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LancsVillan
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Yes here is part two of the season preview

First off it's the man usually found in a Vat of Guinness over in the Emerald Isle

BOF

Expectations are higher going into the 2008/09 season and rightly so. We are back in Europe. We just missed out on best-of-the-rest behind Everton last season and we've spent a fair chunk of dosh on the defensive side of the team. To date, 6 of our 7 new additions are defensive. After scoring the 3rd highest amount of league goals last season it's not that surprising that Martin is concentrating on Shoreying up the defence.

Our once-tiny squad is bigger and better than it was last season. Losing Mellberg was a blow in the sense that he was a much-loved, long-serving quality senior member of the squad. However in terms of what we were actually losing from the first team was someone who was playing out of position on the right though he did a more than creditable job there. He has been replaced by someone who has won or almost won player of the year for his clubs in the last 2 seasons in Luke Young. On paper that should be an improvement.

Bouma's unfortunate injury necessitated the quick recruitment of Reading's impressive Nicky Shorey without much delay. Shorey may not be quite the defensive monster that Bouma is but he will have a lot more going forward and is a good defender in his own right. O'Neill also quite rightly refused to meet Liverpool's ridiculous valuation of Scott Carson which was miraculously chopped in 3 when West Brom came calling. Preferring instead to hire the 2 Brad's and put an end to any goalkeeping crisis we may have for the short and the long-term future.

I have to mention it. The one thing that has dominated our summer has been Liverpool's illegal (there is no other word for it) tapping up through the media of Gareth Barry and the subsequent realisation that they didn't in fact have the money (or more pertinently the permission to spend the money) to buy him. Cue weeks and weeks of posturing, denial, ambiguous messages, accusations, ill-advised quotes and finally an admission from those controlling the Anfield money that, while they aren't bringing their manager's judgement into question or questioning Barry's abilities, they just don't think he's worth it (so you're in fact doing both right there lads Smile). Sidwell was brought in early in the summer, in my opinion as a direct replacement for the then-outgoing Barry, and a good one at that. Quite where Sidwell will fit in now if, as looks likely, Barry ends up staying I don't know but with a long season ahead I'm sure they'll all have their use.

Back to our prospects.

This season I fully expect a much meaner 'goals against' column. Young and Shorey are quality fullbacks, Friedel is arguably the best keeper in the league and the early return of Davies with the real pressure of Cuéllar breathing down both CB's necks means there's motivation AND real ability in the backline. There'll be no 15 or 16 game stretch without a clean sheet this season!

I'll be honest and say that while Ashley is undoubtedly the creative spark in our team, I don't expect him to get the numbers he got last season. Purely because he is now a known quantity and a marked man. Teams will go out from day one to cancel him out. That's why our current gaping hole on the right wing needs to be filled with quality otherwise we would be in danger of becoming slightly one-dimensional and predictable. As good as Ash is, he can't do it on his own.

I can't honestly expect us to break the dominant top 4 quite yet although one of my expectations for this season is that we close the gap and make progress towards that end. I don't think we'll be alone in it though. I expect it will be very much Villa versus Spurs for 5th place this season. I don't see Everton keeping up with us. They're struggling to find 11 players at the moment by all accounts and while Crouch completes Pompey's comedy double-act up front I will tentatively say we have the beating of them over a season. Losing Muntari was a big blow for them. He beat us on his own last season.

So for me I would say that we will be 5th or 6th again this season but hopefully closer points-wise to 4th place. I would like a good run in one of the domestic cups and I fully expect us to reach the knock-out stages of the UEFA Cup as 3rd place in the group of 5 achieves that. Then it's the luck of the draw from there.

There are many reasons to be optimistic for this season and with one or 2 further additions we might just have the squad to do ourselves justice on all fronts.

Fingers crossed and, as always, UP THE VILLA.

Now to everyone's favourite taxi driver

bickster

My Hopes and Fears the Forthcoming Season (2008/9)

This season for many will be one of hope and optimism at the start but for me it’s more about realism and consolidation. The summer has so far seen us buy quite a few new faces and right now we seem to have managed to keep hold of Gareth Barry. The manager has addressed the defensive problems we all knew existed and were lucky to get away with last season, we have a full compliment of keepers and centre backs and if I’m being picky we could do with another Right Back but considering we managed a whole season with none, going into this season with one seems like a luxury. If we can just add another couple of players to the squad, specifically a forward and a right-sided midfielder then the squad in terms of numbers will be complete. Rumours persist that we are actually still actively trying to purchase players for these positions and unlike days of yore, the rumours might actually be true!

So why am I saying consolidation? For starters Rome as they say wasn’t built in a day, with so many new faces in the side there are bound to be a few hiccups along the way, I don’t think any side can expect to bed in that many players and not have the occasional mishap. Last season the defence was a problem for us and MON seems to have addressed that with the majority of purchases so far being defenders and keepers but defences need time to click, we don’t have a settled Centre Back pairing at the back, injury conspired against us last season to achieve this and with the purchase of Carlos Cuellar and Martin Laursen’s supposed fragility I doubt we’ll have that settled pairing most of this season either. Like I said Rome wasn’t built in a day.

In the middle of the park things are more settled and the addition of Sidwell can only help the competition in the centre of the park a position we are now more than well endowed in if truth be known, we may even have the luxury of resting players and picking particular players depending on the opposition. I still however think that we need that right-sided player to really push on, its no use only having an attacking threat down one flank, hopefully the rumoured interest in James Milner (or someone else who knows in these heady times) comes to fruition. With Routledge hopefully providing some competition for that place we can look forward to a solid midfield that has all the options a team in our position needs.

Up front we have the established pairing of Carew and Gabby with Harewood the impact player coming off the bench, to really push on we need another striker, Carew is fragile, Gabby is still relatively young and could do with a rest at times, he looked very jaded towards the end of last season. There’s also Delfouneso coming through the ranks but I’d rather he played from the bench and was introduced in short burst for most f this season, give him a taste of it when we can but keep him hungry. That’s the crucial thing if we get a new forward, he has to be the right one and again that’s still an if and not a when, forwards sometimes don’t click straightaway with their new team mates and I’m still not convinced Gaby and Carew have clicked either.

For me this summer the manager appears to be addressing the squad size very well, well he will be if he gets in those extra two players but like I’ve already said, to buy this many players and to expect it just to click straight away is a big ask and that’s why this season is one of consolidation. Next season for me is the one to really put our foot down by replacing some of the players we have in our squad with even better ones. MON worked a few miracles last season, it would be improbable if he managed to do it again this season.

We do have something completely unexpected in our favour though, our opposition! Most of the teams we would expect to be competing with for those two places below the top four seem to be imploding in some shape or form. Blackburn have replaced the departing Hughes with the imbecilic Ince and half the squad appears to want to leave. Man City, well the chickens appear to have come home to roost with added vigour, the former Thai dictator seems to convicted in his absence back home which will lead to him being investigated by the FA and being subject to scrutiny as a fit and proper person. Ho hum how I laughed. Everton appear to be skinter than a skint thing and at present Kenwright is doing his usual preseason bluster about money being there to buy players, he’s seeking new investors – yawn, heard it all before, none of it’ll be true and so far their squad is even smaller than it was this time last year with no players coming in. I predict a slump of huge proportions for them to be honest. Spurs appear to be buying well in midfield but look to be in danger of swapping Darren Bents role of perennial sub that never plays to converting him to a lone forward who can’t miss a game. They will need to move fast to replace both Keane and Berbatov (if he does leave). Pompey, well they added a few (once those players were told by MON that he didn’t want them anyway Wink ). Even Liverpool seem to be in the financial poo, the dunderheads on the board appear to be at loggerheads with each other AND collectively with their dunderhead manager, this is our and every other teams hope that Liverpool implode but this season I feel they may just hang on to that fourth place with what they have, next season though unless the situation changes, they should be ripe for the taking. Newcastle, oh they really aren’t rivals, I forgot again they are up the creek without a paddle, their newish owner has only just realised the level of debt he bought – hahahahahahahahahha oh yes and Keegans still in charge. The rest, the likes of Boro and Sunderland, well they simply aren’t in our league.

So I think we can treat this as a season of consolidating on last seasons gains, bedding in a larger squad and allowing our main rivals to implode around us

Where I expect us to finish:-

Premier League – 5th or 6th place

FA Cup – Quarters or Semi’s (as long as we don’t draw you know who in the 3rd round

League Cup – A win would be nice but semi’s would be my expectation especially with our extra round bye

UEFA Cup – It would be nice to win it but this season a realistic expectation is to advance from the group stages, if we can do that I’ll be happy

Cheers Bicks and hope the bout of blandyitit clears up soon. That's enough from the Mods, it's over to the VT Newshounds and up first is

TrentVilla

Hard to believe I know but its here already the new season in all its promise, the highs and lows of the premiership rollercoster are about to begin and I can't wait for the ride. It seems like five minutes since we were heading down to Upton Park to say goodbye to Mellberg and hello to Europe.

I always look forward to a new season but this season brings with it a level of hope and expectation I've not felt in a very long time as I feel we are on the verge of something special. Despite a worryingly slow start to the transfer window MON has worked wonders on the squad and I feel we are better equipped to compete than we have been in 10 years.

The arrival of Friedel and the rebuilding of the defence should give us the sort of solid base we used to once upon a time took for granted at Villa Park but that has been conspicuous in its absence in recent years. Last year we had a "we'll score one more than you kind of spirt" this year I want to see the same attacking flair without us leaving the back door open.

The likes of Shorey and Young may not be the 'names' or exciting signings some hoped for but they are good solid defenders who will come in and settle quickly and make their mark this season. While in midfield the addition of Sidwell will give us a new dimension and if, I repeat if we hold onto Barry well we can only be a better side than last year.

Sure we need another player on the right of midfield, many will already know of my desire to see Milner fill that gap but I also have faith in Routledge and think he may surprise a few this season. While upfront as I think everyone knows we still need a little something extra, I can't help but imagine this side with a young Dwight Yorke upfront.

Many I know are dreaming of an assault on the top 4 and I don't think we are far away but this season I would be content with 5th or 6th I think both are more than realistic and would see us establish ourselves as the best of the rest and the team most likely to challnge the Sky 4.

In Europe I think we will sail through the early rounds and the group stage and into the later rounds of the competition there are some magic nights ahead of us at Villa Park and I simply cannot wait. As for the domestic cups I'd love to see us life one of the cups but would probably sacrifice domestic cup progress for league and Uefa cup success.

This side is very much still a work in progress but with MON and Randy we know the direction we are heading and this season will be the time the rest of the country sit up and take notice.

Predictions:

Premier League: 5th

FA Cup: Whatever round we draw Man Utd

League Cup: Semi-Final

Uefa Cup - Quarter Final

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Personally BOF I don't think MON saw Sidwell as a direct replacement for Barry, the fact we have been linked with Huddlestone, Johnson and De La Red indicate this. As these 3 are more in the Barry 'mold' than Sidwell. In fact Sidwell just isn't in Barry's class when it comes to passing range and defensive ability.

Also while I think Milners a good player, I can see him improves us in the way I feel we need. We need an intelligent attacking midfielder, who rather than bomb down the wing all the time will drift inside an make things happen with composure in possession and and eye for a pass. A player in the Arteta mold would offer us something we don't have at the minute.

Much has been made of needing another striker and unless we can snap up Santa Cruz I think we are better off not signing one, as we would need a player that can play with both Carew and Gabby, so a pacy striker, or a target man is out of the question for me.

As for our Prospects this season I feel 5th or 6th (which seems to be the general consensus) is a good shout. However a back up RB and a Right sided midfielder of type I have mentioned could turn us into contenders for 4th place. My only concern is whether we can put together an assault on the 4th, 5th and 6th places while trying to progress in the cups. I believe that we now have a team that is more than capable of doing well in the cup comps, but it can't be at the expense of our league form. The premiership must still be our priority.

Predictions.

League: 5th

UEFA: quarter finals

League Cup: quarter finals

Fa Cup: 6th round

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Sidwell was brought in early in the summer, in my opinion as a direct replacement for the then-outgoing Barry, and a good one at that. Quite where Sidwell will fit in now if, as looks likely, Barry ends up staying I don't know but with a long season ahead I'm sure they'll all have their use.

:shock:

really Bri. Totally different types of player for me, and MON's dogged resistence of Liverpool's Barry advanvces would indicate he plans to use both, in the same MF i would guess.

For me, Sidders is more of the Gerrard type, getting box to box and being the more offensive player in the central MF. Barry would compiment him well IMO.

I think if anyone is squezzed out it might be Stan/Coker.

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It was interesting to read everyone's thoughts on the upcoming season.

Last season I predicted 7th to 10th depending on injuries, so a 6th place finish was fantastic. We have bought well but I believe we still are exposed in a couple of areas. So with the extra games that we will be playing through the UEFA Cup and expected further progress in both domestic cups, I think a similiar finish to last season can be expected and will be applauded.

I take note that some supporters are taking hope in a couple of clubs imploding during the season, at the same time I should stress that there's always another club williing to take their place, not just ourselves.

I think we do need a right midfield player, a striker and an attacking midfielder to unlock defences. We need to take the pressure of ashley young, and we need to provide variation in our attack, rather than down the left side. Depending on the qaulity of these signings before the transfer window closes, will greatly reflect on our ability to finish higher than sixth.

My Predictions:

Premier League: 6th

League Cup: Quater-Final

FA Cup: Semi-Final

UEFA Cup: Last 16

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