Houllier craves more maturity
Gerard Houllier has revealed his "trust" in the current Aston Villa players but wants them to stop surrendering the initiative in matches ahead of tomorrow's home clash with Arsenal.
Houllier has been encouraged by the youngsters who have filled the breach when up to a dozen players have been sidelined through illness or suspension.
But the former Liverpool boss is aware Villa have dropped 12 points in matches where they have been ahead during the current campaign.
This was highlighted a fortnight ago when Villa led Manchester United 2-0 after an exhilarating second half performance but ended up drawing 2-2.
Houllier said: "I'm confident, I trust this lot of players.
"But we have dropped 12 points from leading positions. That is a fact whether it was against Stoke, Bolton, Tottenham, Fulham or Manchester United.
"That is where we need to improve, definitely, in terms of maturity because being in a leading position to win, even if you drop half of those 12 points, we would now be on 23 points.
"I still think this is an area we have to address. Maybe this is the right time to stop that."
Houllier added: "We have also been unlucky with sick and fit players and we have hit the bar maybe 10 times since the beginning of the season.
"I know at some stage you have got to keep faith, keep belief in your team, and we work hard and I think we will make it."
Houllier is aware of Villa's current position, five points off the top five but also only three points above the bottom three.
He said: "It is not that I'm not worried. As every manager in the position we are, we've got to be careful.
"But I do trust the team we have, they enjoy working with us, the new staff.
"I would say 'give us some time.' We know where we are heading up to.
"I am confident the second part of the season will be better for us because we will have more players coming back."
Houllier has immense respect for Gunners boss and close friend Arsene Wenger but wants to get one over on his fellow Frenchman.
He said: "Whatever happens on the field, we will remain friends. You have to give respect to what he has achieved at Arsenal in nearly 15 years.
"He had the team of the old type with Dixon, Adams, Winterburn and so forth.
"From that team, he gradually moved to a different team but kept the entertaining side.
"At a high level, you've got to win and he is a winner. You need to win in style and entertain. No-one will argue with that.
"He will have left a legacy when he leaves the club in terms of a new stadium, new facilities, a squad for the future, so I have got a lot of respect for that.
"But he has been a friend for nearly 30 years. We took our coaching badges together, went to tournaments together, we laugh together but I'd love to beat him and he knows that."
Former Arsenal player Robert Pires is set to be involved in the Villa Park clash.
Houllier said: "We signed him because we are not blessed in numbers in the midfield.
"He has got an eye for a pass, good movement, intelligence, he was free.
"I'm not stupid. I know he has not got the same legs as four or five years ago.
"But he has got all the qualities and also he can help because we have a team of players who are spinning things around, rushing around everywhere.
"They play without fear and sometimes I think he will bring a bit more calm to the game."