The Villa Honeymoon Is Over
I have remained steadfast in my belief all summer that Martin O'Neill would deliver but I've got to hold my hands up. Something has gone terribly awry in the last 4 weeks that has given me grave doubts about the future. Our already small squad is decimated and we are totally unprepared for a long, hard season. We had the spotlight on us this summer - a lot of players and a lot of other clubs were watching us closely to see exactly what kind of muscle we have under the new regime. Not just financially but also an increased ability to be able to lure the top players to come and play for us.
The simple truth is we haven't punched our weight.
I agree with one of the posts above that states there are very few players who have moved this summer that I envy other clubs of signing, and if they are weren't Mon's targets then it's irrelevant anyway. However, what I find totally unacceptable, if not drastically negligent, is selling before replacing on the scale we have. If players like Aaron Hughes and Steven Davis were allowed to leave and players were lined up that have fallen through (which I believe could well have been the case), that's forgivable up to a point. That's the way it goes some times and life isn't always fair. But we don't appear to have learned from these instances because last week we've sold another player (Liam Ridgewell) before replacing him. Now if we can bring in Curtis Davies, that would be very good news as he would be improving us in that position. But until his services are secured, why have we agreed to let a player who can still step in and do a very competent job for us go?
I find it absolutely mystifying and I'm at a total loss as to explain our strategy in the transfer market now. It's not just the lack of the kind of signings we all hoped for - it's as much about our suicidal willingness to keep selling off our assets with no apparent sign of replacements in sight. MON has dug an almighty hole for himself over the course of this summer, and it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say this because I love the man and believe he was the best choice to take over the team last year, but at the moment he seems intent on only digging that hole deeper.
The honeymoon period is over.
Last season was one of transition - this year it's about results. We're not going to win the league and we're probably not going to break the top four. But anything less than UEFA Cup qualification this year (and that means as low as 7th place) has to be considered failure. At the end of last season, there was nobody outside of the top five that was not within catching distance. Everton, Bolton, Blackburn, Portsmouth, Reading - solid sides with a couple of particularly good players. With the right additions, there's no reason we couldn't be going into this season confident of overtaking these clubs. The opportunity has been there. The resources are there. We have every right to ask why we haven't made those necessary additions but either way, failure to catch these teams cannot be seen as an acceptable return for this season. That is a realistic ambition and its high time we start holding our club accountable to results.
If we finish 10th this season, some will say that's progress over our 11th place finish last year. Well, technically it will be. But it won't be good enough. We have got to compete. We say we're a big club and we have to start acting like one. Everything's coming together off the field but it means nothing if you don't get it right on the pitch. Last season, it wasn't Mon's team. He didn't have a summer to prepare the squad. He had to work with what he had. He's now had plenty of time to make this HIS squad and whatever money he spends between now and the end of the transfer window, MON has to deliver this season. There are no more reasons or excuses why we can't be going into this season to compete. It's as simple as that.