!!

  • Comment number 57.

    Yep, its season over for Villa, we will be doing good to just stay up. I have watched Villa with one eye closed since Randy Lerner took the helm, 'Randy Lerner the man who has took the Cleveland Browns absolutely nowhere since he acquired them in 2002, apart from bottom of there division 5 times!!'

    To blame Houllier entirely for Villa's current demise is crazy. Lerner is to blame for the lack of vision and planning for where Villa should be (Top Ten), and for me I blame O'Neill a little too. MON should have been more vocal to the fans before he quit, he should of used that sharp tongue and mind we all know he has and got the fans scrubbed up on his probs with the board/Lerner etc (rather than us all guessing why he left for 2 weeks!) The sad thing is I think Lerner sapped the energy from MON.

    Grrr, what is the answer then for Villa?!

    Go the way of Exeter City (fan owned) live with being a boing-boing side?!

    Offer MON the moon to come back to Villa?!

    Get rid of Lerner?!

    For me I just want players that want to play for their team on the pitch to feel proud and honoured, players who show they respect the vast wages they get paid and just some good all round sensibility towards the club they play for.

    The employment of Lifestyle Coaches is popular in USA (and should be in UK!) as a lot of NFL/MLB/NBA players go off to the land of make-believe in their heads when they get paid high wages.

    We are seeing sensible managers today like McCarthy/Holloway/Bruce etc and of course the man to set the bar against Ferguson, with down-earth-management, driven by passion, skill and hunger for the game, not cash, cars and hair-do's.

    I am not sure sticking a value on Ashley Young for £80 million will keep any players ego in check, anyway I will be dead before that bid comes in, unless Young starts wearing a snood and Mancini falls in love.

  • Comment number 58.

    Young already wears a snood. All we need to do now is get those 2 to love each other - £80m here we come!

  • Comment number 59.

    The Aston Villa season can be defined as follows:

    James Milner gets tapped up (allegedly) just before the World Cup.
    James Milner puts in a transfer request.
    Martin O'Neil refuses to sanction his move to Manchester City.
    Martin O'Neil leaves.
    James Milner leaves.
    Aston Villa's only addition in the last 18 months is Stephen Ireland (who has barley played in the last 18 months).

    .... Thank you Manchester City for destroying our season - Oil money will destroy your club as it has destroyed the World Cup.....

    Randy Lerner does not appoint Kevin McDonald as Manager (or temporary Manager till the end of the season).
    Randy Lerner appoints Gerard Houlier.
    Gerard Houlier brings in 37 year old Robert Pires who was courted by Crawley Town.
    Aston Villa lose 3 - 0 to the poorest Liverpool team in 40 years.

    There have been a number of bad decisions made in the last 12 months and while it is uncanny the amount of injuries we have had you cannot go from challenging in the top 4, 1 CUp Final, 1 Semi Final last season to 16th in the league with fundamental problems in management (and the defenders forgetting how to defend). Just shows what a bad decision it was to sell Gary Cahill and under NO circumstanses should Curtis Davis be sold in January.

    We have no choice but to stick with the current manager but if he is not carefull he could become the second Dr Jozef Venglos.

  • Comment number 60.

    If Aston Villa still had James Milner and Martin O'Neil we would not be 16th in the league.

  • Comment number 61.

    I think losing Milner was a big blow. Villa looked seriously shaky in the middle of the park last night and really susceptible to the Villa counter. Not having much cover in front of the centre backs exposed them for the goals. Liverpool still look like they will struggle if asked to break a stubborn defensive team down but having Babel upfront against a team often pushed too high up the field worked a treat yesterday.

    http://goodfeetforabigman.wordpress.com

  • Comment number 62.

    PreetiBoyC

    Don't worry, Man City will get what they deserve.

    One day, nobody knows when but one day, Sheikh Mansour will decide he's had enough with his fun and games with City and he will leave. Or he will pass on to the afterlife and his heir to the oily throne will decide he wants to cash in and he will leave. My point is, under some circumstances, the money will leave Man City and only a few other men in the world could afford to own that club. Even the most successful club in the world could not afford those wages - European Cups and Premier League titles will bring some cash in but surely not enough to pay 30 players £100,000 a week, each!

    Enjoy it while you can City fans because when the day comes that Shake Ma-hand-Sour wants to leave, your club will vanish so fast it'll make your head spin.

    I am not bitter but speaking in terms of business (as football has become these days), Man City cannot survive without Sheikh Mansour and he won't be here forever, not even his money can buy you eternal life.

  • Comment number 63.

    #48: "it would be like arsenal replacing wenger next year if he fails to get champions league with steve mcclaren and mcclaren then having arsenal bottom of the table"

    Why Steve McClaren? You seem to have forgotten that he took Middlesbrough to their highest ever point, finishing 7th in the Premier League and reaching the UEFA Cup final, and has since won the Dutch league with FC Twente. If McClaren were in charge at Arsenal they'd probably still do alright. Yours is a ridiculous comparison to have made.

    I honestly can't see Villa finishing in the top half this season. All those who have said they'll nick 6th or 7th place seem wildly optimistic. Your defence is poor and aging, your goalkeeper isn't what he used to be, which is inevitable given that he's now 39, and your most influential player of last season has joined Man City. I never rated Houllier particularly at Liverpool either, though with hindsight he seems to have been more successful than I gave him credit for. If he leaves Villa the same way he left Liverpool, his successor will have a great first couple of years.

    And yes, Villa were punching well above their weight under Martin O'Neill. Their current position is a testament to how good a manager he is.

  • Comment number 64.

    #62 = Heskeys Noggin.


    Now then, calm down. I know your a little testy after your 3-0 humbling but it does not give you the right to lambast another club. Lets face facts, good players move to good teams, because in most cases good teams have money. UTD buying Rooney, Berbatov, Chelsea buying Robben, Chech, Cavallio. Its the state of the game, the rich get richer, thats why the CL was foamed.

    By the way Mr. Sheikh Mansour as not only invested millions into the club on players he as also invested millions innto the infrastrcture and has laid down a strategic plan that involves developing a depressed area around the City Of Manchester stadium. Our owner Mr. Sheikh Mansour as demostrated a commitment to make CITY a force in World football unfortunately Villa ended up with Mr. Lerner.

    In Mancini we have a manager we believe in and trust, you have "Old" Houllier, we have Milner (who I dont rate) and you have Stevie (one season Ireland).

    You have bitter fans who jump onto the BBC blogs and rant about teams who spend money. (by the way CITY do not set the price of a player, the club does, CITY thus choose to pay the price or move on).

    Yes my friend CITY will get what they deserve, possibly the PL this year and CL football for many years to come.

    So if your a little upset come over to the blue side of Manchester, we will make you feel at home and you will see some lovely football.

  • Comment number 65.

    I personally find it sad to see Aston villa slipping down the table. Id just like to stand up for MON considering the amount of criticism he's come under in these comments; 'he spent so much money he didn't over-achieve', 'he left us in an awful situation'. The fact is he was doing a fantastic job, and had all Villa fans believing they could make the top four as they very nearly did. If you think you'll have a chance of doing that again in the next few years, i believe your mistake. He spent the money he had very shrewdly and as i have always said about him, he can motivate players who are mediocre at best to play at a much higher level (dunne, collins, carew, etc).
    I may be a little biased towards him being a Leicester fan, but for those of you with short memories, he got us to 3 league cup finals in four years, winning two, and 3 top ten finishes in a row. Since he left we've been sliding to the point of playing in league 1 two seasons ago. I fear a similar road is ahead for villa unless something is done very quickly

  • Comment number 66.

    Haha don't make me laugh Whinger!

    CITY don't 'believe in and trust' Mancini! Why else does the man fear for his job every other week?! The players certainly don't respect him, half of them hate him! Your captain Tevez screamed at him for taking him off! If he doesn't get top 4 this season or at least the FA Cup, he's out and you know it!

    And by the way, the rich get richer BECAUSE of the Champions League. It wasn't formed specially to fulfil that purpose, your statement is ridiculous! Manchester City are an anti-football club and are destroying the reputation of football. I am a Villa fan and I am not bitter, I respect Spurs and how they got Top 4, the right way!

    Spending £300m in 3 seasons and paying every player £150,000 a week is just an outrage in a sport that got ridiculous 15 years ago - when the best player in the country got paid a soft £30,000 a week!

    Take a long hard look in the mirror mate because not even the biggest and most commercial club in the world, Real Madrid, could afford to pay a squad of 30+ players £100,000 a week each! It's just not sustainable without a big sugardaddy and big Sheikh wont be here forever! FACT!

  • Comment number 67.

    66. At 3:46pm on 07 Dec 2010, Heskeys Noggin wrote:
    Haha don't make me laugh Whinger!

    CITY don't 'believe in and trust' Mancini! Why else does the man fear for his job every other week?! The players certainly don't respect him, half of them hate him! Your captain Tevez screamed at him for taking him off! If he doesn't get top 4 this season or at least the FA Cup, he's out and you know it!

    And by the way, the rich get richer BECAUSE of the Champions League. It wasn't formed specially to fulfil that purpose, your statement is ridiculous! Manchester City are an anti-football club and are destroying the reputation of football. I am a Villa fan and I am not bitter, I respect Spurs and how they got Top 4, the right way!

    Spending £300m in 3 seasons and paying every player £150,000 a week is just an outrage in a sport that got ridiculous 15 years ago - when the best player in the country got paid a soft £30,000 a week!

    Take a long hard look in the mirror mate because not even the biggest and most commercial club in the world, Real Madrid, could afford to pay a squad of 30+ players £100,000 a week each! It's just not sustainable without a big sugardaddy and big Sheikh wont be here forever! FACT!
    ---------

    You are a very bitter little man (and I'm not a City supporter). BTW, go check out how much Spurs have spent to get top 4 last year.

  • Comment number 68.

    As a complete neutral can I first of all say that Liverpool's best player last night was Glenn Johnson. When he's in the mood, then his team is. Regarding Houllier, well I like the guy a lot but 'you should never go back' even to a different club. He has spent too long as an administrator, came back to club management because he was bored and he is clearly too relaxed and at peace with himself to do any good this time around. And let's face it, Martin O'Neill didn't leave Villa for no reason - he could see what was about to happen, and he never seems relaxed or at peace with himself.

  • Comment number 69.

    Heskeys Noggin.

    Some good observations but my mate above CousinKev is spot on.

    How much money have Spurs spent? Chelsea? Utd (when they had money)

    Now HeskeysNoggin I challenge you to open your eyes. The media including the BBC and most of the press as projected a "satanic" view of Manchester City, I do not know why but they have.

    Mancini is well liked by both the fans and the CITY players (listen to an interview with Carlos Tevez on the CITY website, prior to the substitution this weekend). Carlos Tevez plays with passion, he wants to be on the pitch for 90 minutes, I would rather see him upset about being taken off than just accept it.


    OK HeskeysNoggin, what if someone offered you 75% more in salarly and the opportunity to work in a better environment. A business were you have the opportunity to meet clear defined goals? An opportunity to work with some great colleagues who share the same goals? Would you take the job?

    Once again a reiterate, CITY do not decide the transfer fee of a player. The club do. CITY choose to pay it.

    Have you watched CITY recently?? Its lovely man, its the beautiful game. My invitation is still open, come and join us, I will buy you a pint.

    In closing, I opened this blog to read about Villa and the thoughts of Villa fans. I thus had to defend my club when I read your epistle (rant). Good luck to Villa (I'm a big Richard Dunne fan, voted for him on several ocassions whilst at CITY for player of the season, gutted when he joined Villa but I must admit Kompany and Toure have played very tasty this year)

  • Comment number 70.

    @ #46 - I had to laugh at that comment! So the suspense of MAYBE being called up to their respective international squads can increase the chances of picking up an injury??!!

  • Comment number 71.

    Let me clear a few things up

    1. Martin O'Neill
    We definately wouldn't be in 16th place if he was still here but there's also no chance we would finish higher than 6th or 5th. 6th place, a Final and a Semi-Final proves he did a solid job BUT the dross served up last year and this pre season was even worse to watch than last night. And if you think 6th place was over achieving for us then I suggest you look into our trophy cabinet and you'll find that, our Premier League final placings and a yearly net spend of £20million suggests that 6th is about par for the course.

    2. Gerard Houllier
    Good on him for trying something different to 'Hoof it to the big guy and run about alot' however he needs to realise Downing on the right doesn't work. Otherwise there isn't much you can do when you have the Chuckle Brothers at the back, ably assisted by Stevie not so wonder-ful. Although tbf neither Dunne nor Collins are even half fit. I say give him at least till the end of the season. There's no danger of us going down and if he really does want to turn us into a tippy tappy team we should at least give him the time to do it.

  • Comment number 72.

    Hodgson out.

  • Comment number 73.

    #71 = Henrydouble.

    Have Villa signed the Neville lads??


    AKA = Chuckle Brothers ("to me, to you, to me, to you")

  • Comment number 74.

    Phil must have the patience of a saint to put up with the ignorant drivel written about him on these blogs. You all ought to be thankful that he's even allowing your uneducated and biased insults to pass moderation considering some of the stuff that gets deleted in the Have Your Say threads without justification.

  • Comment number 75.

    74. At 4:34pm on 07 Dec 2010, Chief Laughs-at-Trolls wrote:
    Phil must have the patience of a saint to put up with the ignorant drivel written about him on these blogs. You all ought to be thankful that he's even allowing your uneducated and biased insults to pass moderation considering some of the stuff that gets deleted in the Have Your Say threads without justification.

    ____________________________________

    his pay cheque probably helps nurse his shattered feelings

  • Comment number 76.

    1. At 08:25am on 07 Dec 2010, andy wrote:
    what a surprise another pro liverpool mcnulty blog

    --------------------------------------------------------------

    What a surprise, another person moaning about Liverpool blog.

  • Comment number 77.

    lol, nice one Heskeys Noggin!

    I did not notice Young where's a snood already! Great we are 50% there.

    Come on Sheikh Mancini :D, "Roll up Roll Up, its the sale of the century Ashley Young for a cheeky 80 mill, bargain!" (Assorted snoods included)

  • Comment number 78.

    #77 = Richard.

    CITY are not after Ashley Young (we have King Adam).

    I believe CITY are after bringing "Glen Snoodin" out of retirement.

  • Comment number 79.

    You know it really bothers me when I see teams play out of their skins against Manchester United yet couldn't care less when playing someone else. Look at how good Villa and West Ham played again United and yet haven't won a game since. I do really think that it's harder for United to win titles than anyone else. Every team's cup final is against United. They get so worked up that it borders on insane. Villa although conceding 2 late goals played as though their whole lives depended it. As for West Ham, well when do they ever have a bad game against United? Do their fans not feel cheated? I mean if they played like this game in, game out, they would be challenging for the title for heaven's sake. It must be a real issue for Ferguson when he sees these same teams practically lieing down against sides yet playing so well against United. Ah well, I suppose he takes it as a compliment

  • Comment number 80.

    Phil McNulty, why have you appointed yourself as Gerard Houllier's principal apologist within the BBC? Conclusions like "Houllier appears to have taken charge of a defence in terminal decline" might have been more affecting were it not for the fact that the defence you're referring to was one of the most effective in the division just a few short months ago. Additionally with Houllier dropping Cuellar for Young at right-back that is a deviation from Martin O'Neill's system, so this is very much Houllier's defensive unit.

    It's fair enough to point of the legitimate difficulties Houllier has faced, such as not having had the benefit of a transfer window and having to limited options to face off a a terrible injury crisis with a resultantly threadbare squad, but some of your conclusions simply smack of making excuses for him.

    So, please detail the context but save us the sermon.

  • Comment number 81.

    #79= Yes Blackburn put a spirited performance against UTD recently.

  • Comment number 82.

    Having watched the game Villa's problems seem to stem from players lacking confidence. The first half was terrible, the second half better until I replaced Albrighton with Pires and the team lost it's shape again.

    The funny thing is the performance from Liverpool was not exactly that good either, and other than the two goals how many other chances did Liverpool have in the first half against a disjointed vila side?

  • Comment number 83.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 84.

    Poor match. Liverpool were hardly World beating material. Villa were worse. No conclsuions to be drawn about Liverpool from that rubbish.

  • Comment number 85.

    This article seems to ignore a few things mainly the rapid tumble down the table since Houllier got the posistion. Villa are heading straight for relegation,and if Randy Lerner has patience thats what will happen.
    Its crazy we let players go on loan when half the team is injured since this genius introduced double training....... The team got whipped by a very weak Liverpool team.
    Time to stop looking back at Houllier with romance.

  • Comment number 86.

    If Villa played like they did with Arsenal and 1st 1/2 with MU, Liverpool would have no chance of winning yesterday. But then, it happened like every other team, when they play Arsenal and MU they seem to up their ability couple of levels then came heavily down again afterwards. Possibly they over exerted themselve and have nothing left for weeks. Too bad.

  • Comment number 87.

    WHAT NOW FOR HOUILLER AND VILLA ?

  • Comment number 88.

    Ashley Young is experiencing a dip in form. He is not the player he was 2-3 years back.

  • Comment number 89.

    VILLA HAVE BEEN TERRIBLE THIS SEASON - WHY ???

  • Comment number 90.

    It was great to see somebody in football return to their former club as an opponent without getting vile and unwarranted abuse for a change. I feel that the press have jumped on Houllier unjustly because the angle they can use is that Houllier wants to be Liverpool's manager and not Villa's (can't blame him for that). Houllier was being nostalgic when he touched the Anfield sign. He used to live in Liverpool when he was younger and later as manager of Liverpool FC plus he got a great reception so what?

    Houllier didn't deliberately go out to lose. He doesn't want to be in the relegation zone over Christmas but the press needed an angle and they got one.

    I sat next to a Villa fan last night and he told me that he was more concerned with the injury crisis than any managerial crisis.

  • Comment number 91.

    #79 - Villa drew 0-0 with Chelsea. But I guess we didn't put any effort in for that result...

  • Comment number 92.

    The only thing as surprising as the demise of Liverpool was the rapidity of Villas slide....

  • Comment number 93.

    I'll happily swap Woy for No Clue Hou. At least Woy has a 3 year record 2007-10 which is favourable compared to Houllier's 'I back Domenech' and no coaching. Oh and Woy qualified for World Cup 94 with an average squad where as no clue Hou couldn't.
    Houllier has destroyed the confidence of Carew (again), Warnock (again), Friedel (again), Cuellar, Ireland (not that he had much), Dunne, Collins, Youngs. The guy should be on record breakers.
    Add to this his training methods means we have injuries and suspensions galore. Oh and he signed Pires who was being courted by Crwaley town.

  • Comment number 94.

    ..........................MEMO TO MR HOULILER...........................

    You have transformed one of the best defences in the last 2 years to one of the worst; this needs urgently needs addressing.

    (1) Restore Carlos Cuelier in any of the back 4 positions.
    (2) Under no circumstances sell Curtis Davis in January, in fact try and bring him back to Villa Park before Saturday.
    (3) Under no circumstances think of bringing any of your former Liverpool has-beens in January (unless it is Steven Gerard of course).
    (4) If you would like to gain favour with the Aston Villa faithful stop banging-on on how great Liverpool are/were and how you single handedly guided them to victory in the Champions League. It may work well in Toxteth but it does nothing for you in Aston, Witton, Birchfield, Lozells or Handsworth.
    (5) Never play Robert Pires and Stephen Ireland together as there are only so many passengers Marc Albrighton, Barry Bannan and Ciarn Clark can cover for.
    (6) If you disagree with any of the above, there is a coach waiting for you with a one-way ticket to Anfield Road.

    ......END OF MEMO....
    OUT

  • Comment number 95.

    I endorse PrettiboyC's comments, #94 entirely.

    We don't want any cast off ex-Liverpool rubbish and we MUST keep Curtis Davis. Another error like the sale of Cahill when we need young quality central defenders would be recklessly criminal.

    Next match the central defenders should be Clark and Cuellar.

    As for Houllier, the only question is who can we get to replace him before Christmas? Maybe McDonald till the end of the season, he certainly could not do worse, can be relied on to be loyal and does not say stupid things.

  • Comment number 96.

    Houllier Out!!!

  • Comment number 97.

    ..........................MEMO TO MR HOULILER #2........................

    #94

    If you are happy to loose 3-0 to the most average Liverpool team in 40 years please collect your one way coach ticket from Digbeth coach station to Anfield Road in the Birmingham and let OUR GREAT CLUB be run by someone who cares.

    As for the good General, this is not Colin Murray's (excellent) "Fighting Talk" where you have to defend the indefensible, this is MY Aston Villa and I want it to be managed by someone with passion and by someone who cares about this great club, its great supporters and its great history.


    ... END OF MEMO

  • Comment number 98.

    #57 - The same Browns that are in a possible wildcard place in the AFC. Fair enough, they are 5-7 this season (5 wins, 7 defeats) However, they have shown significant investment this last year or so - specifically with the pick of Colt McCoy - a QB with a fantastic future. The have also shown a fight this season that they haven't had for years. Something our Aston brethren could learn from.
    So I think Lerner has shown he is willing to invest in his team(s), now all we need is Mangini as head coach of the Villa and we'll get in the top four - 23 and 10 (and 5 ties if you are counting).

  • Comment number 99.

    While it is alarming our slump since O'Neil, I still hold him to blame for walking out on us on the eve of the season, if he had left at the end of May I would still think of him as a legend. This isn't Houiller's fault that we are in this mess, it is because the more experience players are letting us down, the kids are trying their hearts out but what hope have they got when the likes of Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland are looking like they can't be bothered. Houiller needs more time to sort this out, least we are getting our youngsters tied down, just like at Liverpool when he tied down the likes of Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher. If the Villa players don't want to play under Houiller, they should go i.e John Carew.

 

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