Date:Friday October 18 2013
Villa fans, like Spurs, are notoriously fickle, but this last couple of years much have been hell! Talk me through it?
Do I have to?
It certainly hasn`t been some of our finest hours. The overspending O`Neill years coming back to bite us, the total change of playing philosophy with Houllier, and then another total change of style and the utter amazement of McLeish`s appointment have tested even the most hardy of Villans and for some it has been a test too great.
Paul Lambert in some ways, and being presumed to be the fans` choice from the game against Norwich, was always onto a winner in the main in his first season, and even had he took us down, the majority would`ve still been with him this term, and the anger would`ve gone upstairs again.
But with how close it was pushed last season in terms of relegation, and for many fans, the lessons of balance and experience not having been rectified this season, there certainly isn`t a groundswell of Lambert can do no wrong this time round as he now has his doubters - even though they are probably in the minority - but it`s always such a convoluted argument amongst fans now.
You mention experience, most instantly jump back to the journeymen signings of yesteryear on massive wages, and not the fact experience comes from games played, and obviously somebody with 300 games under their belts in the lower levels of the Prem or towards the top of the Champ, will have more game savvy than somebody with only 50 games under their belts.
You question the balance in the squad in terms of so many youngsters without 1 or 2 more leaders to help guide them, you are met with the counter arguments of team spirit, learning on the pitch to help the youngsters develop and so on.
And I could go on and on, but there isn`t a middle ground. It seems you are either with Lambert and the plan, or against them both. There doesn`t seem to be a position, where like me, you love the idea of the youngsters being properly involved, you like Lambert`s overall plan and the way he`s working towards getting all levels within the club to play the same way now so U21s can be more seamlessly integrated BUT I fail to see why another two experienced players to guide the youngsters on the pitch would be a problem. Even if their remit was mainly to come on as subs and help control a game a bit better when it`s not going our way.
Youthful exuberance is a wonderful thing to have, but at times, a clean head not wanting to do things at 100mph can achieve a better result.
We can still achieve what Lambert wants to here, but we could do it without as much risk.
It does just feel that we were so burnt by the overspending years for little return, and the failure to keep one eye on tomorrow, that we`ve completely reversed ship now and the only thing we are looking at is the potential of tomorrow, but we aren`t keeping one eye on the now.
We got very lucky last year, and the explosion that was Christian Benteke, and I honestly think we have improved - the players have to have improved somewhat after what they went through last term - but I don`t believe it`s enough for the European push some are talking about. I just think it`s enough improvement for us to not be in the bottom reaches for as long as we were last season, and maybe, keep ourselves mid to lower mid table and above the battle at the bottom for the majority of the campaign.
I`d take that as growth and improvement this season, as last season was just all about staying up unfortunately.
Hopefully things will look up for us whatever the future may hold, as we certainly deserve something to cheer about after the last few seasons.
To the uneducated eye, Villa seem filled with a mix of kids, journeymen and two or three quality players. Have I missed something?
No not really. Wouldn`t call many of them journeymen in the traditional sense, more steady eddy types who really haven`t had the impact we`d have hoped for.
We are a team with the obvious quality players who name themselves, the rest are potential. Some will come good, some won`t, some will prove to be solid Prem level players, and some won`t. And if we are lucky two or three could be genuine stars of the future.
But that`s the direction we are in, players who can and will do a steady job (depending on your definition of steady) and then younger ones around them who could well turn out to be something special.
Obviously all of us hope the vast majority of the youngsters show they are capable of kicking on and finding the consistency required, as then the risk for a great tomorrow would`ve been a good gamble by Lambert and we will have a brighter tomorrow - subject to not selling them off too quickly, and then not replacing them.
At least there is hope in that category though as after the Benteke nonsense, Kozak appears to be the 'big physical` replacement and bringing him in this early, he`ll be far more attuned to the club and what Lambert wants from him, so the transition to first team regular should come easier for him if and when Benteke departs.
But we need to do that with all of them so the 'plan` of growing a team isn`t overly disrupted when a player leaves.
It`s all about how much you believe in these youngsters and how much they will grow and develop together, that`s where we are.
I am dismissing Villa as a lower-mid table team this season, but who are the gems of players I am ignoring?
It`s difficult to judge most of our newer signings as really only Luna and Bacuna have been relied upon regularly, and whilst both have failings they are still adjusting to the league so you expect that. Bacuna looks lively though and when Lowton gets his form back, hopefully we`ll see him further up the pitch and more creative as time goes by.
Kozak and the others have probably shown moments, but aren`t there yet so I`ll leave them alone for now. The big plus for us was Jores Okore who looked to be settling well, striking up a good relationship in defence and he looked solid, but obviously we`ve lost him to injury for the season now.
Again it`s difficult to pick out gems because it`s all potential, slight flashes, but not very consistent.
For many Westwood had a good season last term, but hasn`t been at his best so far but he could grow into a very good midfield link who keeps things moving, keeps it sensible and retains possession. Lowton has struggled and has been out of the team. Weimann has struggled by his own standards last season, and probably just needs something to come off for him in front of goal a bit more often to really get his confidence up.
Baker, Clark and Delph to me seem to have shown the most improvement, but again it`s slight, it`s slightly better positioning, slightly better decision making and so on.
In terms of last season`s crop of players, by January we should be able to tell with more authority who is likely to make it and who has improved enough to warrant that chance, but for our summer signings and those who may get promotions this season from our U21 crop, can`t say anything definite until next season at best really.
Or to put it another way, nobody has repeated the impact that Benteke had yet - but to be fair for some fans he was the Belgian Heskey until the second half the season as he didn`t really find his feet and shine until after our New Year drubbings, but that coincided with an uplift in the whole team as well.
On a serious note, How is Paul Lambert doing and what are your expectations for the season?
I`d be delighted with 10th place, but I`d take the improvement up to 13th place and a bigger margin of points over the bottom three come the end of the season, when compared to last time out.
It`s frustrating, because it`s not like Lambert is doing badly and I am on board with a lot of what he`s trying to achieve, even down to the fostering of a never say die team spirit, but he could have done much better in my humble whilst still achieving what he`s been trying to.
Expectation wise, I don`t really have any. I just hope we have another decent cup run. Performances and home form improve and we don`t get the massive drubbings we had last year.
Again it will be further growth and the least we can 'expect` is tangible improvement.
I suggested in the questions you gave me, that only Christian Benteke had a chance of making the Spurs best XI and I might even struggle to get another Villa player on our bench. What would your combined team be?
You signed that many players in the summer it seemed from the outside that I`m not sure I confidently know your squad, especially the newer players, so this probably won`t be agreed with by many. Oh and Okore would replace Clark if fit, and I know I`m playing Baker out of position.
Walker, Clark, Vertonghen, Baker
Delph, Eriksen, Capoue, Bacuna
The bench from Spurs would include Rose, Lamela, Sigurdsson. Then I`d have my pick from Okore, Lowton, Grealish, Westwood, Sylla, Gardner, Johnson, Burke, Weimann, and Kozak to make up the numbers.
Mainly the mix is because I have high hopes for some of our youngsters, but with the experience and quality brought by the names from your squad amongst them, I think would help them all reach their potential and develop better as opposed to just living in the deep end again.
Gabby Agbonlahor has looked a different player in recent months. What has changed and does he have an outside chance of making England's WC squad?
Gabby`s main problem has always been consistency really. When he`s not been happy and things haven`t been going for him, we see him pointing or standing with his hands on his hips, and although that did happen at points last season, I`d say as the months went on he grew into realising that he was now an experienced senior, somebody who needed to be leant on by youngsters during games and realised that he could help lead the team purely by rolling his sleeves up, putting in the effort and leading by example to use the phrase, even though he didn`t have the armband.
That mental shift if anything has helped see him back to his best, both in terms of his attacking threat, but also in terms of him being willing to track back and help out when needed. So his overall game seems to be back to its best, he seems to be enjoying himself and that`s coming over in his play and his confidence.
If he maintains this, I don`t see why he can`t be an option for England. When he`s on song you know what you`re going to get from him, and on form he`s a massive asset for us.
Spurs fans are hopeful / confident of making the Champions league places this season. Are we right or once again looking through white & blue glasses?
I think you`ve got more chance of having a Champions League shot, than we have of putting in a surprising Top 6 finish.
You`re in the mix, the new signings seem to have settled enough for there not to have been much disruption to your overall play, it depends ultimately whether you can keep yourselves in the mix as the league develops the buffer zones.
The worry for you I`d say at the moment is that those above you are generally more in form in front of goal (in the league at least!) and if you want to be up there, yes you have to nick games one nil, but you want to be more clinical than that otherwise you will lose points.
With how Manchester United have started you can probably take confidence from that, but equally seeing Southampton up there won`t have eased the pressure in thinking there was an extra spot available this term.
From what you have seen of Spurs this season, what are our best and worst qualities?
The worst quality for me ahead of the game, is a positive for you. You know how to set yourselves up at Villa Park to take the win, and work through our problems when the more natural counter attack doesn`t go for us.
But you`re not unbeatable, again you are struggling for margins in league games and we (even at home although not as often) are capable of coming back from one or two behind when we seem to throw whatever game plan we had out of the window and just work on the theory that if we keep running forward often enough, we`ll cause panic and get something from it.
We need to win the midfield battle, so if you don`t keep it tight there, which you haven`t in bits I`ve seen previously, we have a good chance. Shut midfield down though like you did in the Cup and make us go long and direct and I`m probably in for an unhappy weekend.
We sold our best player for £86m, what will tempt you to sell yours (Benteke of course) and where do you think he would fit in best?
I`d take £35m and a 10% sell on clause. I think we priced it very sensibly in the summer, the fee of £25m wasn`t overtly ridiculous but it was high enough to be a risk for anybody as whilst Benteke had a great season, and nobody in reality thought he would be a one season wonder, there was always that doubt and it played hugely in our favour despite the best efforts of his agent, who would still be pleased with his new contract no doubt.
I know he`s a big boy, but he needs to be in a team that plays football, he looks best for us when we are passing it around, using the channels, giving him the ball in space as opposed to just lumping it up to him.
Out of every team, I honestly believe he`d fit Arsenal better than anyone else due to their consistency of style. Bottom line is though, he really is that good, he wouldn`t look out of place anywhere really.
So our reserves beat your reserves 4-0 in the Capital One Cup. What will happen when our first teams face each other?
Ha, I take the point but sadly that wasn`t necessarily our reserve team, and with the names you included it wasn`t yours either. But I think that`s more disappointing for me than it will be you!
I honestly don`t believe it will be that open this time round. We`ll certainly look to be tighter, I just hope we don`t go one up front again as we have no outlet in that set up and it invites pressure, but I wouldn`t be surprised to see Weimann maybe in more of a midfield role, to allow another centre back in, to try and more dominate the midfield areas as we can push the full backs up more.
But it`s anyone`s guess. It depends if we turn up, because if we do it could easily be 2-0 to us. If we don`t it could be 2-0 to you. We are now three unbeaten and have picked up another clean sheet, so I`d genuinely be happy with a 0-0 and positives to take from the game.
Date:Friday October 18 2013
Winning Ugly (Monday December 9 2013)
Its Arsenal in the Cup! (Monday December 9 2013)
Sunderland v Spurs: The Report. (Sunday December 8 2013)
Sunderland vs Tottenham Hotspur. (Saturday December 7 2013)
VIDEO: Villas-Boas Proud Of Team Resolve (Friday December 6 2013)
Smoke and Mirrors (Friday December 6 2013)
Hugo The Boss! (Friday December 6 2013)
Is it really that bad? (Thursday December 5 2013)
Don't make him angry. (Thursday December 5 2013)
Go support another club (Wednesday December 4 2013)
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