News broke yesterday that former Arsenal legend Thierry Henry is in the wings to take over as Aston Villa manager but many questions remain.
What’s the current managerial situation at Aston Villa, then?
Steve Bruce, of course, is Villa’s current manager. However, reports are linking Thierry Henry to succeed Bruce after the Englishman failed to guide Villa to promotion last season. It’s important to say that Thierry Henry is the only name currently linked to the job.
Steve Bruce is understood to be meeting with the new Executive Chairman of Villa, Nassef Sawiris on Tuesday. As of writing, it is unknown if this meeting has taken place just yet, but the Guardian have stated that it has been delayed until Wednesday the 25th of July.
Speculation about Henry taking the role is only growing, so the sooner the meeting happens and Villa commit to an answer, the better for everyone.
Why get rid of Steve Bruce?
Aston Villa have plenty of reasons to dismiss current manager, Steve Bruce. I feel somewhat odd speaking about getting rid of the bloke who is currently in charge of the club, however that’s the situation as understood - Steve Bruce might not be in a job at Villa much longer if certain reports are true.
What are some of these reasons? Well, for a start, Aston Villa are under new ownership. This is a perfectly valid reason to dismiss Steve Bruce and it doesn’t need any explaining. Tony Xia is no longer in complete control of Aston Villa and the new owners, Nassef Sawiris and Wes Edens may want to employ a man who can commit to their vision.
Secondly, Aston Villa failed to gain promotion last season, and with the stakes so high - there can really be no excuse at all. Villa played well in patches, but some awful results and a turgid start to the campaign all but derailed them. At times, Bruce’s Villa looked unbeatable. At others, they looked naive, wasted and lost. This cost Villa, big time.
With that being said, you can certainly find a number of reasons why keeping Steve Bruce is a valid option - especially with a few months of financial instability tucked under Villa’s belt.
Is it disrespectful to talk about Thierry Henry while Bruce is in charge?
No. Football has always circled around the notion of upgrading. We have two massive transfer windows marked on the calendar that send the media into a feeding frenzy. Is it disrespectful to propose the signing of a new #9 striker to replace your current target man? No - it’s the very nature of the game. Villa spoke to Sherwood before they got rid of Lambert, spoke to Garde before they got rid of Sherwood and spoke to Bruce before they got rid of Di Matteo.
That brings us to the man himself, Henry. It is said that Henry has agreed to succeed Bruce if Villa dismiss their current manager.
Now, Thierry Henry has been dismissed by most pundits as a man lacking in experience. True enough, his only coaching experience stems from a short stint at Arsenal to ensure he was in a position to complete his coaching badges which was followed by a spell as member of Roberto Martinez’s Belgium side that finished third at the World Cup, where Henry was a senior coach in the set-up.
So, that’s it? That’s all he’s done?
Time for personal opinion. Experience doesn’t count for much in management. In my own experience, experience simply tell’s you what not to do. In my experience, experience simply allows fear to creep in. Experience, as you’ll know, is often based on failure and I’ll bet it curtails some great minds.
If you’re looking to rebuild a football club, you should not be looking for experience, as it’ll push you into the wrong places. We’re looking for a plan, a philosophy and a personality - and it seems Henry has all three, with an elite-level personality. He’s grown up surrounded by forward-thinkers.
According to numerous stories and testimonials, Henry is the right person to be a manager. He’s not a Remi Garde who will quickly find himself overwhelmed by toxicity. He’s not a Tim Sherwood who is completely out of his depth, yet doesn’t realise. He’s not a Paul Lambert who will seek the right answer to the wrong questions, to the detriment of his side. He’s a blank canvas who has worked with some bright people. His counterpart, Mikel Arteta, was considered a favourite for the Arsenal job when Arsene Wenger left - based on two years of experience behind Pep Guardiola - so there is certainly room for a school of thought that believes Henry is well-suited to the Villa job. In the Belgium team, Henry has held the egos of some of the world’s greatest footballers in check - he’s been harsh with players like Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku - but not only that, these players are hanging on his every word.
Simply put, if you want to form Villa into something new - you need an open mind to do that. It may not be as big a risk as you think.
Either way - if Villa stick with Bruce, they are in ‘safe’ hands. If they go with Henry, they are consulting the possibility of a diverse and exciting future. I’m excited by the fact that Villa could go down a good route with whatever option they choose. There’s plenty of upside in Henry, and for my money - it’s smart sports management to bring him in.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Not much. Villa weren’t expected at all to compete this season until the takeover cleared things up. If Henry is that bad, then his career might be over by December.
If the ‘worst’ happens, Bruce will be fine. He’s had a rough time in charge of Villa - capped off with personal tragedy. Still, Villa have stabilised and all but sanitised a toxic dressing room. Maybe that, more so than promotion, will be Steve’s main contribution to Villa? That being said, Villa are much like any other business - and change will always be on the horizon.
When should we find out?
Villa will decide whether to stick or twist before their friendly with West Ham United on the 25th at 7.45pm. Hopefully.