Aston Villa: a look ahead
Posted by disappointmentzone on 22 December 2006
I know I have been calling for the Browns to lose football games, but there is one Cleveland-related football team I hope wins: Aston Villa. Soccer Spot is here with everything you need to know. English soccer comes up often at holiday parties — like every single damn party — and thanks to Soccer Spot you won’t sound like a wanker (that’s British for, um, wanker) next time someone asks you about the upcoming transfer window. Knowing English soccer is a great way to sound cultured while remaining completely devoted to sports. There is nothing not to like. Without Soccer Spot the world would glow a little less brightly. His words follow.
Aston Villa: Previews and Shopping Lists
Before getting to the January transfer rumor and the inevitable guesswork involved, let’s look at the upcoming matches to be played during the Christmas bonanza that the EPL likes to employ every year. (This is, of course, in direct contrast with Spain’s La Liga, which takes a rather impressive break at this time of the year). It’s actually a Boxing Day slate of games for everyone (December 26) except Charlton and Fulham who play at The Valley on the 27th. What jerks. Then there’s another round of games on New Years Day, which I assume is to keep the players off the sauce.
Beloved Villa, for their part, have this fairly exhausting schedule ahead of them in the next two weeks:
1. Home to Manchester United (1st) Saturday, December 23
2. Away to Tottenham (7th) Tuesday, December 26
3. Away to Charlton (19th) Saturday, December 30
4. Home to Chelsea (2nd) Monday, January 2
Fortunately both ManU and Chelsea are at home, but you can’t overlook the Tottenham game as the Spurs have been putting together quite an impressive little run: 7wins in the last 8 games (all competitions: 4 of 5 in the EPL). What’s not good is that ManU are coming off of a loss to West Ham and will probably be looking for blood, meaning Villa are probably in for a torrid time. My hopes are resting on a draw, which wouldn’t surprise anyone. The Tottenham game is winnable, but since it’s an away game, another draw wouldn’t be a terrible result. What is a must-win in many ways is the Charlton game. Even though they’ll be a little leg weary by that time, Charlton will be too and they desperately need the win before Chelsea comes calling on January 2.
The transfer window opens in January and for one month manager Martin O’Neill will be able to throw a little cash around and pick up some new players. The good news here is that several injured players seem to be rapid progress towards full recovery. The BBC has a short piece detailing this happy trend. The most important player mentioned in the article is striker Luke Moore, whose early season exploits were a major part of Villa’s success. Something I’d failed to note earlier was that both Moore and Laursen were injured in matches against Chelsea. So that’s another reason to dislike the Blues and also something else to hope doesn’t repeat itself on Jan 2. It’s not unreasonable that O’Neill will add several players in key positions, but even he’s not sure how much money he’s going to be able to spend.
What Villa Needs
The Villa squad is not all that bad, but it is lacking star players in every skill position. A quick breakdown of the various needs is perhaps in order. I’ll start with strikers and move on to the rest in the next post.
Milan Baros should be able to fill that role up front, but hasn’t been very productive since 2004/05. Some of that has been due to injury, but with only one goal so far this season (16 appearances – 9 starts, 7 substitutions in both the EPL and Carling Cup), he’s showing signs that perhaps Villa need to look elsewhere for a deadly finisher. However, Baros is young (25), so writing him off completely would be a huge mistake. After all, he scored 5 goals in World Cup qualifying while notching another 5 during Euro2004 en route to becoming top scorer; his injury during the World Cup may have made a difference in the Czech national team’s failure to get out of the group stage. That said, he needs to step up and play better, or offloading him in the coming summer may become a viable option. Juan Pablo Angel is showing some signs of age and some signs of being just another Julio Franco. He has 4 goals in 18 league appearances and 3 goals in 3 Carling Cup appearances, which is a better ratio than Baros, but, as with Baros, it’s not enough to win games at an elite level. Gabriel Agbonlahor has proven himself to be a versatile and solid player, if not a lethal striker. He’s a joy to watch, but he needs more support in the center in order to be truly effective in Martin O’Neill’s preferred 4-3-3 formation. This formation might be why Baros and Angel aren’t doing that well, but their failure to adapt is disheartening. With Luke Moore returning, Chris Sutton will occupy the bench even more, but could be called upon to play central striker late in games. Sutton was a patch over a gaping hole and while he’s doing adequately (1 goal, 3 assists in 7 appearances), it might be a wise investment to grab up a better striker to fill that role. I’m not particularly familiar with O’Neill’s old Scottish stomping grounds, so he might pull a good striker from there, but he might focus on other parts of the field first, especially with Moore coming back soon. If he does want a striker, there little doubt he’ll keep it economical and not attempt to drop $30million on a Ronaldo; I’d personally like to see him attempt to a grab for Florent Sinama-Pongolle, as unlikely and perhaps impossible as that may be (Sinama-Pongolle plays on loan for Recreativo Huelva in the Spanish Primera Division. His contract is owned by Liverpool which is the only way I see this as possible, which it maybe not be. I’m unfamiliar with the loan rules. Still, I rate him very highly.) The big rumor is currently Tottenham’s Robbie Keane, but that seems very unlikely, especially with Tottenham looking to solidify their position in the European section of the EPL table. Perhaps O’Neill will be persuaded, however, if he scores a few against the Villains in their upcoming game.
I’ll cover Midfielders and Defenders in the next post. For a pretty interesting read on Aston Villa transfer rumors, visit the Aston Villa blog rumor section. There’s a discussion there of Robbie Keane and also Preston’s David Nugent.