The most unpopular man in the Midlands is finding life tough once more at Aston Villa, and there are 3 reasons why Bik Eck should be put out his misery.
Nearly a year ago now Alex McLeish was holding aloft the Carling Cup as Birmingham City manager. Nobody could have foreseen the direction his career was to take since that day in late February, with a move to rivals Aston Villa following the relegation of his former side last summer. This season was never likely to be a comfortable one for Big Eck, and his side now find themselves in an underwhelming 15th position as fans grow ever more disgruntled at the team’s lack of success.
Sunday’s 1-0 defeat to Man City means Villa have won only one of their last seven home games this term, and all fingers must now point at Alex McLeish as Villa slide ever nearer to the unforgiving relegation dog fight. The question is why should Villa dispose of their man over halfway into the Premier League season?
His inability to perform under pressure
An infuriating fact for most Villa and Blues fans is that Alex McLeish is widely respected in the football world. This is mainly due to some notable achievements in recent seasons, with the Carling cup victory last season following a 9th place finish for Birmingham in 2010. However many people fail to acknowledge his frequent shortcomings over the past five years, including two avoidable relegations and a catalogue of turgid displays.
In his commendable cup victory, McLeish presided over a side expected to lose and was therefore unburdened by the pressures of expectation. However, when that same side was viewed as survival certainties, McLeish’s Birmingham choked and plummeted to the Championship. Though McLeish has no doubt faced increased pressure head on by accepting his post at Villa, the former Rangers man has continued to fail for his new employers as they’ve stuttered in front of their own fans against a host of rival sides.
After the impressive 3-1 victory at Stamford Bridge in December, Villa lost at home to Swansea 2-0 only two days later. This is indicative of McLeish, and a pattern which can be traced throughout his career.
McLeish has constantly been dogged by accusations of negative tactics, with the terms ‘dire’ and ‘anti-football’ springing to mind. As a Birmingham fan I can indeed concur with these views having seen the man consistently produce sides devoid of any attacking flair or imagination in the final third.
In usually deploying a conservative 4-5-1 formation, McLeish’s teams aren’t associated with scoring freely as the lone striker often finds himself isolated in front of a packed midfield. The results of this can be surmised by countless desperate and dreary displays, including games which have failed to yield so much as a shot on target.
Last season it was the hapless Cameron Jerome who furrowed about the St Andrews turf like a lost horse, this season it’s Darren Bent who’s been left to feed off the stale leftover scraps of Heskey’s flick-ons. Villa were previously an exciting outfit under Martin O’Neill, with the likes of Stuart Downing and Ashley Young flying down the flanks.
Though McLeish is not accountable for the departures of players of that calibre, it is his job to get the best out of men like Darren Bent, Stephen Ireland and Charles N’Zogbia. In releasing the shackles as he so successfully did against Chelsea last Christmas, the manager might be able to do this, but he doesn’t possess the required sense of adventure required to do so.
It’s not too late
Whilst change at the top can be destabilizing for a side immersed in a relegation scrap, Villa still lie seven points above the drop zone. They are however going nowhere fast under McLeish and must act quickly if they are to avoid matters getting worse.
Randy Lerner made the wrong decision in opting for the Scott over candidates such as Mark Hughes, but there is time to show ambition and bring in somebody more suited to a club of the Midlander’s stature. David Moyes has been let down by his own board, and might jump at the chance to build a new side with the backing of Lerner whilst Rafa Benitez is believed to be itching for a return to England.
They have the players to suggest a top half finish could still be more likely than an unforeseen drop into the second tier, and in scrapping McLeish and employing the right man Villa may experience the same type of resurgence as Sunderland have enjoyed under previous manager Martin O’Neill.
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