The Shin Guardian had the occasion to interact last week with Aston Villa beat reporter Timothy Abraham who writes for Birmingham’s Express & Star. Abraham gives us an unvarnished, untarnished by American lens view on the goings on inside Villa Park. TSG is thankful to have Abraham’s thoughts here as we respect he’s an on-staff writer for the Express & Star.
Follow Tim on Twitter here.
(Editor’s Note: This TSG piece on Michael Bradley–vetted by Abraham–is a requisite read beforehand.)
TSG: You mentioned Michael Bradley is struggling with game speed. Do you think this is due to lack of game time or is it something different?
Timothy Abraham: Some players do take time to adjust to the pace of English football and I think this is evident in Michael’s case. In his fleeting appearances for the first team he has been caught in possession too easily sometimes and his passing has been found wanting. It is in stark contrast with Jean Makoun – who joined Villa from Lyon in the January transfer window – and has looked at home in English football straight away.
TSG: You mentioned that Michael Bradley won’t likely be resigned by Villa next year. Is he still Premiership material?
Timothy Abraham: The jury is out at the moment. I don’t think Michael’s situation has been helped by Villa having struggled at the bottom of the Premier League for most of the season. With the exception of Jean Makoun Villa manager Gerard Houllier has gone for players who are tried and tested in English football. If Villa are able to pull clear of the relegation battle in the next few matches then Michael might get a run of games towards the end of the season and given a chance to stake his claim to remain at Villa.
TSG: Will Michael Bradley’s situation be impacted at all by Nigel Reo Coker’s? Will Reo Coker resign with Villa? If not, if Bradley an option?
Timothy Abraham: Nigel Reo-Coker’s future is up in the air at the moment. His Villa career looked over when Martin O’Neill was in charge but he has been reinvigorated under Gerard Houllier. The problem for Reo-Coker is that he is probably not quite good enough for the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea etc so that leaves him with very few options. I think Villa is about his level but my inclination is to say that he is seeking a big contract and with under pressure to cut the wage bill he will not get the kind of deal he is after and will leave the club. I guess there is a chance Michael Bradley could be a replacement but with the kind of money that Borussia Monchengladbach want for him, and with a surplus of midfielders at Villa I think a deal is unlikely.
TSG: About other Americans: Brad Friedel’s club standing? Will Eric Lichaj ever see the light of day at Villa? Or even Brad Guzan?
Timothy Abraham: I expect Brad Friedel will be offered a new deal although he may well have to accept that he will not be first choice next season as Villa look to sign a keeper for the future. Eric Lichaj has done well at Leeds and, with the exception of a couple of mistakes in a game against Manchester City on a day when no-one from Villa covered themselves in glory, when he came in he did well.
I’m not sure he’s quite in the class of on-loan Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker and with Lichaj being 22 I suspect he may move on sooner rather than later. The same probably applies to Brad Guzan.
TSG: What’s the general perception of Houllier’s reign thus far?
Timothy Abraham: The reviews on Gerard Houllier’s short tenure have been mixed. His development of young talent and commitment to play more aesthetically pleasing football than previous manager Martin O’Neill have been appluaded by a lot of fans.
However, there have been some PR gaffes which has alienated sections of the fanbase. Not least his comments after the defeat against Liverpool (although they were taken out of context) and in particular the decision to field a weakened side in the FA Cup against Manchester City which really angered supporters. Houllier has perhaps been guilty of trying to change too much at Villa at once when he should have waited until the summer to make sweeping changes.