Friday, 10th April
Managers and players in both camps say that Sunday`s game is a must-win. If we can get the win and Arsenal draw or lose in a tricky game at Wigan, then all of a sudden the gap will not look so big.
Barry Bannan extends his loan at Derby until the end of the season.
Saturday, 11th April
The Academy lads took a bit of a pasting in a rare defeat at home to Leicester. 5-1 was the score-line, with James Collins (standard!) grabbing the only goal.
Arsenal extend their lead to 9 points. The turning point was, at 1-0 down in the first half, they had a defender (Kieran Gibbs) pull down Antonio Valencia which was a blatant sending off. Unfortunately the ref decided on a yellow card, and then in the second half Arsenal played very well indeed, scoring four goals in the last half-hour.
Sunday, 12th April
Villa 3-3 Everton. A good game which we deserved to win. Credit to Everton, they played better football then I thought they would with Arteta missing. However our defending was woeful, and had we defended properly then it is likely we would have won the game as we were definitely the team more interested in doing so.
I must say that I was amazed at David Moyes claim that they had a problem with our goals but there was nothing wrong with their goals. There was not a lot to defend in terms of the decisions to give the set-pieces for the second and third goals, they blatantly fouled Friedel for their second. Both teams had a penalty claim turned down that probably should have been given, and Fellani was lucky to stay on the pitch after elbowing Zat Knight.
Overall it was a very good game, and they are usually good games against Everton. I have always had a bit of a soft-spot for them too. I tend to find their fans to be a decent bunch and, well, I can`t stand their neighbours! Personally I`d like to see us both smash the top 4 next season!
Earlier in the day, the News of the World ran a bizarre story saying that, assuming we will not qualify for the Champions League, we will be having a clear-out in the summer. Not only that, but they also say we want to bring the average age of the squad down. WHAT? Honestly, for the second week on the trot I am moaning about people getting paid to right this gibberish but it really winds me up that stuff like this is even allowed to get to print. First up, we have a very young squad, and the older heads are needed because all squads need a good blend of youth and experience. Secondly, it is well known that we need a bigger squad. Finally, MON himself has spoke recently of adding to the squad, so how the heck did they come to this conclusion? Absolute drivel.
Monday, 13th April
MON says that he doesn`t believe there is any particular reasoning for the fact that we have struggled to win at home this season when we have been so potent away. I`d be inclined to disagree with that, in as much as away from home it is easier for us to play on the counter, where at home we face a bit more of a defensive wall from the opposition and consequently struggle to break teams down. This is where I want to see us look at signing players in the summer that can help with this issue. Not an easy task though; big money will have to be paid and chances are they will have to come from abroad. So maybe it wont happen
On the bright side, he talks about the great crowds we have been getting and says that is because of the attacking football we play. In all fairness, it`s very rarely been boring under MON. I can think of lots of things it as been, both good and bad, but boring is not a word I would use! In fact, a Celtic fan once said to me, “We play better football under Strachan, but under O`Neill everything seemed dramatic”. I know what he was getting at in all honesty.
In other news, Gabriel Agbonlahor is to have a scan on his hamstring after limping out of the game yesterday. With the speed he shifts at, I am sure this is not the last time he will have hamstring issues.
Tuesday, 14th April
Zat Knight says we need to improve our defending. *insert joke here*
The PFA Player nominations come out. Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor are both nominated for the Young (pardon the pun!) Player award. Apparently, AY is considered the favourite. Personally I am surprised at that, as I thought Stephen Ireland would be. But then I find Ashley Young strange I really like him, and consider him important to the team. However, for instance, the last time he got the Premiership player of the month award I didn`t even think he was our best player! Speaking of that, I didn`t expect to see Stilyian Petrov in the nominations for the player of the year but really, there can`t be many better cases in my opinion. I mean, Ryan Giggs is in there. Now Ryan Giggs is an absolute legend of the game, and a truly wonderful footballer. He genuinely is fantastic. But this season, has he really done more than Petrov to get nominated? I`d be hard-pressed to take seriously any argument that suggested he had. For me, we have been the best team outside the top 4 this season (and I believe the final league table will show that) and he has been MOTM in nearly all the matches that I have seen – and the only game I haven`t seen this season was QPR at home (lucky me!).
Finally, John Carew has had an interview in the Mirror where he has talked about loving life at Villa Park. I am sure we will still hear plenty of nonsensical rumours linking him with a move away, though.
Wednesday, 15th April
MON confirms the not-very-surprising news that Martin Laursen will miss the rest of the season. I just hope he is okay for next season.
There is good news though – a trophy! Yes, Aston Villa Ladies won their first County Cup for over a decade, beating Coventry City in the final! Kim Farrow and Natalie Gibson got the goals. Congratulations to all concerned.
Thursday, 16th April
MON says he will wait to talk about transfer funds with Randy Lerner until the end of the season. It stands to reason, as not much can be done now. That said, I suppose it makes you wonder what long-term planning happens! I just don`t think that MON is anywhere near as bad as some people make out, and I think the reason there is a delay is that money being available is not an issue.
Finally, there are suggestions that Marlon Harewood may be called back from Wolves. I can see the theory, but I will be very surprised if it happened. Heskey will be back the weekend, Carew is playing as well as he has ever done at Villa, Agbonlahor will probably be out for just a short while, Delfounso is still an option and Milner or Young are both flexible enough to offer other options if needed. Given that there is only 8 games left, I am sure Harewood will remain at Wolves.
So on to West Ham and hopefully a return to winning ways. I heard a rumour that kick off is 3pm on a Saturday surely not?! Woo-hoo!
The Week In Villa #34 (10/4/09 – 16/4/09)
Friday, 10th April