Aston Villa could once again be the dark horses to break into the Premier League top four this season if Gerard Houllier can continue to bring the best out of Emile Heskey.
Heskey has scored in both games following Houllier’s arrival at Villa Park after netting just nine times in his previous 61 appearances since moving from Wigan for £3.5m.
His most recent was a late winner in the 2-1 victory at Wolves which lifted Villa to fifth in the Premier League and within five points of early table-toppers Chelsea.
Villa finished sixth in the past three seasons under Martin O’Neill and a much tougher campaign was predicted this season, particularly after James Milner left for Manchester City.
However, temporary boss Kevin MacDonald made a promising start and this has been continued by Houllier by winning on his Premier League debut.
Villa are now 10/1 to finish in the top four and if Heskey can continue to pose a substantial threat in attack with his pace and power then they could become serious contenders to secure Champions League football.
One of the chief reasons for his improvement could be the confidence boost provided by Houllier and new assistant Gary McAllister, alongside his retirement from international football.
Houllier and McAllister were at Liverpool with Heskey earlier in his career and know first-hand of the talent they are dealing with, while his retirement from England duty allows him to totally focus on improving his club football.
Heskey’s return to form will also mean that Villa can avoid fast-tracking Gabby Agbonlahor back into the first team and give him time to fully recover from the injury troubles that have hampered the start of his season.
Agbonlahor is 66/1 to finish as the division’s top scorer this season. See the full Premier League top scorer betting odds market.