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Jim Cohen's season ahead.


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Villatalk regular Jim Cohen takes a look at our squad compared with the other top half sides from last season and gives you his predictions for the year ahead.

A couple of season's back I took a look at our squad and compared our commonly accepted second XI to those of the other major contenders in the top half of the league. It gave me hope to think that we had a strong squad, and this was a few weeks before the signing of Collins and Dunne, but I still felt it would mean we would have a good season; and we did, coming 6th in Martin's last season.

For those interested, these were the teams then:

1st XI - Friedel, Young, Davies, Cuellar, Bouma, Milner, Petrov, Reo Coker, Young, Heskey, Carew

2nd XI - Guzan, Lichaj, Beye, Clark, Shorey, Albrighton, Sidwell, Delph. Downing, Agbonlahor, Delfouneso

Since then, a lot has changed and I wanted to look at the same thing; so here goes. I am going to assume N'Zogbia has become a Villa player by the time this posts and I'll keep the formation to 4-4-2 to keep it simple and offer a fair comparison.

1st XI - Given; Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock; Albrighton, Makoun, Petrov, N'Zogbia; Agbonlahor, Bent

2nd XI - Marshall; Beye, Cueller, Clark, Baker; Bannan, Delph, Ireland, Heskey; Weimann, Delphouneso

We could of course include Guzan, Lowry, Hogg, Herd, Gardner etc in this too..

Back when I wrote the last article, I felt we could compete,and that the 2nd XI would finish in the top half of the table challenging for the top spots.

Currently, we obviously lack depth in wide areas, and I personally believe we need another central midfielder who can sit, break things up and distribute the ball in the way Stan and Jean "Deux" do, but other than that we have a pretty good back up team.

In comparison and to give this some grounding, here are the current starting and second XI's as things stand, the way I see it, from the other top half sides of last season.

I have not done the bottom half in order to keep this from going on, but from those teams, I don't see many challenging for top half finishes apart from maybe Bolton or Stoke, but that would be at the expense of Sunderland or Fulham. As for the promoted teams, Norwich, QPR and Swansea, I see no season long top half threat from them myself.

Man Utd:

1st XI - Dea Gea; Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Young; Rooney, Hernandez

2nd XI - Lindegaard; Fabio, Smalling, Jones, Evans; Nani, Anderson, Fletcher, Park; Berbatov, Owen

A phenomenal squad, sureley the title beckons again?

Chelsea:

1st XI - Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Cole; Essian, Lampard, Ramires; Kalou, Drogba, Malouda

2nd XI - Hilario; Ferreira, Rjkovic, Alex, Bertrand; Mikel, McEachran, Benayoun; Sturridge, Torres, Anelka

Lacks genuine width and cover in the middle. Will Torres fire the goals to back up an ageing Drogba?

Man City

1st XI - Hart; Richards, Toure, Kompany, Clichy; Milner, De Jong, Barry, Silva, Toure, Tevez

2nd XI - Taylor; Zabaleta, Lescott, Onuoha, Kolarov; Wright-Phillips, Johnson, Etuhu, Johnson; Balotelli, Dzeko

The addition of Aguero would add evan more goals to City who could challenge even higher next season. Great depth.

Arsenal:

1st XI - Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelan, Koscielny, Gibbs; Walcott, Fabregas, Song, Wilshire, Nasri; Van Persie

2nd XI - Almunia; Eboue, Squillaci, Djourou, Traore; Arshavin, Ramsey, Diaby, Rosicky, Gerviniho; Chamakh

A fully fit Van Persie could fire the gunners back to the top spot, but can they keep hold of their captain?

Tottenham

1st XI - Gomez; Corluka, King, Dawson, Assou-Ekotto; Lennon, Modric, Sandro, Bale; Van Der Vaart, Crouch

2nd XI - Friedel; Waker, Kaboul, Gallas, Rose; Jenas, Huddlestone, Palacios, Pienaar; Defoe, Pavlyuchenko

For me, still laking a top class forward, but an amazing midfield with goals coming from all over the pitch.

Liverpool:

1st XI - Reina; Johnson, Carragher, Skrtel, Aurelio; Henderson, Gerrard, Adam, Downing, Suarez, Carroll

2nd XI - Doni; Flanagan, Kyrgiakos, Agger, Kelly; Cole, Lucas, Meireles, Rodriguez; Kuyt, N'Gog

The mystery side for me, with so many changes in midfield this could go either way. Still weak at the back though.

Everton:

1st XI - Howard; Hibbert; Jagielka, Distin, Baines; Neville, Fellaini, Arteta, Osman; Cahill, Saha

2nd XI - Mucha; Coleman, Heitinga, Yobo, Duffy; Gueye, Barkley, Rodwell, Bilyaletdinov; Beckford, Yakubu

No depth anywhere for Everton who suffer massively from limited resources. Will they keep their top players fit all season?

Fulham:

1st XI - Schwarzer; Hughes, Senderos, Hangeland, Riise; Dempsey, Sidwell, Murphy, Duff; Johnson, Zamora

2nd XI - Etheridge; Kelly, Baird, Briggs, Salcido; Davies, Etuhu, Gecov, Kasimi; Dembella, Dalla Valle

Hard work only goes so far and under new management, I predict tough times ahead, especially if Zamora cannot stay fit.

Sunderland:

1st XI - Gordon; Bardsley, Bramble, Brown, O'Shea; Larsson, Cattermole, Vaughan Malbranque; Wickham, Gyan

2nd XI - Mignolet; Ferdinand, Turner, Richardson; Elmohamady, Gardner, Zenden, Meyler; Campbell, Cook

Lots of new additions, but have any of them actually made Sunderland better? Is it a case of quantity over quality for Bruce?

I would say our starting XI could compete with all of these and aim for a 6th to 8th placed position. I think we are better than Everton, Fulham and Sunderland so 6th is a possibility depending on our form and injuries.

The second XI would be top 6 as well; look at Everton's back up midfield, and Sunderland and Fulham's reserve strikers.

So I am going to predict a top 7 spot for us in upcoming season; Top 6 if all goes well.

Up the Villa!

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I happen to think Everton, Fulham and Sunderland will be higher than us this season, as will Stoke. Bottom half for us.

I think they all have more depth than us sadly and better managers IMO

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I did my predictions today and with the current squad, Insomia included, I am going for 54 points - which would have been 7th last season.

Bring it on.

But if you are predicting, why can't you say what position it will give us next season?
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Nice work and I admire your confidence. But, for me what you have said on Everton & Fulham applies to us as well:

No depth anywhere for Everton (Villa) who suffer massively from limited resources. Will they keep their top players fit all season?

Hard work only goes so far and under new management, I predict tough times ahead, especially if Zamora (Bent)cannot stay fit.

We cannot really expect to improve on last season by selling 2 quality outfield players to replace them with only one and by making a net transfer profit of around £24m in a window. The squad has been reduced as has the wages as has my expectation levels for this season. I think 8th (with the squad we currently have) is the best we can reasonably expect and 15th the worst. I would shake hands on another 9th spot if it was on offer to us now and to have the points in the bag to make us safe from relegation earlier than was the case last season.

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I think we should be in the fight for 7th spot with Everton, Sunderland, Fulham and Stoke and I would expect us to finish top 10 minimum.

Injuries will play a key part as, if we can keep the core 11-15 fit we should be comfortably in and around the top 7th and possibly pushing higher. If not we will struggle to be top 10 with the current squad.

There are a number of positions I would like us to be stronger. These are, in order of priority:

- sell Petrov bring in new DCM

- sell Heskey bring in new link striker/ACM

- sell/get rid of Beye bring in new RB

- sell Warnock bring in new LB

- sell Dunne or Collins and bring in new CB

And I would ideally like another flexible wide player as cover/options for Albie and the Zog.

If we had that I would be confident of being 7th challenging 6th spot.

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I'd expext us to finish between 8th and 12th. Quite a wide prediction to be honest, but there are still too many if's in my opinion.

The summer transfers in and out don't change our ability as a team much. We have a good starting XI but the bench is still weak. Although we have a few good options to bring on, I think we tend to over-rate some of them and expect a little too much.

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