This Is Villa Park

This Is Villa Park

Friday, August 17, 2012

"It’s Going to be a Really Positive Season for us at This Club"

Sat anxiously up in the Doug Ellis Stand one day watching Aston Villa under the management of Alex McLeish, Randy Lerner came to a stark realisation that enough was enough. He needed to try to reverse, and hopefully erase the last two seasons of steep decline.

McLeish simply could not carry on as manager after the club flirted with relegation.

Villa survived yet luckily McLeish did not.

Paul Lambert's appointment breathed a new lease of life into the club, which just three months ago had escaped the daunting depths of the Championship. Aston Villa have been crying out for a new hero, a feel-good factor, and Lambert should surely produce that after his pretty seamless start to his Villa career.

After a nightmare eleven months, Villa fans would surely settle for mid-table this season now our nerves have reached a calmer level, heartbeat has regained a steady beat and fingernails have returned to normal length. However, could we believe in bigger, better things? All that Lambert is asked for at this moment in time is to simply build on the positivity surrounding his arrival and pre season.

Looking ahead to the new season which is just under twenty-one hours away we have a lot to look forward to. The only way can be up for us.

Darren Bent has two goals under his belt from pre season, and has appeared galvanised by Lambert's arrival and will be a man on a mission after being left out of the England squad for Euro 2012. "Everyone on the planet knows he can score and hopefully if he is playing, everything goes well for him." It was a frustrating season for the big man up top, yet he will face a lot of weight on his shoulders with many of the media labelling him Villa's key man. But as Paul Lambert rightly pointed out today in his pre match press conference, we cannot just rely on him. We are a team full of exciting prospects and good players.

Gabby Agbonlahor will also have a point to prove after his career hit the pause button under the last two managers, yet this season will also get off to a slow start for him after the Birmingham born striker suffered an injury setback. Also Charles N'Zogbia must justify why McLeish paid £9.5 million for him last summer. With a decent performance against Nottingham Forest from the winger I expect to see a few more dazzling displays.

The comparisons between Martin O'Neill and Lambert are endless, from the rolled up tracksuit sleeves to the glasses and the wariness of the press. Hopefully if he can achieve just a slight bit of what O'Neill did at Villa Park it will feel like the last two years never happened.

My Key Man;
Stephen Ireland is a talented player, plain and simple. He can pick a pass, read the game, score a goal, make a tackle. You can ask him to play all over the park and he'll still produce a dynamite display. The past two seasons have been tough for Ireland and ones to forget. Neither Houllier or McLeish could get the best out of a player who was named Manchester City's Player of the Year in 2009 for his blistering performances week in, week out.

Ireland should fulfil every ounce of his potential this season, yet this depends on whether or not he is used in his best position. By trade the Irishman is an attacking midfielder, however I feel he can be utilised in any position in midfield. In my opinion, you'll get the best out of Stephen Ireland when he's just playing off the striker as he did against Chelsea on New Year's Eve.

For me, Ireland needs a team to be built around him. Yet as I've already pointed out, Aston Villa are a team not a one man club.

Bye Bye Defence of 2011-12;
A noticeable weakness in the Villa side is our defence. James Collins has already departed to our claret and blue counterparts, yet still Stephen Warnock and Alan Hutton remain.

An overrated player for years, Warnock is poor defensively. It's baffling that a better left back hasn't been drafted in, or at least Warnock hasn't been shifted down the pecking order behind Ciaran Clark. Even Big 'Eck could have done this. Lambert's more than likely already looking for a new left back however there could be one waiting in the wings.

Eric Lichaj, even though a right back, spent most of last season playing at left back, impressing in that very position. Also, Enda Stevens has crept into contention after a string of pre season games. He's still possibly not up to Premier League standards just yet so perhaps a new left back with experience in the league could help Stevens with his progression into the first team squad.

Oh and then there's Alan Hutton. I'll drive him anywhere in the world myself, personally, with a forced smile just to see the back of him.

Nonetheless, Stephen Warnock and Hutton are pieces of deadwood that the squad do not need. As the Lambert era begins, they are the type of remnants of previous regimes that Villa just don’t need.

Players to Watch;
Brett Holman, despite being one of McLeish's signings the Australian has gotten of to a hot heeled start at Villa. Expect him to be celebrating a few more goals this season and his locks flying about as flawlessly as the Villa Park pitch.

Karim El Ahmadi, also another addition this summer, the Moroccan can pick out any pass perfectly. Give the ball to him in any position and he'll weave you out of trouble. A smart buy, Lambert has pulled off a decent signing for the claret and blue's who will hopefully impress the faithful over the coming season.

Realistic Ambitions;
After some horrible finishes in the last couple of seasons, it would be rather optimistic of fans to expect Lambert’s Lions to burst back into the top six so quickly, especially given the greater levels of competition at that end of the table. Mid table should be the big aspiration this season, along with a good cup run or two, with this season being more about laying foundations for a European attempt the following year and beyond.

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