Saturday, August 15, 2009

Aston Villa: English Premier League Preview, 2009/10

In the last few seasons of the English Premier League (EPL) Aston Villa have threatened to end their run of mid table mediocrity and break into the elusive cash rich top four.

With Northern Irish man Martin O’Neil in charge the Villans have finished sixth in two consecutive seasons. At one point Villa were in the top four and were looking to displace Arsenal. An eventual end of season slump caused a dark shadow to appear over Aston Villa’s bright start to the campaign.

For Villa fans it must have felt like ground hog day.

Martin O’Neil would read the Sunday papers and before Aston Villa was mentioned the words “smallest squad in the premier league” would introduce every Villa story. That should have been a sign to spend some of Aston Villa’s American owner Randy Lerner’s cash.

The squad in normal times would have been strengthened but that was before the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) hit.

Even Football can’t spend paper money all the time and having American owners take charge of Football clubs doesn’t seem such a good idea now. It’s the Arabs that have all the cash these days.

The scourge of small squads hit Villa badly as injured players and loss of form during the run home ended any hopes of a top four finish. Danish defender and club captain Martin Laursen got injured so did Norwegian big man John Carew. Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor lost form while Gareth Barry was having daydreams about Manchester city’s cash. All these misfortunes were not as critical as the signing of lumbering English striker Emile Heskey.

For some unknown reason the English striker was signed by Marin O’Neill and keeps getting picked for Capello’s English squads too.

Villa have showed some form during pre-season winning the Peace Cup and defeating the likes of Porto and Juventus while also enjoying a win over Fiorentina last weekend. Stiliyan Petrov injury could give the already thin Villa squad a light feel in midfield.

Key Signings:

Senegal International defender Habib Beye joined Villa from Newcastle in August 2009. The 30 year old will strengthen the club's defensive options and should be seen playing at right back.Beye also has 35 caps at international level and featured for Senegal in the 2002 World Cup.

Exciting young quick midfielder Fabian Delph signed for Villa in July 2009. The 19 year old signed from Leeds United and is considered one of the rising stars of English football.The England under-21 international was named in the PFA League One Team of the Year, and won the FourFourTwo Young Player of the Year, as well as three end of season awards at Leeds.

Stewart Downing joined Villa from Middlesbrough in July 2009. During the 2008-09 season supplied 362 crosses, just behind Villa's Ashley Young, who provided the most in the Barclays Premier League with 377. However Downing will not play for a few months as he is injured, he will provide cover for the departed Garth Barry.

Key Players:

Gabby Agbonlahor went off the boil towards the end of the 2008-09, but he did finish with a tally of 13 goals two more than the previous season.His goal tally included an eight-minute hat-trick in the opening game against Manchester City. It was the fastest treble since Robbie Fowler's (now at North Queensland Fury) three for Liverpool against Arsenal in 1994. Villa needs Gabby to step up this season.

Ashley Young won the PFA Young Player of the Year award last season. The English winger’s two goals in the 3-2 win over Everton was one of the highlights of the season for me. Manager Martin O'Neill later described the player as 'world-class' and a 'genius' in the post-match press conference. Perhaps that goes some way to explaining the England International’s form slump towards the end of the season.

Young Guns:

Shane Lowry was born in Australia and his international future could be with Ireland as his parents were born there, and the midfielder has already represented the Republic at under-21 level.The young Australian arrived at Villa with fellow Aussie Chris Herd when they were just 15.Last season he was on the bench in five matches - the UEFA Cup-ties against Hamburg SV away and both legs against CSKA Moscow, plus the FA Cup-ties against Gillingham and Everton. Perhaps Australian coach Pim Verbeek should ask Chris if he wants to go to the World Cup with the Socceroos instead, especaially after this weeks 3-0 thrashing they dished out to the Irish in Limerick Ireland.

Chris Herd has been described as a dynamic and energetic central midfielder, graduating from the Academy set-up to become a regular reserve player.Herd was unfortunate to miss a big chunk of last season through an injury playing just seven Premier Reserve League appearances, although he was on the subs bench for the UEFA Cup game away to Hamburg SV in December. If he sees some game time with the first team you never know maybe a call up to South Africa, it's a long shot but anything can happen in a World Cup year.

Nathan Delfouneso scored on his full first team debut with a goal against MSK Zilina in the UEFA Cup and did it again against Hamburg two weeks later. The 18 year old made 13 senior appearances for Villa last season, including five starts in cup-ties. The striker possesses natural speed good dribbling skills and has an eye for goal but the pressure is already on for the kid to perform with French football magazine Onze likening him to Barcelona and French star Thierry Henry. Delfouneso should see more game time this season.

Facts and Figures from

Coach Quote: “Show me the money Randy!”

A Football Story Best Villa 11:

————————Brad Friedel(USA)——————

(Sen)Habib Beye—Curtis Davies(ENG)—Carlos Cuellar(SPN)—Bowma(HOL)

(ENG) Young ——–Petrov(BULG) Reo-Cocker (ENG)——Downing(ENG)

———————(NOR) Carew————Agbonlahor(ENG) —————

A Football Story Prediction: Mid-table mediocrity. Unless they get new signings.

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