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Blog Entries posted by limpid

  1. limpid
    The Championship can be a cruel mistress, any fan of any club will tell you exactly that meaning that, regardless as to how much things can change over the course of the season, a quick start can do wonders for anyone’s campaign.
    Villa fans know only too well what a poor start to the season can do for your fortunes across the following nine months-or-so after the debacle of last term.
    A few wins early doors can do wonders for a side’s form and confidence and could be the difference when things get tough around the all-important Christmas run.
    The pressure is now on Steve Bruce and his backroom staff to deliver in their first full season after a woeful 13th placed finish last season. After a summer in which most fans are still trying to get their head around the landing of Chelsea legend John Terry, fans have every right to look forward to the new campaign and with high expectations indeed.
    If those expectations are to be met, however, a fast start is the order of the day. Last term, under Roberto di Matteo, the Villans managed just one win in their first 12 Championship games, a 3-0 win over Rotherham in their second league outing the only light in the darkest of runs.
    A similar spell at any point this season will do away with any hopes of a Premier League return at the second time of asking, however, hit the same run of form in the opening weeks again and all morale will be shot to pieces from the word go.
    That said, with the fixture list handing Bruce a tough start, it’s naïve to expect that every game will yield three points. Therefore we’ve picked out three early season games which could well shape their season.
    Hull City (H)
    It may seem obvious given that this is the season’s curtain raiser, however it offers much more than that.
    Hull were relegated from the Premier League despite a late battle under Marco Silva last season, playing some exciting football at some times. If Bruce’s men can make a statement, which they are currently with odds of 11/10 to do, against one of the relegated sides so early in the new season it will serve as a huge lift to the squad and fans while also putting a foot in the right direction in what is a rough opening run.
    The Tigers are under the guise of new manager Leonid Slutsky, a close friend of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, meaning they could well throw a few surprises on the hosts at Villa Park. However, should Terry & Co. manage to deal with such a side so early on, under the pressure of the home support, it could do wonders for the start of the season.
    Reading (A)
    Bruce’s side should have one aim and one aim only this season, a return to the top flight. If they are to reach such heights, much like with their opponents on the opening day, they are going to have to topple the best.
    The Royals may have fallen in the play-offs last season, however, second only to promoted Brighton & Hove Albion they boasted the best home form in the league across the campaign, losing only twice (Chris Hughton’s side lost three).
    Jaap Stam’s men pose a formidable challenge, however, meeting them so early in the season before they have had time to settle in to a run of form at the Madejski Stadium is an opportunity too good to turn down.
    Should they pick up a result against the Tigers early on, and follow it up with a strong performance and result to match in Berkshire confidence should not be an issue for Bruce.
    Bristol City (A)
    Early last season the Villans paid a visit to a Bristol City side who would spend most of the season battling the drop, only to blow a 1-0 lead and be sent packing 3-1 with their tails between their legs.
    Once again the two have been drawn against each other early in the season and, despite a change in management and a host of new players, there will undoubtedly be a desire to get one over on City.
    Not only would such a win bring the precious three points but it would also bring with it another boost in confidence.
  2. limpid
    Aston Villa have been installed as favourites to win promotion to the Premier League this season after bolstering their squad with some high-profile summer signings. Chief among them is former England captain John Terry, a real coup for the club as the Chelsea legend had plenty of offers from around the globe. Steve Bruce has also brought in Ahmed Elmohamady and Glenn Whelan and the Villans are looking strong going into the 2017/18 season. Newcastle Utd and Brighton secured automatic promotion last season by a comfortable margin, so what can Aston Villa learn from the success of those clubs last season?
    Speculate to accumulate
    This really should not be the extent of Villa’s summer signing as history shows that some shrewd summer acquisitions can catapult clubs into the Premier League. Newcastle splashed out £54 million last summer and built a title winning side featuring the likes of Matt Ritchie, Dwight Gayle and Mohamed Diame. They were something of an anomaly because they were able to raise a substantial war chest by selling stars like Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Andros Townsend, but promotion does not come cheap. Brighton bought Glenn Murray and Shane Duffy for around £7.5 million, and the previous summer they laid out more than £11 million on players like Anthony Knockaert and Jamie Murphy. Villa have thus far spent less than £2.5 million and may need to display greater ambition if they are to haul themselves back into the top flight.
    Loan your way up
    The riches that await clubs upon reaching the promised land that is the Premier League are bountiful, but is can be a challenge to raise funds while languishing in the Championship, so the loan system can be a life saver. A key feature of Newcastle’s title winning escapades was the marauding wide play of Christian Atsu, signed on loan from Chelsea. Brighton meanwhile loaned a few players to bolster their ranks, but best of all loaned Glenn Murray, whose goals fired them to promotion. He was such a success that they bought him outright in January, but those goals in the first half of the season really propelled Brighton to promotion.
    Get the right blend of youth and experience
    The average age of summer arrivals at both Newcastle and Brighton was 24. So far the average age of arrivals at Villa this summer is 29, and the club could do with recruiting a few younger players. You need experience – Newcastle had it in droves with the likes of Diame, Gayle, Ritchie and Daryl Murphy, while Brighton could count on Sidwell and Bruno – and Villa have that from Terry, Elmohamady, Mile Jedinak, Whelan and so on, but it is a long old season in the Championship and you need plenty of young and hungry players to see you through.
    Turn Villa Park into a fortress
    Brighton accumulated more points at home than any other club last season and that drove them to a top two finish. They lost just three home games out of 23 as they were buoyed on by passionate home support, and that was invaluable in their promotion bid. Newcastle only had the fourth best home record but made up for it by securing the best away record, but they still won 15 games at home. If Bruce can turn Villa Park into a fortress, the club will set the pace next season. It is the largest and most impressive stadium in the division, and Terry and co should make it an intimidating place to visit. If you want to get betting on football then the 2/1 on offer for Aston Villa to be promoted looks a great option.
    Utilise a deadly striker
    Goals ultimately win you the division, as Rafa Benitez acknowledged with the shrewd recruitment of Dwight Gayle. The forward enjoyed the best goals per minutes ratio in the division and finished with 23 goals. Murray at Brighton also netted 23 times, showing how important it is to have a striker that has proven Premier League quality leading your bid to climb up to that division. Villa do not have that luxury, but there is still time to sign a striker. However, they can call upon Jonathan Kodija, who banged in 19 goals last season, finishing fifth in the goal scoring charts. He seems to be improving all the time and he can be the 20-plus goal scorer Villa need to mount a title challenge, while Scott Hogan can also chip in with vital goals.
    Aim to concede fewer than a goal per game
    Three teams scored 85 goals last season: Newcastle, Fulham and Norwich. What set Newcastle  apart was that they conceded just 40 goals, to Fulham’s 57 and Norwich’s 69. Keeping things tight at the back and conceding fewer than a goal per game was crucial to them winning the Championship. With Terry at the heart of the defence there is every chance Villa can emulate that. Brighton were outscored by four teams last season, including 10th placed Brentford, but they too only conceded 40 goals. The Championship is an open league full of goals, so maintaining a tight ship at the back is the best way to stand out and rack up crucial points.
    Author bio
    Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and tipster. He has covered the Championship for many years
  3. limpid
    From VillaAndLoyal

    This is a call to arms for all Villa fans - young and old, big and small, rich and poor, negative and positive: WE NEED YOU!

    Everybody is hurting right now. Nobody wanted to see us slide this far and things undoubtedly look grim. But what are our options?

    Run away and die? Accept defeat and relegation with 11 games of football still to be played? Or do we, the fans, the lifeblood of this grand old football club, come together as one? Do we become resilient and unmoving in the face of this increasingly desperate situation? As Aston Villa fans, we've always done the latter - through the good days and bad.

    Football is a funny old game and this next five days could prove instrumental not just for the rest of this season but for many years to come. Win the next two games of football and we'll be out of the relegation zone and into a Wembley semi-final. We'll have beaten our rivals twice in a week and the whole mood of this football club will have shifted from one end of the spectrum to the other. That's all it will take to change things dramatically: two wins.

    Everybody is taking shots at us while we're down. Newcastle fans, Albion fans, Blues fans, Wolves fans. You name it, they're relishing the prospect of us completely and utterly falling apart this week. Do YOU want to give them that satisfaction?

    Villa Park can be a noisy fortress on its day. Unfortunately a succession of extremely poor seasons has gradually drained every last ounce of positivity from our pours. We need to forget about that now - put the negativity to one side and focus on being the 12th man. If you're debating about whether to attend either game: please do, your Club needs your support now more than it ever has done before. And for those of you already going: sing and chant until your lungs can't take any more. Back the lads and the manager 100% for 180 minutes this week - whatever the circumstances. Leave your negativity at home and ensure the lion roars.

    We are the famous, the mighty Aston Villa. Our past glories mean so many people would love to see us fall. We, as fans, have to play our part in ensuring that does NOT happen. So I ask my Claret & Blue brothers and sisters: spread the word. Tell everyone you know. Encourage every Villa fan you've ever come into contact with to get down to our magnificent stadium tomorrow and Saturday and play your part. It's now or never - we sink and fall or battle back and soar.


    Source: A call to arms
  4. limpid
    The_Steve ponders the new season.

    Is it me... Or is there a renewed sense of togetherness in the squad? After the departure of Kersa and Culverhouse. Lambert giving the squad a clean break and bringing some leaders to the squad, we are seeing the fruits of that labour.

    When our senior players like Guzan/Senderos reassure or celebrate at full-time with our younger players (e.g. Baker/Grealish) it makes a world of difference from last season.

    For a squad often bereft of confidence last season, these small changes are noticeable and it's reflected in our approach to games. A more cautious but less naive Villa side probably explains why we've only conceded one goal in four.

    Nathan Baker looked a different player when next to Senderos - yes, it's one game and an outliner does not mean a pattern. But such a vocal leader at the back must be reassuring. Especially when you have full backs confident in their own positions.

    There are so many workhorses in this squad now. The midfield three of Westwood, Delph and Cleverley ran their socks off to close Liverpool down yesterday and I've noticed we've become harder to break down.

    The hope is the team is just as much a unit off the pitch as it is on it. Roy Keane has been a breath of fresh air. But I think there are various factors to explain this dramatic turnaround in a short period of time.

    For all the unnecessary restrictions placed upon Lambert. He's built a squad that is more competitive and drilled.

    We've still got Kozak, Okore, Benteke to come back into the squad. Sanchez and Cleverley will give us another option when settled. The likes of Grealish make for impact subs.

    Somehow, it feels like, some of the demons of last season of are exorcised. It's very early days, and I write high (not literally) off the back of an incredible start to the season, one I certainly did not predict.

    Togetherness breeds confidence and the team are proving it thus far.


    This post has been promoted to an article

    Source: Smells like team spirit?
  5. limpid
    With the relegation battle in full swing, both Aston Villa and Crystal Palace will be desperate to put real distance between them and the pit of abyss floating menacingly below them. The pair are locked on 34 points, seven clear of Fulham in 17th, with a win for either side practically ensuring Premier League survival for another year.

    For that reason, this weekend's match is one of the most important for both sides, and you can be sure it'll be a close encounter. Villa have been struggling in recent weeks, having lost three on the trot since their stunning win over Chelsea last month, with the home defeat to the practically condemned Fulham particularly painful.

    The loss of Christian Benteke to injury last month was a bitter blow, and without him Villa have looked much less threatening up top. Grant Holt has insisted that he's up to the task of leading the line in the absence of the Belgian, and while he netted in the Fulham defeat, it remains to be seen if he can adequately fill Benteke's boots.

    Indeed, Holt and co will have a tough time of it at Selhurst Park, with Palace having a one of the best defensive records in the league. Only Chelsea, Man City, Everton and Manchester United can boast better records at the back this season, with Tony Pulis working wonders on the revitalised Eagles since his arrival last November. With their last away win coming at Sunderland on New Years Day, Villa need an upturn in fortunes.

    But Holt, who will turn 33 on the day of the match, feels his side can rectify their horror form, starting at Palace this weekend,

    “I don’t think you can worry about results in this division,” Holt told the 'Express and Star',

    “You can easily go on a four or five-game winning run depending on who you’re playing and where you are. You can only ever worry about the next game. We’ve got Palace away, we know they’re in fine form and playing well. We’ll hopefully have a few lads back to help us out and bump the squad out a bit.

    “We want the points and achieve a level quickly. We know we’re there or thereabouts and it’s blatant to see there’s only seven points down to the bottom three. But as a group and as Aston Villa I’d rather be on the points we’re on than other people.

    “You have to see the positives and look where we are. We’re in a better position than we were last year so we will be fine.”

    As Holt mentioned, Villa should welcome back Fabian Delph, Karim El Ahmadi, and Gabriel Agbonlahor, with the trio having been injury doubts for the weekend. Paul Lambert revealed yesterday that they had trained, and are set to return for the club,

    "Everybody is okay," Lambert told reporters on Thursday, "The three lads that missed the Fulham game – Gabby, Fabian and Karim – are fine and they trained this week."

    Villa will need a big performance on Saturday against a stubborn Palace, with a blood and thunder encounter sure to take place. It will be a stern test of Holt and the attack in general, with a win sorely needed after weeks of suffering; there'll be no better time for a return to form.

    Fancy Lambert's boys for the win this weekend? Check out online betting at Betfair to give Palace vs Villa that little extra kick.

    Article written by Tom Gatehouse.
  6. limpid
    Premier League leaders Chelsea will travel to Villa Park on Saturday, with Paul Lambert's side out to avenge their controversial defeat to the Blues back in August.

    Villa went down 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in a feisty encounter that left the players feeling mightily aggrieved following a number of questionable decisions from referee Kevin Friend.

    Now with only 6 points separating them from the relegation zone, Villa need to keep up their good form following the 4-1 win over Norwich at the beginning of the month.

    But they will have to be at their best to oust Jose Mourinho's side, and will also be hoping for a little justice in this return fixture.

    Striker Andreas Weimann is eager to set the record straight this weekend:

    “We definitely should have got something out of the game down there because we played really well,” Weimann told the Mirror,

    “Hopefully we can do that again and get what we deserve this time.

    “They are top of the league now so everyone is looking to catch them and we hope we will be able to take points off them.

    “I think, attacking-wise, if we are on our game we can hurt anyone and we’ll look to do that against Chelsea.”

    Gabby Agbonlahor knows it will be a stern ask to defeat Chelsea, but insists the players are up for the fight,

    “We have to be on top of our performance to get anything,” he told the Birmingham Mail,

    “We’re looking forward to it because they are the games players want to play in."

    Villa have lost their last four matches against Chelsea, and only won one of their last eight. Christian Benteke could be the key man once again for Villa however, with the Belgian having scored in two of his three Premier League appearances against the Blues.

    The 23-year-old has endured a stop/start season so far, but has seemingly rediscovered his goalscoring touch ahead of the World Cup 2014 this summer, with his brace against Norwich giving him five goals from his last eight games.

    Benteke is expected by several bookmakers such as completebetting.com to fire Belgium to the top of their World Cup group, and his timely return to form will help Villa as well.

    The on loan Ryan Bertrand is unavailable to play against his parent club, with Lambert set to call upon Joe Bennett or Antonio Luna to deputise.

    What do you think? Can Villa best Chelsea on Saturday?

    Source: Aston Villa vs Chelsea preview: Benteke to the rescue?
  7. limpid
    Villa v Newcastle is one of the most interesting Premier League fixtures of the weekend (and not just because of Villa). Both sides have won one of their opening three games, and both sides desperately need a win to get their season going. It's going to be tight, hard-fought game, and Villa are a decent bet at 15/2 with Betfair for a 1-0 win.

    Villa have had arguably the toughest start to the campaign of anyone in the division, but have showed real improvement already from last season. A hard-fought win against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of the campaign was much deserved, and Paul Lambert’s men have given Chelsea and Liverpool competitive games since, despite losing.

    New striker Libor Kozak is in line for a debut, but the likelihood is that the former Lazio forward will start the game from the bench. Christian Benteke will lead the home side’s line and his battle against Fabricio Coloccini should be a captivating one.

    Newcastle fans were frustrated with their side’s lack of activity in the transfer market over the summer, with Loic Remy the only new face at the North East club. As such, Alan Pardew is starting to feel the pressure and the club’s supporters are looking disgruntled.

    It has been an underwhelming start to the new campaign by the Tynesiders, with only one goal so far in the Premier League this season. Remy is fit and likely to play in attack; whether he is partnered by Papiss Cisse or Pardew opts to play five across midfield remains to be seen.

    Yohan Cabaye is available for recall, but again Pardew has a decision to make regarding the France international. The former Lille man came off the bench against Fulham to a mixed reception from the Newcastle faithful, and a mending process needs to happen between player and fans.

    This is likely to be a close game, with potentially the odd goal winning the game. Benteke’s battle with Coloccini will be an interesting one, while Cabaye’s reintroduction would improve Newcastle as a team. If one team wins they can be relatively happy with the return of seven points from the first four games of the season, while the losing side would be put under increased pressure.

    Source: Aston Villa vs Newcastle: Two teams in need of three points
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