Date: 29th February 2008 at 2:12pm
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Aston Villa return to the scene of Martin O’Neill’s first game in charge of the Claret&Blues as they look to continue their push for that final Champions League spot. Can they do it? Of course we can, we have Marlon Harewood. Full preview, as Doug Ellis would have wanted, from Vital Villa!

Vital Quotes:

Aston Villa boss Martin O’Neill, or as I’m going to start calling him Martin “State the Obvious” O’Neill has admitted on Friday that he needs to make some moves as soon as the summer transfer window opens. With the squad relying on the majority staying injury free, the boss understands what he needs to do to ensure we keep up with the Scouse teams that seem to take all the limelight when mentioning that 4th Champions League spot. Our man spoke to

“I know people are talking about us possibly going into Europe and there’s a group of sides with nothing between us at the moment.

“Liverpool have got the strong advantage because to be honest, they have the best and strongest squad of the sides competing.

“You’d say Everton are the next best. We’ve been amazing in the sense that we don’t have a big squad and we wouldn’t have been able to cope with a lot of things such as more games and injuries.

“We tried to strengthen in January – it didn’t materialise. We could have got extra numbers in, but I thought to myself, if we avoid certain things, that’s something I’ll address in the summer if we can.”

If we can? IF? Martin, are you seriously sitting on the fence that much that you aren’t 100% CERTAIN you can bring in quality and quantity?

Turning his attention to title-chasing Arsenal, O’Neill believes that their midweek jolly into Europe to attempt to overcome Kaka & Co. at the San Siro will have no baring on how prepared Arsene Wenger’s side will be when Coker & Co. visit the Emirates Airline Arena, or whatever it’s called:

“The truth is I would love to say that they would take their eye off the ball, but it is simply not there.

“The league is there. They have been top of that, or second all year – and I don’t see them taking it easy against us. They are two competitions that they prize greatly. So I just don’t see it.”


On the Arsenal side of things, the story still dominating in the media is of that horrific injury to Croatian forward Eduardo.

In these modern times, where football clubs have any number of doctors, counsellors, sports psychologists and the like, one of the richest clubs in the country had a somewhat low-cost way of rebuilding what could turn into a shattered team spirit as youngster Theo “I went to a World Cup and spent the entire time playing Playstation it was wicked cool” Walcott explained:

“We had a couple of days off and then actually went bowling to keep our team-spirit up.”

There was no information as to who won the bowling. However my money is on ‘crazy’ Jens Lehmann as the first person to use that special metal contraption to roll the ball down the alley, there’s always one in a group that does!


On a serious note regarding Eduardo, a special mention must go to Birmingham City defender Martin “whoops” Taylor. A strange move for a Vital Villa ed to praise a Birmingham player, but I think his actions since his tackle, which on reflection was far from horrific despite the injury incurred, have been an example for all footballers to follow:

Speaking to the Independent Taylor said: “I will be really happy on the day when I see he is back in the Arsenal and Croatia line-up and when he is scoring goals again.”

“I went to see him [Eduardo] on Saturday but, unfortunately, he was still recovering from an operation, so first thing on Sunday morning I went to the hospital and he was really good to see me.

“Since then, I have read in the papers that he would be happy for me to visit him. That’s something I’d like to do.”


An extra special mention for a quote of brilliance that isn’t related to Saturday’s game at the Emirates Airline emergency landing ground.

This comes from Michael “I should have stayed at Anfield“ Owen as the media continue to point out that King Kev’s revolution at Newcastle United has fallen flat on it’s face. This was best explained Toon captain:

“Confidence isn’t at its best.”


Arsenal Gunbarrels Team News:

I don’t think it needs explained as to why Eduardo isn’t available.

BBC are reporting that former Brum City loanee Nicklas Bendtner will partner Emmanuel Adebayor upfront as Wenger looks not to rush back Robin van Persil from his thigh injury. Eboue is suspended, Toure misses out but Abou Diaby should return to the squad.

Almunia looks set to continue in goal despite crazy-Jens Lehmann having deputised well up until last weeks 2-2 draw with Birmingham City.

Player to watch: Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott, the saviour of English football (apparently), better than Wayne Rooney (apparently), was a better option for the 06 World Cup (apparently), is the next Thierry Henry (apparently)…

…scored his first Premier League goals last week. Definitely worth being the ‘one to watch’ in the off chance he does it again.

AVFC Claret & Blues Team News:

The “I’m Off” Bearded one, Olof Mellberg is back in contention following his recovery from an ankle injury and is likely to replace Craig Gardner in the Right-Back position.

Patrik Berger (remember him?) is one to watch for BBC Sport to see if he makes the substitutes bench.

It’d be nice to see Marlon Harewood start, with Gabby perhaps taking an Ashley Young style advanced winger role. However I think we have a greater chance of the Pope turning out to be Protestant.

Player to watch: #9: The Hare

Every time he has made it onto the pitch since our point up at Anfield, Harewood has changed the entire dynamic of our team and the game. Do it again Marlon!

Match Facts & Stats…Not!

  • This weeks “musical interlude” is as topical as the last two featuring Gazza and some youngster from Reading.

  • The band, comes from France, just like Arsene Wenger and half of his Arsenal squad.

  • They are named after the greatest football team, ever.

  • So enjoy French band Aston Villa with their song, ‘Rockmusic’

  • Hope you enjoyed that. Villa have failed to defeat le Arse since December 1998, when a Dwight Yorke penalty earnt all 3 points for Villa.

  • To give you an idea of how long ago that was, the Villa squad included Mark Bosnich, Fernando Nelson, Simon Grayson and on the bench was Darren Byfield! Ian Wright and Tony Adams were still playing for Arsenal.

  • The Emirates Stadium cost £430 million to build. Two Emirates’ stadiums (capacity: 60,355) would cost just £62million more than the reported cost of one Wembley, offering up 30,000 extra seats on top of what the new national stadium can offer.

  • I couldn’t mention “Emirates” without sneaking in an Aerospace link. The Airline (and key sponsor of Arsenal) made a Net Profit of over $624million in the first half of their 07/08 financial year.

  • Theo Walcott went to a World Cup, honest!
  • Ref Watch:

    The referee is none other than Soccer Am favourite Mark Battenberg, sorry, Clattenburg.

    The man with the whistle on Saturday last took charge of a Villa game when Super Marlon Harewood scored an overhead kick (yes I couldn’t believe it either) in the 2-2 draw with Liverpool up at Anfield.

    Mark is averaging 3.6 yellow, and 0.3 red cards per game.

    Match Prediction:

    Again I have used the likely Villa formation on my Xbox 360.

    I probably shouldn’t have as it suggests that Carew, Young, Agbonlahor, Barry and Berger will all score as Villa win 5-1 at the Emirates.

    The common sense in me says 1-0 Villa with Laursen grabbing it!

    Next Up:

    After we beat Arsenal, Villa return to Villa Park to face Gareth Southgate and his lucky Middlesbrough side on Wednesday 12th March.