Gerard Houllier will make his return to the English Premier League as the manager of Aston Villa, the club confirmed this week.
Houllier resigned from his post as Technical Director of the French national team, and he will take the reigns from interim manager Kevin MacDonald, who stepped in after the resignation of Martin O’Neil before the start of the season.
Houllier had a six-year spell at Liverpool from 1998 to 2004, during which he won the UEFA Cup, League Cup, and FA Cup treble. He also managed French side Olympique Lyonnais from 2005 to 2007, winning the Ligue 1 title twice.
“I am very happy and proud to join this great and historic club. It was a very difficult decision for me to leave the FFF [French Football Federation] but I could not turn down the opportunity to manage a club whose approach, both on and off the pitch, I have long admired,” he told the club’s website.
“Aston Villa is one of England’s biggest clubs and has an amazing set of fans. This is a tremendous challenge and one I am very much looking forward to taking on.”
Houllier’s first match in charge will be this Monday away to Stoke. The Villains have suffered a bumpy start to their season – a 3-nil opening day victory against West Ham was followed by a 6-nil thrashing by Premier League bounce-backs Newcastle and an aggregate 4-3 defeat to Rapid Vienna that knocked the club out of the Europa League. However, the club managed a 1-nil victory against Everton in their last Premier League outing, and with Stoke, Bolton, Blackburn, and Wolves on the upcoming fixture list, Houllier couldn’t have picked a much better time to begin his Villa Park tenure.
Stars On The Sidelines
Tottenham, Manchester City, and Arsenal are all lost some key players for the next few weeks after a busy international break.
City’s new signing Mario Balotelli will have to wait a little longer to acclimate himself to life in the Premier League after the club confirmed that he will undergo a knee operation. Balotelli injured the lateral meniscus of his knee during his debut for City, in which he scored the winning goal against Romanian side Timisoara in the Europa League.
The Italian international will fly back to Milan for the surgery, which is expected to sideline him for around six weeks. Balotelli underwent a rest period in a bid to solve the problem, but after a further setback the club decided to proceed with the operation.
In London, Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe and Michael Dawson are both also facing lengthy spells out of action. Defoe suffered an ankle injury during England’s 3-1 victory over Switzerland on Tuesday, and he will likely be out for at least six weeks. Dawson injured knee and ankle ligaments during England’s 4-nil victory against Bulgaria last weekend, and he is looking at eight weeks on the sidelines. Defoe’s absence in particular comes as a big blow to Tottenham after he bagged four goals in two matches for England, including a hat-trick against Bulgaria.
Tottenham’s not-so-friendly neighbors Arsenal have to make do without the services of Theo Walcott, who, like Defoe, injured his ankle during England’s match against Switzerland. Walcott will be out for four to six weeks according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. The news came as a big blow to the Gunners, especially after Wenger confirmed earlier in the week that striker Robin Van Persie would be sidelined until mid-October due to (you guessed it) an ankle injury.