Gerard Houllier has been in charge at Aston Villa for two months now and after his great start of two wins in two it has now started to kick in that his job isn’t as rosy as the Frenchman first anticipated.
Since then Villa have only won one league game, and this has seen the Midlands side drop to 15th in the Premier League table.
This form has coincided with the injury list growing as long as Mr Claus’ own Christmas list, with Villa missing all of their usual midfield, including influential skipper Stiliyan Petrov and stand-in captain Nigel Reo Coker – who himself has a new lease of life under Houllier. This is what Houllier was worried about when he took the reins of one of the smallest squads in the top flight.
This has pressured the production system at ‘The Villa’ and the players that have stepped up can be extremely proud of their performances. Ciaran Clark has filled in at centre back, left back and been used as the holding midfielder, and has looked an accomplished star, grabbing two goals against Arsenal this weekend.
Jonathan Hogg was thrown in against Manchester United and held his own against an experienced United midfield.
This is good, but what the supporters of Villa have most enjoyed is the form of Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton. The two youngsters have been outstanding this season, with Bannan earning his first Scotland cap, and putting in a man of the match performance, while Albrighton has been a regular in the starting XI and got himself into the England Under 21 squad where he has impressed hugely.
The two are products of the Villa youth system and local lads who have the heart and desire to help the Villans get back into contention for the top six.
Houllier, as mentioned, had a great start to life as Villa boss, and this was partly down the form of former England hit man Emile Heskey. The big striker was bought for £11 million when Houllier was in charge of Liverpool, and most would say that is when Heskey had his best spell.
Villa fans have had to wait and be patient, but the £2 million spent on him looks to be a snip as the striker has recaptured that form, but after his good patch in the team, he was injured in training and missed the past four games and looks set to be out until Villa travel to Wigan the week before Christmas.
So has Houllier improved, or is this season still a right off for the Villa faithful?
Well most would say it’s going to be hard, but he has made some big changes. Bringing in the youth, and putting faith in them has given the younger players a boost, they now know they will get a chance if they are performing, which is something that players could complain about under previous management.
So all in all it’s been a mixed season for the Midlanders, but what he has done with the youth players has shown that he is thinking to the future and that is what the fans will want to see.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.