After a week of anticipation, in which papers published pretty much the same story every day, Gérard Houllier has finally been confirmed as Martin O’Neill’s successor at Aston Villa.
There is no doubt that Houllier has established himself as a fine manager and gathered experience in the Premier League from his time at Liverpool.
But Houllier’s appointment – especially as a successor of O’Neill – does not seem to be distinctly astute; he does not only acquire his role from a manager who has arguably taken the current team to its full potential – but also arrives after owner Randy Lerner’s cash flow apparently dwindled.
Unless the Villa owner decides to invest money in new signings again – an occurence which seems unlikely – Houllier will not have the luxury of getting the players he wants to execute his plans.
And even if Villa choose to invest in players, they do not have the money to challenge Manchester City’s riches nor Chelsea’s wealth. And certainly the club cannot compete with the reputation and history of Liverpool and Manchester United.
Signings will be hard to make and Houllier has to be efficient in the transfer market. And Liverpool’s transfer activity is known to be an infamous detail in Houllier’s reign at Anfield.
Although he had managed to seal some bargain deals during his Liverpool days, most of his signings were seen as errors of ludicrously poor judgment.
Millions of Pounds have been spent on the likes of Vladimir Smicer, El Hadji Diouf, Salif Diao and Igor Biscan while proving his wit in only few signings such as these of Sami Hyypia, Stephane Henchoz and John Arne Riise.
And unlike O’Neill – who is one of the most energetic managers in the football world – Houllier has already had a heart surgery about a decade ago which prove to be a factor which seriously hinders the vigor every Premier League manager must possess.
Perhaps an equally-concerning fact is that Houllier has – not only been out of the management for years and last held the France Federation’s technical director role which he relinquished to join Villa – but last managed in the Premier League 6 years ago.
Football in England has taken a drastic twist since 2004 as Roman Abramovich’s acquisition of Chelsea started a massive influx of capitals and led to an inflated transfer market. The pace and style of the game has changed as well.
Houllier has missed a lot in the years of his absence from England and he is definitely not at a stage in his career in which he can have the sufficient flexibility that the post will demand.
And after all, if things were going well and the team had potential to improve from their three consecutive sixth-position league finishes, O’Neill would not have left in such an abrupt manner.
Like it or not, Villa – with the structure they currently have at their disposal – have no chance of doing better than sixth place – with Houllier, O’Neill or a football managing god at the helm.