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Season Preview 2009-2010


villafan306
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It's that time of year again folks. The Football League season has begun, England have thrown away the Ashes again and every newspaper across the land has its 60 page Premier League guide. Well, I'm here to give you my take on what should be on the Aston Villa page!

Last Season

Last season was something of a rollercoaster. At one point it looked as though we may have an outside chance of winning the title then a month or two later we looked in danger of missing out on Europa League qualification. Of course, we did manage to secure a second consecutive 6th place finish. Our cup campaigns from last term should be forgotten - and quickly! Early exits from the League Cup and the FA Cup were probably not as painful as the UEFA Cup defeat in Moscow after we put the kids out.

It is quite ironic then that one of the most exciting points ahead for the new season are those kids. But more on that later. Overall I think we overachieved at the start of the season and underachieved in the second half. However, I would have taken 6th place this time last season.

Transfers

Ah yes. Another Martin O'Neill transfer window filled the usual amount frustration, over reaction and over ambition from Villa fans everywhere. Newspaper speculation has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime and everyone interprets things their own way which leads to some interesting debates on the forums.

The departure of Gareth Barry and the retirement of Martin Laursen have been the key losses and ones which (on the surface) MON has not yet addressed. O'Neill has done some very good business in the transfer market. Stewart Downing, Fabian Delph and Habib Beye have been signed. That's an England International, one of the hottest prospects in English football and one of the most highly respected right backs to grace the Premier League in the last 2 seasons. Downing though won't play for us until December, Deplh may struggle to adapt to the Premier League (though the pundits are tipping him as one to watch) and Beye has been brought in as cover to Luke Young.

There is still time left in the window and I'd expect to see 3 new faces at Villa Park before it has closed. A central defender is a priority and I'd expect us to add a creative midfielder or a striker to the squad before the 1st of September deadline.

Pre-Season

This has probably been the best pre-season in recent years. The highlight of course was the Peace Cup victory. The Peace Cup saw our side without Gabby, Milner and Gardner take on some of Europe's elite. Both FC Porto and Juventus fell to our youngsters who put on some magnificent displays against the Champions League sides. Mark Albrighton in particular shone against top class opposition while Eric Lichaj, Barry Bannan and Ciaran Clark also showed that they may be ready to perform on a bigger stage this year.

Albrighton will almost certainly be James Milner's understudy for the right midfield position and Ciaran Clark may well be our 4th choice central defender this season. Bannan and Lichaj may get opportunities in the domestic cups or maybe even in the Europa League should the need arise.

The Year Ahead

I can't help but feel that this year will be make or break for Martin O'Neill. First of all I need to state that we have not replaced Laursen or Barry - who were 2 of our most influential players last season. Carlos Cuellar has shown in pre season that he may have what it takes to step in Laursen's boots but they are big boots to fill. Carlos was not too impressive last year but showed glimpses of quality and has looked much more dominant in pre-season. Davies (if he plays without carrying an injury) has plenty of potential to realise. If these two play to the best of their ability I have no doubts that they will be formidable.

Meanwhile, not replacing Barry may not be such a bad thing. Barry and Petrov as a midfield partnership lacked a lot of pace and a lot of bite - something which new boy Fabian Delph brings to the team. He may only be 19 but ask anyone who has seen him play on a regular basis and they will say he is ready. Most Villa fans coming away from this weekend’s pre-season victory of Fiorentina would say that he showed maturity and composure beyond his years. He is not a direct replacement for Barry, but with Petrov controlling the midfield and Deplh being the box to box player they should fit in together very well.

As for the rest of the team Bouma's impending return will give us competition for the left back role while Beye signing gives us competition at the right back berth. I personally think we should play with 5 midfield men next season. Petrov and Deplh in the central roles, Downing (when fit) and Milner on the wings with Ashley Young in the free role he excelled in so much when he first joined us. Young and Milner wreaked havoc on Fiorentina's back line on Saturday and throwing Downing into the mix will cause many a Premier League defender sleepless nights. Heskey is looking in good form this pre-season and if we are playing with one striker he would be a shock choice right now. However, Carew scores more goals and both men lack Gabby's pace. Plus with Delfounso on the fringes of the first team we seem to be well set in the strike force department.

So with another defender of two to give us some more options and maybe another central midfielder to give us some more goals we will be set for our annual assault on the top 4. But how successful will we be?

Well with Man City's spending spree we can safely assume they will be in the mix too this year and Spurs finished the season strongly so will also be competitors. Everton haven't strengthened in the summer but Moyes hasn't steered them wrong so far. Arsenal, Man Utd and Liverpool have all lost key players too so we may be in for some interesting times at the top end of the table.

My personal view is that we will finish in 6th place, behind Arsenal in 5th with Man City claiming the coveted 4th placed slot. I would love to see us winning some silverware this season though.

Stay tuned to VillaTalk this week for more previews to the upcoming season.

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  • Moderator

Good stuff. Looking forward to it all and hope Citeh don't do it. I think we'll be right in the mix for 4th/5th. Hopefully last season's experience stands us in good stead. With Gabby a year older and wiser I'm expecting a load of goals from him.

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I agree with just about all of that, in particular I share your wish do see a 5-man midfield. I'm just a little impatient to see Guzan, Albrighton, Clark. Bannon and Delfouneso given runs. I don't buy into all this "he'll be good in 2 years' time" sfuff. And I suspect MON feels the same on this last point.

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Nice article but I don't see why next season should "make or break" the manager. We are in a highly competitive league, it is just not realistic to expect improvement every season. There will undoubtedly be a blip at sometime or another -- do we really want to go back to the Ellis era of chopping and changing managers everytime there is a blip, or do we give the best manager we've had in over ten years the time he needs to build a hegemony here?

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I don't buy into all this "he'll be good in 2 years' time" sfuff. And I suspect MON feels the same on this last point.

If you're good enough, you're old/young enough.

2 or 3 of these young lads stepping onto the fringes of the first team negates the need for MON to go splashing silly money this transfer window.

Ferguson regularly brings through top quality youth, and I think MON wants to tread the same path.

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  • VT Supporter

good article.....I don't see the managers job under threat at all or up for scrutiny.... we know what he is, warts and all.

I'm still dissappointed a Wesley Sneijder has not come in and a class centre half.

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Nice article but I don't see why next season should "make or break" the manager. We are in a highly competitive league, it is just not realistic to expect improvement every season. There will undoubtedly be a blip at sometime or another -- do we really want to go back to the Ellis era of chopping and changing managers everytime there is a blip, or do we give the best manager we've had in over ten years the time he needs to build a hegemony here?

Apologies, I notice that I seemed to skim over my point as to why it is make or break.

The top clubs are getting further away from the rest each year. Now with Man City spending silly money too I feel that this could be the last chance for us or anyone else (other than Man City) to break into the top 4 - hence the make or break comment.

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Well personally as it stands now we are ill prepared for the season and IMO we have too much to do to make us as competitive as we were last year.

Indeed the line from the club of " I also haven't seen a whole bunch of other Clubs (except for one) being hugely active in the window at this point in time." I find , frankly, astonishing.

We were woefully light on numbers, quality reinforcements anyway as the end of the season showed. Then we lost two of our best players and suffered further injuries to key positions. I would say that there aren't many clubs who had a more pressing need than us to strengthen in the summer and as we approach the first game of the season when it is vital to get off to a good start we have not strengthened sufficiently well enough, IMHO.

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