Know Your Opponent: Aston Villa

Could The Fonz get a game? Unlikely, just wanted a picture and caption involving "The Fonz"

In what I hope will become a regular series around these parts, I had a little chat with 7500 to Holte's Kirsten Schlewitz about the upcoming match between Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur. We started with me asking Kirsten questions about Aston Villa, then transitioned to her asking me questions about Spurs. The first half of this conversation, Kirsten telling me about Aston Villa, is what follows. The second part of the conversation, where she interviews me, will be up later at 7500 to Holte.

Kevin McCauley: The first thing I want to talk about is the apparent resurgence of Emile Heskey under Houllier. Is this more a product of Houllier really believing in him or John Carew's poor form and questionable fitness?

Kirsten Schlewitz: According to the Birmingham Post, it's a product of Houllier's psychological mind games. Those looking for a tabloid story are quick to latch on to the fact that Houllier brought Heskey to Liverpool but let Carew go from Lyon, but I think it's more of a Carew not being in form then some sort of great faith Houllier has in Heskey, although with Heskey's confidence level after last year it's great that he at least thinks someone is believing in him.

KM: With Villa seemingly playing very well with Ashley Young playing in the hole behind Heskey, what is Gabriel Agbonlahor's role when he is fully fit? Does Heskey just automatically drop to the bench or is it back to a rigid 4-4-2 with Ash on the wing?

KS: Well, last week against Wolves, Houllier tried something completely different - taking Mark Albrighton off and putting Gabby in on the right wing. Villa fans everywhere were utterly confused, as Agbonlahor is obviously not a winger, but it seemed to work, with Gabby managing to get past the Wolves defense in ways Albrighton wasn't doing in the second half, and then drifting in centrally.

KM: He's played there before, so it's not totally foreign, but you're right - Gabby is a striker.

KS: What that move indicated to me is that Houllier isn't as conservative as I thought he would be, and he's more willing to take risks than Martin O'Neill ever was. However, keeping Ashley Young from going to Spurs [on a transfer] might mean keeping him in as second striker, so when Agbonlahor gets fit, it might mean Heskey on the bench.

KM: Martin O'Neil is a good manager, but he seemed pretty set in his ways and I always thought a less conservative manager who allowed his teams to play more expansive football would benefit Villa.

KS: That's what I've come around to thinking as well, and I really hope we see it under Houllier.

KM: What do you think of Nigel Reo-Coker and Stiliyan Petrov playing in the center together? It seems to present some problems as neither is creative and Reo-Coker can't pass worth a lick, but Ireland has shown that he struggles in that position.

KS: Every season it seems I need a player to vent my frustration upon, and this year it looks as though it's going to be Petrov. For the majority of the game, he's invisible, and then he surges forward to hit a shot right into the keeper's arms or make a tackle that results in a last-minute free kick that ends up in the net. For a captain, he's certainly not making the right choices, but at this point, I don't know what to do. NRC is great at defensive abilities, but he wants to move upfield and that results in disaster most of the time. And you're right, Ireland can't defend. I wish there was a good solution at the moment, but there doesn't seem to be, except for a five-man midfield, and even that is questionable with the way Petrov is playing.

That's it for the first half of this conversation. Later, you can see the second half where I get grilled over at 7500 to Holte.

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