Premier League Preview Number 7: Aston Villa

11 August 2009

Aston Villa

Biggest Ins: Stewart Downing should give Ashley Young a run for his money at left midfield once he returns to full fitness. Fabian Delph is an investment for the future in the midfield. Habib Beye will provide cover at the back.

Biggest Outs: Zat Knight was a competent center back; nothing more, nothing less. Gareth Barry was a critical piece to the midfield that Villa are hoping can be filled in a few years time by Delph.

Easiest Month: April. Aston Villa travel to Bolton before hosting a tricky home tie against Everton. A trip to Portsmouth is next followed by an end of the month meeting with Birmingham City. This is potentially a ten point month.

Toughest Month: October. This will be a month that could easily set the tone for the rest of the season. Villa host Manchester City and Chelsea before going to the Molineux. The month ends with a trip to Everton. Best case scenario is five points; however, I expect this to be a three point month.

Five Questions About Aston Villa This Season
1) Who replaces Gareth Barry in the midfield? Stilian Petrov is a lock as the other center midfielder. The problem is the only other players who are a natural in the position are Nigel Reo-Coker and Steve Sidwell. I honestly don’t remember seeing Downing in that role; and with him injured right now, that’s not an option yet. Fabian Delph is the future, but it’s all about now. I expect Reo-Coker to start the season alongside Petrov.
2) Can Nicky Shorey and Emile Heskey stay healthy? Shorey is vital at left back and when he was out, Luke Young had to take his place. That threw off the balance of the back four as Young is a natural right back. Emile Heskey, despite what people want to think, is a good man to not only score goals but to create them as well.
3) How deep are Aston Villa? With a total of twenty-four players, it’s a very thin squad. Add the Europa League to that mix, and should injuries pile up, there is no dependable cover. If Villa can figure out a way to add depth either before the transfer window is out, or in January, it will vastly improve their chances.
4) Will Aston Villa take the Europa League seriously? Once Villa’s season started to take its toll on the squad, Martin O’Neill got out of the competition as quickly as possible. If Villa don’t want to take European football seriously, do the world a favor and just get out now.
5) Who makes the biggest impact off the bench? Can a Craig Gardner or John Carew make a difference when goals are needed late? Can Carlos Cuellar tighten up a defense? With depth an issue, the bench only becomes that much more important.

My Ultimate Reality: Make no mistake about it, Martin O’Neill is a very good manager. However, this season he has the task of keeping the squad together with the heart and soul selling out for a few extra quid. I like this squad, but the depth is an issue I cannot overlook. They were top four fodder until their legs went last season. I don’t expect them to be that high in the table again this season, but have a season where they stay between sixth and ninth. When it’s all said and done; should the cards play out like last season, Villa will be playing European football again after this upcoming season.


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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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