This week saw Gerard Houllier make Robert Pires his first signing since arriving as Aston Villa manager. Back in 2001 Pires was labelled one of the best players in the world. He was winning trophies with club and country but that was nine years ago and the 37 year old legs just don’t have the pace any more but as we have seen with players such as Ryan Giggs and Clarence Seedorf, a footballing brain always gets better with age and this can only be good for Villa’s young squad.
I’ve been a avid spectator of the La Liga for the last six or seven seasons now and I’ve watched Pires almost every week for Villareal. When he first arrived at the club he didn’t make the impact that we all thought he would but for the last three seasons he’s been moved into the middle of midfield and just like a fine wine Pires got better with age. His patience play and skilful passing are just a few things that have dazzled some of Spain’s top defender’s and this is something I’m looking forward to seeing at Villa Park.
Pires could make his Villa debut on Saturday against Blackburn and his arrival will be a boost for Monsieur Houllier’s squad which has been depleted this last month by injuries to strikers John Carew and Emile Heskey, and midfielders Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker and Steve Sidwell. Villa’s assistant manager Gary McAllister believes the signing of Pires will be beneficial to the promising youngsters at the club and I couldn’t agree more. The Frenchman’s knowledge should be welcomed by all the youngsters but welcomed with open arms from winger Marc Albrighton who’s performance against Manchester United last week showed just why he’s tipped as one of England’s next superstars.
After last weeks performance I was proud to be a Villa fan. The youngsters dug in deep and really took the game to Fergie’s world beaters and should have walked away with all three points but like always United played poorly but still got a point from a game that was dominated by Villa. I know Albrighton got all the applause for his man of the match performance but there were two midfielders who were overlooked by the reporters and TV pundits. Jonathan Hogg and Barry Bannan were playing centre midfield up against Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick. You’d think it would be a total mismatch. Think again. The two youngsters didn’t look out of place and really made the United midfielders look average at best.
Another boost for Villa’s squad was the return of Gabriel Agbonlahor. Having him up front gives Villa a complete different style and a more positive style than when we have Heskey or Carew up top. Last week we were playing the balls down the channels and using Gabby’s pace and strength at full force. Agbonlahor played as a lone striker and proved a real handful for United’s defenders. I’ve always been a believer that when Agbonlahor’s plays Ashley Young is given an extra yard or two with the ball which is always dangerous with a player of such talent which he showed last Saturday in the second half where he terrorised the oppositions defence.
This week sees Villa travel to Ewood Park to face Blackburn Rovers. Sam Allardyce’s team are a very inconsistent team where one week their winning comfortably away at Newcastle but then get trounced at Spurs the following weekend. I believe Villa will come away with all three points especially after last weeks performance which should have given the squad a real morale booster. If we score early we could win the game comfortably just like Spurs did last week but if we sit off players like Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn then we could get punished. My prediction Villa 2 – Blackburn 1.