It is being reported in this morning’s papers that incoming Aston Villa coach Gerard Houllier is to appoint the man who was at the centre of a furious bust-up with Patrice Evra at the World Cup to his coaching staff.
It is being reported that French coach Gerard Houllier will return to Premiership management with Aston Villa on a two-year contract.
Houllier left Liverpool after a successful spell which included the club winning the treble of the FA, League and UEFA Cups in 2001. However his reign was soured by critics of his perceived negative football and when he left after six seasons Liverpool were nowhere near to winning the Premiership.
Houllier joined Liverpool as joint-manager in a disastrous spell with Roy Evans in July 1998. He would later take sole control after Evans left four months after the French man arrived at the club. Together with assistant Phil Thompson, Liverpool began to enjoy some success for the first time in years and was responsible for bringing in Liverpool legends like Dietmar Hamann, Gary McAllister and Sami Hyypia. However he was also responsible for expensive flops including El Hadj Diouf, Bruno Cheyrou and Igor Bišćan.
Slightly early perhaps, but as Italy beckons for a week they will have to do.
An interesting weekend to come, an interesting weekend indeed.
While the Premiership has already begun to assume a familiar leaderboard at a worryingly early stage of the season, there may well be slip-ups this weekend.
Starting with Blackburn Vs Arsenal. Wenger’s men never liked a face-off with Sam Allardyce’s Bolton teams of the past. And why would they, starting with Big Sam himself there were some real bruisers.
But now the man who would be England manager (unless the FA start taking things seriously) will put out his Blackburn team against the Gunners, high from a 6-0 rout of Blackpool.
There may be a surprise here though. Blackburn, as expected, are well organised under Allardyce and after a good opening day win were unlucky to lose to Birmingham having taken the lead and missed a penalty.
Fabregas and Van Persie should start (finally) for Arsenal, but may still lack sharpness. While Nasri misses out for Arsenal, they are slowly coming back to their best, but this will be a nice early test to answer the usual criticism that they can’t handle the more physical side of the Premiership.
Man Utd will be confident of getting back to winning ways against Arsenal, likewise Liverpool over West Brom, but Man City may be brought down off their perch following an exhilarating win over Liverpool on Monday.
City will be up against a team desperate for its first three points of the season, and while they were superb against Liverpool at home, City were woeful away at Spurs the week before. Steve Bruce has been arguing that he may have made too many changes to the squad leading to an unsettled atmosphere in the team, but Darren Bent’s two goals in the Carling Cup in midweek will get a bit of confidence flowing again and on Sunday they will look to bounce back, while City have another game tomorrow night in the Europa League to get the team playing as a unit.
The most intriguing game may be at Villa Park, where two teams arrive short on confidence after unsettling starts to Premiership life this season. Everton have only registered a point from two games they would expect to win, while Villa took a 6-0 hiding from Newcastle on Sunday, a game in which debutant Stephen Ireland barely got a kick.
While it is far too early to say it is a must-win game, the clash will tell us an awful lot about the future of both teams.
For one thing, Kevin MacDonald is rumoured to have been given two games to land the Villa job on a permanent basis. This then, is a must win for the man who would be boss. Everton meanwhile are fully fit and would have expected to set a blaze early on. However the blue side of Merseyside tend to be bad starters and this is a very tough game to try to get their season going. With Manchester United their next opponents, David Moyes will be itching to register three points while defeat would leave Everton looking sorrowfully into the distance at the top of the table.
Elsewhere, the focus hasn’t really been on Spurs yet, despite their solid start to the season Their next four fixtures are against the four Ws: Wigan, West Brom, Wolves and West Ham. All four are games Spurs will expect to win, meaning they could be looking pretty come October. For Wigan however, and boss Roberto Martinez, this game is needed like a kick in the nads. Spurs may have had a tough Champions League tie to get out of the way but despite injuries and any fatigue, they will expect a win. Injuries and fatigue may not even matter. Wigan have been woeful to-date and the fans are staying away as the half-empty JJB Stadium showed against Chelsea. Defeat could leave Martinez in big trouble, especially after the lacklustre comments in support of him by chairman Dave Whelan.
Predictions in a semi-serious sort of fashion:
Chelsea won’t beat Stoke 6-0. In fact they will struggle, but yeah of course they’ll win.
Liverpool will thump West Brom by three goals or more. West Brom fans will sing tributes to Javier Mascherano.
Wolves bring Newcastle back down to earth to continue their impressive start to the season. Andy Caroll will be sent off.
Man Utd thump West Ham, including a penalty not taken by Nani. Ferguson will thump a BBC reporter.
Blackburn will beat Arsenal. And Wenger will not be happy with their “physical style of play.”
(1): There are plenty of unhappy strikers kicking their heels on benches.
It was a difficult weekend for some established Premiership strikers. Tuncay is clearly not a favourite of Tony Pulis at Stoke and had to sit on the bench while Jon Walters made his debut just days after signing. Emile Heskey watched on from the bench as John Carew had a stinker for Villa, perhaps wondering whether he should have drawn the line at international retirement. Louis Saha was relegated for Everton and watched Jermaine Beckford being talked up by boss David Moyes after a game in which he failed to score and Everton failed to win. Not to mention the lads at Man City who may never play for the club this season.
But most interestingly, when Javier Hernandez was selected for Man Utd against Fulham, we wonder if Michael Owen
regretted all his media statements about being “happy to be selected less regularly for Utd than selected all the time for another club.” While we understand the sentiment, Mr Ferguson can’t have been particularly enthused to hear that Owen was content to sit on the bench.
Wonder if that had anything to do with Hernandez getting the nod away to Fulham, a team that possess a top-class central defender in Brede Hangeland and are a difficult team to break down at all, for nearly any striker. With Stockdale again deputising for Schwarzer in goal, did Ferguson not think Owen’s experience could be crucial in any one-on-one scenario. Granted, Hernandez looked good in pre-season, but then again it was pre-season. Owen must have been wondering what he has to do to get a starting place while Ferguson must be wondering what he has to do to get a win at Craven Cottage.
(2): A little confidence goes a long way.
-Villa miss a penalty, Newcastle score. Villa are denied a legitimate goal, Newcastle score another five.
-Wigan dominate the first half hour, Chelsea score. Wigan heads go down, Chelsea score another five.
-Arsenal score, Blackpool look dangerous on the attack. Arsenal penalty, Blackpool man sent off, Arsenal score another five.
(3): Any English striker who bangs in a few goals will be “on the verge of an England call-up”.
Andy Carroll was very, very good against Villa. He plundered a hat-trick including a swivel and low shot, left foot volley and one-on-one with Brad Friedel. All very impressive. Unfortunately watching it you couldn’t help but feel that ‘Carroll for England’ would be the inevitable cry from the press. And this morning, true to form, people seem to think he’s worthy of a place in the squad.
Now to be fair, if he carries on that way he’ll be in the 2012 squad as England need a good quality striker. However let’s all calm down for a moment and realise that he scored Newcastle’s third, fourth and sixth goals when Villa heads were not so much dropping rather plummeting. He missed a good opportunity against Man Utd the week before but didn’t enjoy himself as much up against Vidic and co. Had Richard Dunne been employed to mark him, maybe the result would have been different. Excellent performance Andy, now do it week-in, week-out.
And in brief:
- Alex Ferguson has earned Man Utd a £1,000 fine by refusing to speak to the BBC. It is inevitable he will have to speak to them at some point. We cannot wait.
- West Ham were good in the first half against Bolton. They lost 3-1. A bad start to the season, especially when the likes of Bolton, Wolves and even West Brom and Blackpool have picked up early points.
- Theo Walcott is far from the genius people are willing to portray him as this morning. Arsenal could have had 10-12. His final ball and decision is still in vast need of improving. However if it does and he stays injury free, he can rule the world. And he should definitely be in the England squad. Shaun Wright-who?
- If you decided on removing Gareth Bale and Andy Carroll from your fantasy football team in favour of Martin Petrov and Jermaine Beckford, now would be a good time to kill yourself.
St James Park witnessed a spectacular game this afternoon as Newcastle thumped Aston Villa by six goals to nil with number nine Andy Carroll grabbing a hat-trick.
Aston Villa enjoyed a 3-0 win in their opening game of the season against West Ham while Newcastle had been outclassed by the same scoreline at Old Trafford against Man Utd. However Newcastle fans were treated to one of the team’s finest performances for many years, albeit after being fortuitous to go 1-0 up.
Always exciting going forward with Routledge and Gutierrez superb on either flank, Newcastle fans will also be impressed by the defensive performance with new signing James Perch in particular and Coloccini excellent at the back. Spanish left-back Jose Enrique was at his devastating best combining with Gutierrez on the left, while Andy Carroll was unplayable throughout.
Stephen Ireland was a peripheral figure throughout on his debut, while questions will be asked of Villa caretaker manager Kevin MacDonald who seemed to employ young centre back Ciaran Clark on Carroll rather than the experienced Richard Dunne.
John Carew stepped up to take Villa’s 10th minute penalty but blasted it over the bar. From there on it became the Toon Army’s day and the ever-controversial Joey Barton stepped up to rifle home a screamer from 25 yards just two minutes after Carew had wasted Villa’s chance to go in front. (Did Barton follow-up his goal with a ‘Hitler’ celebration though http://bit.ly/ad94AB ?)
There was further controversy to come however as Ashley Young was played through to level at 1-1 before the referee disallowed the goal despite it seeming to be legitimate.
From that point on the party started for Newcastle however. A beautiful, flowing move from the left found Carroll who laid the ball off for Nolan to head not once but twice at goal and after Friedel saved the first effort, he could do nothing about the second. Andy Carroll added a third minutes later and Newcastle were cruising at the break.
Carroll hit a fine fourth and last minute sixth for the Toon Army in the second half , while Kevin Nolan grabbed his second as Aston Villa essentially gave up and collapsed at the back.
FINALLY! The most protracted (boring) transfer saga of the summer has finally been put to bed after James Milner put pen-to-paper on a new deal at mega bucks Manchester City.
The deal has seen Stephen ‘show me the money’ Ireland complete a move in the opposite direction to Aston Villa for a fee worth around €8 million. All of which means Milner’s transfer price is roughly €18 million. Good thing City waited around long enough to get the right deal, after all it would have been a travesty if they had over-paid for the England wide man. (coughs in a sort of a ‘he’s not worth €18m sort of a way).
Aston Villa have done quite nicely out of this deal and although Stephen Ireland is widely adjudged to be a bit of a lunatic (albeit a lunatic with an agent who manages to secure him €1.5million to leave a job) he is a fine player when he is trusted by a manager. And who better to trust him than former Ireland no.2 Kevin MacDonald who was in the Ireland (team) set-up when Ireland (player) faked the death of his two grandmothers.
Villa now have the cash to go and sign a couple of other decent players. They may well look no further than Man City too after Roque Santa Cruz was left out of the club’s Europa League squad, indicating he will be next to move on from Manchester,
Speaking about the deal, Man City boss Roberto Mancini said: ‘I am very happy to have James with us, everybody knows we have admired him for some time. ‘He is an excellent midfielder, who can play in a number of positions. This is important for the team, and I am looking forward to seeing him play for us. We have a very strong squad, and this signing is a very important one for us. ‘James he is already a very good player, who has proved he can play at the very top level. But he is also young and a good character, I think he can also improve and be a great player for Manchester City for a long time.’
On Ireland’s departure, Mancini added: ‘I hope things go well for Stevie at Villa. He is also a very good player, and he has played a big part in City’s history. I think he will enjoy the change of being at another club, and I hope he does well for Aston Villa.’
James Milner is not in the Europa League squad for tomorrow night’s game but could make his debut alongside Mario Balotelli against Liverpool on Monday night. Spare a thought for poor Roy Hodgson, imagine having to guess what team Man City will put out….the mind boggles.
(1): Football is beautiful again.
It’s been an arduous summer, beset by diving players at World Cups, Dutch players attempting to kill their illustrious Spanish opposition in the final (which was a little dull), players returning to the front pages of newspapers before the back pages and Man City and Barcelona leading arrogant public pursuits of players regardless of the club they belong to.
But then along comes the opening weekend of the Premiership and all is forgiven. Blackpool are bottom of everyone’s predicted table outcome apart from a select few residents of the seaside town who choose instead to place ten pound notes on their team to win the league at 5,000-1.
And while the bookies aren’t about to slash those odds (particularly with a trip to the Emirates coming up on Saturday), a 4-0 away hammering of Wigan can’t help but put a smile on many a football fan’s face. Roberto Martinez is not laughing however because for every big winner there is a big loser. West Brom took a 6-0 pasting at reigning champions Chelsea but still won’t feel as dejected as Wigan fans this morning.
(2): Man City aren’t going to be cheered on by many, including the media.
So Harry Redknapp reckons Man City making the top-four is a long shot (and we’re only 90 minutes into the season). Based on Saturday’s performance he has a point, but is only indulging in a little added pressure on one of Spurs big rivals this season. Redknapp will probably be a little concerned that Spurs were unable to take maximum points against a team of individual stars playing together like a team lost in space.
Bellamy has been effectively sacked by the club due to his displeasure at the way he has been treated in the past few weeks. While TheFc100 sympathises with Bellamy, we are not surprised. Adebayor’s cameo at the en of the game will concern the Togo striker. With Balotelli set for a debut against Liverpool next week, where will he figure this season? Indeed where will any of the team figure this season? It’s a conundrum that Mancini probably can’t even solvehimself. This week will probably see the exits of players including Bellamy, Given, Robinho and Santa Cruz. Stephen Ireland may be playing for Man City reserves the way things are going.
Not that people seem too heartbroken to see a little early season suffering for the boys in blue. The media leapt all over Redknapp’s comments and were more than a little harsh in their reporting of the game on Saturday towards Man City. It’s going to be tough for Mancini’s millionaires to win many friends this year.
(3): It must only be crazy people who become referees:
Steve Bruce is rarely a man to talk ill of those dressed in black but….Ok, too farcical to continue with that line. Bruce feels that #fast-tracked’ referee Anthony Taylor had a nightmare on Saturday. He makes one good point: Would a referee with just four years experience be given the job of officiating Liverpool’s clash with Arsenal? Even Man Utd’s with Newcastle? Probably not. But Sunderland V Birmingham does seem like easy pickings. However his slightly biased view of Lee Cattermole being a demigod (He is in fact a fine player with a propensity towards kicking people) means that Taylor was doomed the moment he brandished red. Of a slightly more serious nature was the penalty Taylor awarded in favour of Sunderland for a foul committed by Stephen Carr outside the box. But Bruce failed to mention this in his post-match “I fancy getting an early fine from the FA” rant.
(1): Aston Villa. 3-0 winners, with Milner getting the third and sitting two points above the big, bad Man City already.
(2): Joe Cole. Anonymous for 45 minutes, page one material for the 46th minute. Whether he’s that kind of player doesn’t matter. He also may not be the kind of player Gerrard believes he is for footballing ability (Messi would probably have been a little more involved).
(3): England goalkeepers. Ok – Kirkland, Carson, Foster, Green – you conceded a lot of goals. But Joe Hart, you didn’t. Fair play.
(4): Putting Didier Drogba in your fantasy football team rather than Nicholas Anelka was a smart move. If you did it.
(5): Alex Ferguson: A little bit of a sour old man if you hate Utd, the best manager in history if you don’t. Ferguson’s comments about hacks predicting Utd would finish outside the top-four were deliciously arrogant and playful: “United not to be in the top four? You have to worry about what upbringing they had or what kind of porridge they’ve had.”