Pires signs deal at Villa Park
Pires has put pen to paper on a six-month contract and becomes Villa manager Gerard Houllier's first signing. The 37-year-old has been a free agent since his release by Villarreal in the summer and had been training with the Gunners for the past two months. Pires, a World Cup winner with France in 1998, agreed to the deal after passing a medical at Bodymoor Heath on Thursday. He could come into contention to play some part in Sunday's Premier League clash at Blackburn. Pires will provide experience to the Villa midfield at a time when skipper Stiliyan Petrov, Nigel Reo-Coker and Steve Sidwell are sidelined through injury. Pires told Aston Villa TV: "I can't wait to play and put on that new shirt. It is very exciting. "I am very happy to join Aston Villa because it's a big club in England. I am also thrilled to have the chance of working with Gerard Houllier. I know him. "I had a good opportunity two months ago to train with Arsenal. Thanks to Arsene Wenger for that. "Now this move represents a new opportunity and a new challenge for me. I am very happy to start. "I can't wait to put that shirt on and play for Aston Villa. I am proud to play for Villa and to the fans, I'd like to say 'See you soon at Villa Park'." Houllier has been impressed with youngsters Barry Bannan and Marc Albrighton this season, but a fit and firing Pires will also bolster the side. He won two Premier League titles and three FA Cups with Arsenal, as well as Euro 2000 with France. Assistant manager Gary McAllister welcomed the opportunity of working with Pires and believes his sheer presence will have a positive effect on the whole squad. McAllister said: "He is a proven winner. It gets thrown around a lot these days when people say they are a winner but he is a genuine article. "He's a European champion and he has won the World Cup as well. He has vast experience and was a fantastic player in the Premier League for Arsenal. "People thought he was coming to the end of his career but he went to Villarreal and did well there for several seasons. "For all the younger players...what a tremendous addition. The younger players can only learn from watching a guy like Robert on the training field. "He will gain respect but I am sure Robert Pires isn't coming here just to be a player that everyone is going to stand back and admire. "He will want to gain the respect of the fact that he is still competitive and still able to do a job at this level." Houllier will hope Pires can make the same impact as McAllister, who enjoyed a new lease of life under him at Liverpool in his late 30s. France coach Laurent Blanc has already backed Pires to do just that. Blanc said: "Pires may be getting on in years but he still has the skill and technique to bring something to the party at Aston Villa."