What Do Aston Villa See in Alex McLeish?

 

Birmingham City are seeking around £5 million in compensation should Aston Villa want to take manager Alex McLeish away from their city rivals this summer.

McLeish, who lead Birmingham City to Carling Cup success last season has two years remaining on his contract at St Andrews. The Blues have yet to accept the resignation he handed in on Sunday.

Despite his cup success, Alex McLeish has been in charge of Birmingham City for their last two Premier League relegations. He originally took over at the end of November 2007.

Following Birmingham’s immediate return to the Premier League as Championship runners up in 2008/09, McLeish guided his side to an impressive ninth position which included a 12-game unbeaten streak at one point.

His successful Premier League campaign was built around a successful defence that included goalkeeper Joe Hart on loan from Manchester City, Liam Ridgewell, Scott Dann, Roger Johnson and Stephen Carr. In total they kept 11 clean sheets, compared to the 9 kept by Ben Foster last season.

Injuries to Scott Dann, and his replacement Martin Jiranek left a problem for Birmingham City, who at the end of the 2010/11 season weren’t keeping clean sheets and weren’t keeping the goals out.

Much is made of Birmingham’s poor form following their Carling Cup success. They won just 2 of their remaining 12 fixtures after beating Arsenal at Wembley, losing 7.

The biggest problem Birmingham had, and one McLeish refused to change during his back-to-back seasons in the Premier League is that his side had no plan B. Having seen his tactics working successfully in the previous season, he stuck by them in the final dozen games even though they were not working at that time.

Most of Kevin Phillips’ game time came in those final games of the season in a desperate attempt by McLeish to find goals. Phillips scored just once all season.

Injuries to Nikola Zigic and James McFadden didn’t help his side’s chances, but they had both Sebastian Larsson and David Bentley down the wings whom were capable of providing great deliveries from the wings, but his side rarely had enough players going forward to attack these.

Should Alex McLeish join Aston Villa, you would wonder if the good form of Stewart Downing would go to waste down the wings, should the England international remain at the club this summer.

Aston Villa aren’t in the best of shape, following a huge decline last season following the resignation of Martin O’Neill pre-season. They have one of the divisions best goalscorers in Darren Bent, but with Ashley Young set to leave for Manchester United, they are set to lose their number one playmaker.

Marc Albrighton looks like a good prospect down the wing, but if McLeish were to join Villa, would he use Albrighton to his best ability? Or would we see the same, negative 4-5-1 tactics adopted at Birmingham City? McLeish should us nothing last season to show us that he would change. But if he’s as good as Randy Lerner believes, then maybe he’ll adapt like all good managers are capable of doing.

There has been a lot of anger from both sets of fan regarding this deal, with a lot of Birmingham fans not wanting their manager to join their biggest rivals and a number of Aston Villa fans not wanting to hire their rivals manager who has a track record of relegation from the Premier League.

Alex McLeish remains 4/6 favourite to land the Aston Villa job, while Mark Hughes is currently second favourite at 7/2.