Aston Villa have been maddeningly inconsistent this year. That's no secret at all. But part of the problem is an old managers squad being fit into a new manager's style. Some players have adapted well, and others haven't. While I think we're all willing to live with some growing pains from the likes of Marc Albrighton and Barry Bannan, the unwillingness of players like Stephen Ireland to adapt and take a leadership role has been unacceptable.
So it's with no small amount of relief that we approach the January transfer window. New manager Gérard Houllier has made it amazingly obvious that players who are unwilling to adapt to his system will be summarily gotten rid of. And it's a great feeling.
I know we've been sipping the Houllier Kool-aid around here, but I really think he's got something going. He appears to be willing to change from traditional 4-4-2 tactics, he puts a premium on fitness (something that will pay off in the long season, especially when we get back to Europe), and he values hard work. This seems to be a really bright way to build a team from the ground up. I know if I were put in this kind of system in anything I was doing, it'd inspire loyalty and confidence: at least it would if I bought into it. If not, I'd hate it too. So I can understand Ireland's problems, but I still want him gone.
And that's what the upcoming window offers us. It won't solve all of our problems, but we'll get a great idea of what Houllier wants to do. Will he go full youth-movement? Or will we see a few more veteran leaders like Robert Pires? I'm not sure, but I know that it's going to be fun to find out. No matter what happens next month, it will be, at the very least, interesting.