Pires capture could be a masterstroke

Houllier is a man with a plan - and the immiment arrival of veteran Frenchman Pires at Villa Park is a vital part of it.

Some - well mainly Birmingham fans - have scoffed at Villa's capture of the former Arsenal playmaker, but I think it's a masterstroke by Houllier.

Villa have arguably the most exciting crop of young players in the league breaking into their first team at the moment, with the likes of Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton become regulars on the team sheet alongside established stars such as Stewart Downing, Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor.

That faith in youth was almost rewarded with a famous win over Manchester United last weekend, when a little more experience would have been key to shutting up shop and ensuring the Red Devils couldn't stage their comeback.

Pires will provide bags of experience and will be an immense presence at Villa's training ground, having won the World Cup and European Championship with France - and the small matter of three FA Cups and two Premier League titles during a golden and goal-laden spell with the Gunners.

Pires wasn't just a member of the historic 'Invincibles' side who went through the 2003-04 league season unbeaten, he was the swashbucking driving force who caused chaos down the left flank of grounds up and down the country, finding the net with sumptuous ease and setting up hatfuls of Thierry Henry goals with his own brand of va-va-voom.

A knee injury suffered while with Villarreal meant he lost some of his pace on his return to action, but Arsene Wenger feels he will be a hit at Villa Park, saying: "To me, before his knee injury, Pires was the best left attacking midfielder in the world. Even if he has lost the speed of his youth, he can still help at Aston Villa thanks to his knowledge of the game."

He certainly can, and hopefully his arrival will also help England as Young and Downing will learn the art of left-wing play from a master of the position.

Anyone who points to his age as a negative should look towards Old Trafford, where 36-year-olds Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes - who come into the same Rolls Royce of a player category as Pires - have already shown that vintage models can still purr in the cut and thrust of the English Premier League.

The 37-year-old has kept himself in mint condition by training with the Gunners, and I for one cannot wait to see him run out in our division once again, having watched in wonder as he racked up nearly 250 appearances for Wenger's London boys, scoring 83 goals along the way.

Pires is one of those players, like Giggs, who seems to have all the time in the world on the ball - and that's purely down to his footballing brain and ability to read the game.

Villa assistant manager Gary McAllister said: "It's perfect. He's a player everyone can look up to because of what he has achieved."

And if Pires can emulate over the next six months the impact a veteran McAllister had on Liverpool following his arrival at Anfield, Houllier could well have pulled off the free transfer of the year.

Source: Team Talk