This week is not the week for Gérard Houllier to be holding grudges. Aston Villa finally return to action this Saturday, against Wolverhampton Wanderers, but the question remains: who, exactly, will be playing defense for the Villa? After the drama surrounding James Collins, Richard Dunne, and the stupidity that was the two of them allegedly insulting the coaching staff and other players, it would seem reasonable for the two to be benched, at least for a game or two.
However, despite Houllier amassing something like 20 million midfielders this season, the manager apparently decided that two semi-aging center backs, plus a center / right back who breaks anytime someone breathes his direction, was sufficient, and that the youth could pick up the slack in case of injury. And so the Villa have come to this: three fit, in-favor defenders for the weekend's match.
Who is available: Kyle Walker, Carlos Cuellar, Nathan Baker
Who is not: Richard Dunne, Luke Young, Ciaran Clark (suspension)
Who is hated: Stephen Warnock, Habib Beye
Who is hurting: James Collins
So, to be fair, Dunne and Collins are both still struggling with injury. Of course, it's likely that Dunne's "injury" will continue to nag him until the end of the season. As for Collins, it seems that he'll be forgiven, although it might be more out of necessity than out of a feeling of affection for the Welshman. The question is -- will Collins be fit in time?
If he's not, Houllier should go ahead and play three at the back. Let's face it, there's little to be gained from throwing Warnock on the pitch. Although I'd much rather play three center backs, the Villa have really run out of options. Tell Walker to stay put and throw on an extra attacker. Although a three-man defense actually can result in fairly strong defense, this won't be one of those instances, even if Stiliyan Petrov and Nigel Reo-Coker are stationed in front of the back line. Wolves will score. But Aston Villa will score more. And we won't have to see the face of Stephen Warnock.