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Tables and the reconstruction


LancsVillan
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by OutByEaster

***Warning: Optimism ahead***

Last year after 31 games we had 35 points; this year from 31 games we have the same 35 points. The league table tells us nothing has changed.

Progress on the pitch is about more than numbers though.........

It’s easy to see progress all over the place at Villa Park, or at least it is away from the pitch. The training ground is almost complete, the re-development of the Holte Hotel continues apace, attendances are up, Nike are on board and all things business Villa are speeding forward.

Progress on the pitch has been that little bit more difficult to find. In terms of the league it’s been nigh on impossible.

So, where are the signs of progress on the pitch?

They say the table never lies. They’re wrong. I think there are a number of areas where we can see development on the pitch, and a number of areas where the progress off the pitch will impact on our league placing.

I will humbly begin if I may dear reader by pointing you in the direction of our striking behemoth. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you John Carew.

Now that’s progress. Let’s face it, big Johns tasty, and once we get someone buzzing around him or a midfielder bursting towards his flicks, he will help us score goals, and hopefully get a fair share himself.

John Carew represents two steps of progress; he’s better than Chris Sutton, who in turn was a better target man than anyone we had before.

Of course you can argue that having a big man up front to aim at isn’t necessarily progress, but I think he’s that and a bit more besides. He’s a better prospect up front than anything we had last year in my opinion.

Good teams are built from the back however, and our back four is still a building site. Some would say a bombsite, but they’d be missing the progress being made.

Gary Cahill is shaping up to be a very very good central defender, he’s big, strong, brave, quick, can use the ball and works hard. Yes he makes mistakes, but he is progressing rapidly. The player I see in front of me now is better than the player I saw at the end of last season, the player I see next season might just be one of the best young centre backs in the country.

Freddie Bouma has also improved this season and is showing excellent form down the left. He’s no longer the target of the boo boys, something he’s achieved through some excellent performances, most notably against Chelsea.

In midfield, Gareth Barry provides consistent excellence, and should continue to do so. Gareth is in his prime now, and we should see the benefit over the next two or three seasons.

Stilian Petrov has begun to show us that he’s settling into English football, he’s not the new Steven Gerrard, but he’s not bad, and he’s getting better.

Craig Gardner and Isaiah Osbourne are bubbling under and will provide us with some depth next season. Neither has looked out of their depth when they’ve appeared for the first team, and both will be much the better for the experience.

Out wide, Gabriel Agbonlahor has shown some signs of adding some football to his speed. He might benefit from that if he’s moved back inside. If not, he’ll certainly benefit from his first season as a winger in the season to come. He’s now scored more goals for the first team than he scored for the reserves. It’s easy to forget just how little footballing experience he has, he’s pretty much gone from youth football to the Premiership and the more he plays the better he’ll get.

Ashley Young is a young man with a lot to prove and a huge price tag hanging round his neck. He’s made a slow start, but I think we’ve seen flashes of a big talent. I’m happy that he’s here, and the fact that the club wanted him and got him makes the price immaterial. It’s only expensive if you can’t afford it.

Shaun Maloney has also provided some excitement in some nice cameo appearances. He carries some real excitement on the ball, and I enjoy watching him. Progress? Well, I think he’s got more to offer than Lee Hendrie.

I see improvements in our squad compared to last season in all of these players compared to their performances last season or the performances of their predecessors.

The only exception to this has been Petrov who hasn’t bettered the performances of Steve Davis last year, but has improved on his own performances pre-Christmas.

So, that’s nine individuals that have made some progress this season, doubtless there are a number of people that will disagree.

They aren’t a team yet, but the improvement in these individuals bodes well for our future. The job of this manager, and what he’ll ultimately be judged on his how well he gets the better quality of the individual players available to him to perform as a team. He’s had a season to look and learn and he’ll be better for that opportunity.

The other big thing for me is that under this board, wherever I see a weakness in the Villa squad, I see an opportunity.

In the past, wherever I saw strength, I worried about a sale.

I can see opportunities being met up front, at right back, in midfield, possibly at centre half and on the right hand side during the coming summer. That’s progress off the field making an impact on the field.

Maybe I’m just being overly optimistic, but for me the green shoots of recovery are already starting to show, I’m hoping we might start to make good on that promise before the end of this season.

The league table disagrees; it tells us that we might be on course for our lowest ever points total.

It doesn’t tell us that we have a number of exciting young players making progress, a potential England centre half, a Captain in his prime and a dominant number nine who could become a Villa totem.

The league table tells us that relegation is still a possibility.

It doesn’t tell us that we have a board looking at a whole different set of possibilities, and the drive and financial muscle to change things in the summer.

The league table tells us that things haven’t changed a bit on the pitch.

I disagree. The league table’s got a lot to answer for; this is a team on the up.

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I can't agree - you seem to suggest a squad is being built - but if the manager always picks the same 11 - what is the point ? - Moore, Ridgewell and Davis - look likley to leave in the summer - to be replaced by more Petrov's and Bardsleys ?

Carew - yes a great player - but he was a signing of conveinence - Lyon came in for Baros - if they hadn't I don't think we would have got Carew.

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The other big thing for me is that under this board, wherever I see a weakness in the Villa squad, I see an opportunity.

In the past, wherever I saw strength, I worried about a sale.

That's an excellent point and demonstrates the gulf in Villa pre Lerner.

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Nice article, Scott.

Just as a bit of info, I thought I'd write down last season's last 7 results

Arsenal 5-0 Villa

Villa 0-0 Albion

Villa 3-1 small heath alliance

Wigan 3-2 Villa

Villa 0-1 Man City

Liverpool 3-1 Villa

Villa 2-1 Sunderland

Won 2, drew 1 lost 4 F8 A14 GD -6 Pts 7

I think we'll do better than that, this time round.

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There is currently a lot of potential within our set-up, but until any of it is realised it isn't worth anything.

Our results have been dire this season, and whilst the future may hint at better things I am more interested in the here and now - nothing else is certain.

Unfortunately the here and now doesn't feel any different to the yesterday I have expereinced for the last x amount of years - and the ultimate irony of all this potential we have would be to go and lose most of it by surrendering our premiership status.

Frankly, I am not interested in what my pass in future seasons, I want results now. As I expect Randy Lerner, MON and 99.9% of Villa fans do too.

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.....are you vying for one of the new posts at B6...... your appraisal is flattering of our current players and your post is a tad indulgent.

..... look we are where we are because we are poor..... you do not have to look at the league table just watch the games. Fans can wallow in tomorrows all day long if it makes them feel better, but i just don't buy it.

The job is obviously a lot bigger than we all first thought ( including the manager) and anything less than major surgery will not suffice.

I am not confident all these stars will be busting a gut to get to Villa Park and i believe it will be a long job to sort it out...... because despite Randy's financial support there is nothing on the field to suggest we are on the way back....... and incoming players are not fools.

Martin O'Neill needs to sign a few players that resemble " his type of player" because that is what we are in dire need of right now. call them, talismen, resillient , winners or what you will, but you know the types.

We have lots of young players who typically have form " peaks and troughs" but i wouldn't hold my breath that there are any stars of the future there, i hope i'm wrong.

..... yes we have to keep the faith, but it is very hard work....... but lets tell it like it is and not condescend.

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