Houllier Back Under Fire As Revival Stutters
Aston Villa boss Gerard Houllier was heavily criticised for fielding a weakened team at big-spending Manchester City in the FA Cup fifth round, as Villa’s February revival stuttered with the advent of March.
Villa remain three points above the EPL drop zone after their 3-2 defeat at Bolton Wanderers last Saturday, which came three days after they capitulated 3-0 in the FA Cup at Eastlands.
Off the field, Villa’s recently-released accounts revealed a £37.6m loss for the year to May 2010, the last under previous boss Martin O’Neill. And it was also revealed that the club was in dispute with O’Neill over the terms of his departure last August.
The figures have forced Houllier to take measures to pare Villa’s wage bill, with two of the club’s promising youngsters loaned out to Championship promotion contenders in the last week.
Houllier justified his Eastlands selection, which contained eight changes, by pointing out that “we started with two England players up front (and) there were also internationals in midfield and defence.” The Frenchman added: “I have quality throughout the squad and I believe everybody should play.”
The tactic failed to lead to victory in the subsequent EPL game at Bolton, as Villa twice conceded the lead and spurned numerous chances – including an Ashley Young penalty - before falling to a late Trotters winner.
Despite the setback Houllier claimed: “Taking the game to Bolton as we did was something special.”
Villa’s required cost-cutting has seen midfielder Barry Bannan and striker Nathan Delfouneso loaned to Leeds United and Burnley respectively until the end of the season.
The 20-year-old Bannan signed a three-and-a-half year contract with Villa last November, after breaking into the Scotland squad. Delfouneso, meanwhile, has struggled to break into Villa’s first team. He played in Villa’s weakened team at Eastlands.
Wages accounted for an astonishing 88% of Villa’s turnover last season and Houllier said: “We will probably need to have a better balance between salaries and the turnover of the club.”
O’Neill and Villa will go to a special tribunal after months of negotiation failed to resolve a dispute over compensation owed to the Irishman, who left Villa Park five days before the start of this season.
The League Managers Association said last week that “the matter has now been placed in the hands of the Premier League Managers’ Arbitration Tribunal.”
Villa host 19th-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers in the EPL this Saturday afternoon.
Tags: Aston Villa, Gerard Houllier, EPL, Ashley Young, Premier League