Friday, June 17, 2011

Flippin' Eck! So what can we expect from the new gaffer?

(Not Necessarily) Our New Gaffer
Credit: Esquire
Unbelievably, Aston Villa have appointed the former manager of Birmingham City, Alex McLeish, to the manager's post vacated by Gerard Houllier.  It's a move that was met with some protest, as roughly a thousand supporters gathered at Villa Park to voice their displeasure at the appointment, and one spineless jagoff vandalized the entry sign at Bodymoor Heath.

While two relegations in three and a half seasons in charge speak even less kindly for the Ginger Scot than his previous post, there are a few positives to look for from Big Eck.

  • The man knows goalkeeping talent.  Between bringing in Waterreus at Rangers, appointing Craig Gordon Scotland's number one, loaning in Joe Hart and then purchasing Ben Foster, it's very clear that McLeish knows how to pick out and develop good goalkeepers, which Villa will need with Brad Friedel plying his trade at White Hart Lane next season
  • He's good at organizing a defense.  Last year aside (with City facing several defensive injuries), McLeish has made his teams hard to beat.   One has to think that with a deeper and better defensive squad at Villa (I'd even rate Young and Lichaj above Agent Liam and Stephen Carr), he'd be able to fix the most glaring problem we had last year- conceding goals.
  • He's a tactically flexible manager- Granted, that flexibility for Birmingham meant deciding whether to have two or three central midfielders kicking people in the shins.  But, he deploys the 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 as opposition dictates, and unlike previous SPL-winning gaffers that we've had at Villa Park, is not afraid to make substitutions when he needs to chase goals
  • He's actually pretty good in the transfer market overall.  Here's a list of his signings at Rangers.   Look up and down it, and you'll see a bunch of good value buys that did very well for Rangers, and were instrumental in winning 7 trophies during his time there.  Even at Birmingham, while he bought the odd Zigic, Beausejour and Davies (hey, we bought him, too!), he was able to come up with high-value signings like Scott Dann, Roger Johnson, Craig Gardner (who, for the money, performed quite well for the Noses), David Bentley, and the aforementioned Hart and Foster
  • He has won a trophy in England, which not even Saint Martin was able to do at Villa
But yes, there are many negatives which help bolster the cases of Villa supporters enraged by his appointment
  • Two relegations in three seasons is not a "proven record."
  • His "big-name" buys (Arteta at Rangers; Zigic, Hleb and Beausejour) have all been flops.
  • Again, while McLeish's formations may be flexible, his play is not, and there's a worry that his particular brand of kick-kick-kick-and-rush football will have attacking players like Darren Bent and Stewart Downing looking for the exits
  • He's brought Barry Ferguson everywhere he's been- and that's a player that's nowhere near good enough for Villa.
In the end, the man's Aston Villa's manager for now.  Let's give him a preseason and a few games before we judge how well he can do the job, and let's look forward to August 13th, when Aston Villa open the season at Craven Cottage.

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