Ah to have a World Cup winner that just oozes laissez-faire effortless Gallic skill, panache and cool come and join your club that is beginning to look worryingly like it is getting embroiled in a relegation fight. Surely this fine player in the twilight of his career is exactly the kind of mature head you need at the ship to bring years of experience to a young squad, stop the rot, assure the squad and avert a panic response to a poor situation? Yet Pires’s arrival at Villa Park seems to have initiated none of these things.
The Frenchman is one I have always admired and I feel one of the greatest left wingers of the modern age. Yet at 37 he has show he is far past his best and no longer really capable of cutting it in the Premier League. Although quite a fan of Pires I wasn’t overly convinced he would be able to cut it in the Premier League at the age of 37. The main difference between the Premier League and La Liga, where Pires had last been playing his football with Villareal, is pace. To flourish in the Premier League you may not have to be as technically astute or given as in La Liga, but you do need to be fitter and able to react and think faster. When Villareal released the Frenchman in May along with veteran defender Javi Venta in order to take the club in “another direction” it seemed the club were shedding its older elements that could no longer take full throttle football. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that Robert Pires was no longer had the legs for top level football. To then spend four months without any competitive matches after coming being shunted out of the Spanish League it seems to me that that player would not be suitable to playing in the fast paced Premier League. I believe this makes him different to another potential Premier League arrival in the twilight of his career, David Beckham. As Beckham, although playing in a weaker league, demonstrated on that level he can still handle the physicality of the game and in his loan spells at Milan impressed with his levels of fitness.
Yet added to these failings in fitness Pires has proved to be a destabilising element to Aston Villa as opposed to someone to help guide them out of trouble. By allowing Pires to stay in his London home and provide a chauffeured car for the player to get to and from Birmingham every day Gerrard Houllier has shattered a mentality of solidarity and togetherness amongst the squad that is needed in a relegation fight, which Villa are now certainly in. Pires may deny the unsettling nature of his special treatment but it is difficult to swallow and when added to the lack of impact his arrival has had it suggests a potentially fractious situation which makes you question the logic of recruiting the player under such circumstances.