Date: 8th May 2009 at 8:41pm
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Friday, 1st May

MON talks about James Milner getting in the England squad for the World Cup next year. While I don`t disagree with him, I do think James would shine brighter in the Villa team if he played in the centre of midfield – anyone who reads this column on a regular basis will know I have been calling for this for a while now. The irony of that is it will mean he is far less likely to feature for England in that role!

Emile Heskey says he believes that our flirtation with qualifying for the Champions League will help improve the young lads. Again, there is little reason to disagree, as the experience should make them even hungrier to succeed next season.

A variety of transfer links come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, such as Andrew Surman and Rudi Skacel (Southampton), Yohan Cabaye (Lille) and Glen Johnson of Pompey. The last one is someone I would love to see at the Villa, but don`t think it will happen due to the transfer fee. Johnson is very good going forward, and I think this is one of the reasons we have struggled at home. I once heard someone say that you are “only as good as your full-backs”. Whilst that is certainly too simplistic to be true, it has a very valid point.

See, if I was an opposing manager going to Villa Park, one of my foremost instructions would be, “sit back and let their defenders have the ball”. If you look at the top 4, all of their defenders can play a bit. In particular, their full-backs can hurt you if given too much time and space. So what you do is close them down, and then the front players have a little bit more space than they would potentially have otherwise. When you play Villa that is not the case. Even the central defenders of the top sides can at least knock a nice pass. If you look at our defenders, Shorey (when playing well) and Bouma (when fit) are both good going forward so left-back isn`t too much of a worry. On the right, Luke Young is okay when the ball is moving quickly but when teams sit back, he isn`t really a threat with time on his hands. The distribution of our central defenders is woeful.

I`m not saying all of a sudden we will be brilliant with four ball-playing defenders, but I do think it would solve one of the problems with our home form and nothing anyone can say can convince me it is one of the basic differences between us and the top 4. Therefore, while Luke Young is solid, dependable and consistent, and a DEFINITE ‘keeper` in the squad, for our first XI I would rather see a Glen Johnson. Don`t get me wrong though, I want to add to the squad though and I would be disgusted if we was even contemplating selling Luke Young unless two absolute top quality right-backs were coming in.

Saturday, 2nd May

Sadly, Arsenal win and guarantee themselves Champions League football. On one hand I think it may not be a terrible thing in terms of our growth, but on the other hand, CLEARLY I would rather have Champions League football than not have it. It would have been a bigger pull in the transfer market and while I am optimistic about our chances for next season, I can at least see the point of those in the school of thought that we may not get as good a chance again for a while.

The real frustrating thing is look at how many results should not have been: Last-minute winner from Stoke in August, losing at Newcastle and at home to Boro in November, frustrating home 0-0 draws with Portsmouth, Fulham, Wigan, late equalizers conceded against Stoke and West Ham at home… the list does not end there. Now, I accept defeats, poor performances etc will happen. But it makes you think, if we had just won a couple of those draws and maybe drew a couple of the defeats we would still be right in there. I suppose pretty much every club below us is thinking the same thing (hell, even the Baggies would be in such a better position with just say, one more win and draw than they have) and Arsenal fans themselves will probably argue that they had a blip that lasted longer than they should. Even Chelsea and Liverpool will both consider they have lost far too many points at home.

So the point is yeah, it is easy to say we blew it. But nearly every other team in the league will be thinking similar thoughts, albeit for different reasons.

Sunday, 3rd May

Further links occur today. Brede Hangeland (Fulham) and Raul Albiol (Valencia) arrive and Micah Richards returns!

Monday, 4th May

Villa 1-0 Hull. WE WON! Okay it wasn`t a great game but it was nice to win. We were the better team and should have scored more – James Milner in particular seemed to be very interested in getting on the score sheet – but, Villa being Villa, we spent the last few minutes defending like madmen and I really thought Hull would equalize. Thankfully though we held out and returned to 5th spot. Hopefully this wont be the last win we pick up this season and we can stay in 5th. We have guaranteed a spot in the first round of the Europa League though and if we get through that, we are in the group stage and have all those extra games to play… I`ll tell you on the 1st September how I feel about our ability to cope with it!

The Directors area was pretty cool. First of all, we were in the 82 lounge and no – prawn sandwiches were not served! I had a very nice pork and stuffing bap, than you very much! There were plenty of ex-Villa men around, mostly from the European Cup winning team, plus Peter McParland, Ian Taylor, Alan Thompson and Jim Walker. I wanted to thank Jim for everything he did for Paul McGrath but as I was about to go over he got nabbed! Fabio Cappello, Stuart Pearce, Tony Adams, Steve Bruce, and Tony Pullis were all in attendance. Will be pretty dull going back to my normal seat against the Barcodes! 😉

Tuesday, 5th May

Martin O`Neill talks about his delight of qualifying for Europe automatically this season. That said, it would have happened last season had the top 4 maintained their monopoly of the FA Cup but Pompey winning it meant 6th wasn`t good enough for the first time since… the last time we finished 6th! What a croc!

We are (fairly tenuously) linked to Turkish striker Mevlut Erdinc, who plays for Sochaux.

Wednesday, 6th May

Curtis Davies says he doesn`t mind which of the central defensive partners he plays with. Personally, I`m not sure I want to see him with any of them…! For all the stick Carlos Cuellar gets, I would take him over Davies every day of the week.

Nathan Delfounso gets compared to Thierry Henry. Well, that`s nice for him. If he turns out to be half the player that Henry has been, he will do pretty well.

James Milner echoes the sentiments that we will be better prepared for an onslaught for a Champions League place next season.

The best news of the day is that Stilyian Petrov seems ready to sign his new contract, although it may happen at the end of the season. I sure hope he does sign, he has been player of the season as far as I am concerned.

Thursday, 7th May

Gabby looks to the U-21 European Championships and says he is concerned about burnout. Given our season started in July it is easy to understand that he is concerned about not having a break.

As attentions turn to the weekend, it looks like the team for Fulham could be depleted, with Ashley Young, Stilyian Petrov and Carlos Cuellar all injury doubts.

That is about all for the week. It is my birthday tomorrow so hopefully the Villa will give me a win to celebrate!


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