Is Alex Mcleish The Worst Manager in The Premier League?

Since moving across Birmingham to Villa Park in the summer, Alex McLeish has guided Aston Villa to 15th in the league and not that far away from relegation. Are Villa’s poor fortunes this season all McLeish’s fault?

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It seems like such a long time ago now since Aston Villa were on the cusp of a spot in the Champions League. Yes, along with Everton they did usually fall off towards the end of the season, but they were both challenging until almost the very end. Even as recently as the 2009/2010 season Aston Villa were up there, finishing the season in 6th, only 6 points behind Tottenham in 4th. Now compare that with Villa’s current fortunes. At the moment they lie down in 15th place, and were knocked out of the League and FA Cups in the 3rd and 4th rounds respectively. It’s definitely not exactly shaping up to be a successful first season for McLeish at Villa.

To say the appointment of Alex McLeish as Aston Villa manager last summer would be an understatement as the decision was met with protests from the Villa fans. The reaction to the hostility was that it was all because McLeish had moved across Birmingham from Villa’s blue rivals to take the job. It was generally accepted though that they were bound to come round as soon as Villa started winning, fickle as football fans are. However in hindsight, this may have been an enormous underestimation of Villa fans. I guess when you have witnessed the relative greatness of being managed by Martin O’Neill, the prospect of Alex McLeish coming in, after he relegated their rivals last season, was not one likely to be embraced.

Since McLeish’s appointment, Villa have been poor, there are no two ways about it. There was no initial honeymoon period as Villa started the season with 5 draws in their first 6 Premier League games, including 2 goalless draws against Fulham and Wolves, and ever since the start of the season. Villa haven’t kicked on like many thought they would, in fact, they haven’t looked like they even wanted to get started and actually play as though their position in the table was undeserved.

Aston Villa have gone from being a side that focussed their play on a fast and dynamic attack, a team that could hurt teams and would rarely sit back and hope for a draw, even against the best teams. Now, they look as though they have had the life completely sucked out of them. Of course, they have lost two important players in Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, but they still have the players within their ranks to attack teams if they wanted to. Charles NZogbia and Stephen Ireland, players who were brought in in the summer, can actually influence, yet they seemed to be resigned to a place on the bench and the occasional cameo appearance.

The tactical rigidity of this Aston Villa team is the most obvious step back from Villa sides of recent years. Irrespective of who they are playing, Villa seem to line up to defend a draw week in week out, and even when they do go behind, their game plan doesn’t ever seem to change. On multiple occasions this season I have found myself actually feeling sorry for Darren Bent because, until Robbie Keane came in temporarily, his support up front was almost non-existent. The gap between Villa’s midfield/defence combination, and Darren Bent, had been growing ever wider since the start of the season, and now Robbie Keane has returned to LA Galaxy and Darren Bent is out injured for potentially the rest of the season, Villa fans can look forward to the possibility of Emile Heskey as a lone striker.

Alex McLeish seems like a manager waiting for next year, relying on the fact that his squad are almost definitely too good to go down, but I’m not sure if there will be any actual positive change when “next year” does eventually come. They do have a decent cushion between themselves and the bottom 5 teams, but I wouldn’t put it past McLeish’s anti-winning tactics (not even anti-football) dragging Aston Villa down there. 

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