Date: 7th May 2008 at 2:57pm
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Have we reached a new hurdle in our development?

The way this season has panned out has seen us range between challenging for 4th place to languishing in mid-table. We reached our final home game of the season with the opportunity to move into 5th place and go into the final game of the season with automatic qualification in the UEFA cup in our own hands, but a toothless display once again showed frailty when we were on the brink of achieving something special.

We went into the game against Wigan arguably in the best form of the season, after 3 good wins against weaker teams (including a 5-1 hammering of our fiercest rivals) and a creditable draw away at Everton, so there was nothing to fear before kick-off. Wigan were on a run of 3 draws after they beat our beloved neighbours, so we knew it wouldn’t be a walkover, but the performance was in stark contrast to pacey attacking football that we had seen throughout April.

It was almost a replay of the games against Liverpool (A), Blackburn (H) and Fulham (A) when fourth place was in touching distance after a run of good performances, but as the expectation was growing, the speed, movement and sharpness seemed to slip away from us.

Then again, after a great second half mauling of Newcastle, a solid win at Reading and a great performance at Arsenal we lost our way and only claimed 1 more point in the next 4 games, which included home ties against Middlesborough and Sunderland.

After falling to 9th in the table, April was a great month for Villa. The goals were flowing and the team were on a high and once again, we found ourselves on the brink of European qualification, which signals yet another seemingly self-imposed stifling of our attractive style.

Squad quality and depth will always be a factor in a teams success, but we seem to have found a psychological hurdle that also needs to be overcome.

Whether it’s the players feeling the weight of expectation and struggling to play their natural game under pressure or being taken a lot more seriously by our opponents, it seems much easier to get yourselves amongst the chasing pack, but a whole new challenge to get to the front of that queue and stay there. Manchester City and Blackburn fans may recognise similar trends.

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