Gerard Houllier has Emile Heskey to thank for making his first Premier League game in charge of Aston Villa a memorable one. In a match which was very much a game of two half’s, Houllier’s side showed that they do still have plenty of quality with the powerful striker netting a late winner. But what should we be expecting from Houllier’s tenure at Villa Park?
In truth it was Wolves who had edged the second half, Villa had been on top for long periods before the break. They took the lead through Stewart Downing after excellent work from young Marc Albrighton.
The young winger is certainly making a name for himself this season, and his performance will have certainly given Houllier hope that he could have a rising star amongst his squad. Albrighton is determined and intelligent and while he has burst on to the scene out of nowhere, he has certainly made an impression.
Albrighton is very much a part of a good Villa squad, and to be honest I think it is the strength in the squad that saw Houllier leave the comfort of a job with the French Football Federation for a role at Villa Park.
The job at Villa was very much continuing somebody else’s good work. It’s not as if Martin O’Neill had left the Frenchmen with a squad that needed a lot of work. Yes they had lost James Milner to Manchester City, but with players like Gabby Agbonlahor and Ashley Young there was still plenty of quality for Houllier to work with.
The reason why O’Neill left was because he felt he had taken the club as far as he could, but Houllier obviously feels he can take the club to the next level. While I can’t see Villa charging in to the Champions League places, I can’t see them tumbling down the league either.
I think to maintain Villa’s recent success would be an acceptable achievement for Houllier, although Villa fans might not see it that way. The fact of the matter is that while they have a good squad, to get in to the next level of clubs would take a massive investment, something that looks highly unlikely with the steady approach of club owner Randy Lerner.
Heskey did net a winner late on for Villa, but in truth a draw would have been the fair result. The two sides drew 1-1 last year at Molineux, and should have probably drawn again today. That result would have set the tone for Houllier’s tenure, which I expect to be very similar to O’Neill’s with the Villa Park pushing for a finish in the higher reaches of the league, but just coming up short.