Who Are Villa Up Against?
With many a Villa fan already convinced next season's qualification for Europe is a foregone conclusion, I thought it of interest to consider a brief as possible evaluation of the competition.
First off though, I don't think many fans have realised the huge sums of cash that will be on offer to each club in the close season under the new deal. This was definitely the season to get promotion and certainly not relegated, 50 million Sheffield were likely to be losing and imagine Charlton all that investment by Dowie and nothing to show for it, ooops.
Villa survived in 11th, discussions will follow on who, why and what is needed and then who, why and whether they are any use when O'Neill does his spending, so I'll assume we will improve the squad, and hopefully the players coming in won't take a season or two to adjust, so that come late August we fans are all looking optimistically at European qualification and some success.
So who will stop us?
The top 4.
Man Utd are a young exciting squad whose only limitation is they need some decent fill ins, they now are willing to spend to get them and Sir Alex will, their position will be strengthened.
Chelsea, ditto with knobs really.
Liverpool, again a force to be reckoned with and they now have real money, a decent backbone and a superb tactician as manager, even if he has a thing about Spanish players, expect them to improve too.
Arsenal. Hmmm, young, hugely talented squad with financial restrictions compared to the others and no real strikers if Henri is injured, in my view they have the man though in Wenger, they'll be there too.
Next tier and this is supposedly where we will be fighting it out.
Spurs, making huge noises, but inconsistent and no reason to suspect any change for me plus the added inconvenience of Europe, no major improvement despite the recent rhetoric, a capacity of 36k their main limitation.
Everton, broke, hugely in debt, but with the best manager out of the top 4, to achieve Europe twice with his resources makes me wonder what would happen if they get taken over, they will too but in time for next season ? Hopefully one of their down seasons.
Bolton, without Allardyce, I doubt many will hold out much for their chances, I don't.
Reading, one of the best managers in the Prem at one of the worst clubs, wonder if he'll still be there come season start, can see them maintaining their position if Coppell stays but otherwise, too limited
Portsmouth and Harry, the wily old fox, already active in the transfer market but again financially challenged.
Blackburn, another good manager, another financially challenged club, another mid table finish.
Villa, the dream team, best manager in the Prem, best owner in the Prem, best players in the Prem, and a legend at centre forward, able, to spend billions what could go wrong ? Watch this space.......
Boro, at best another season of promise, of injury after injury and if lucky another midtable finish.
Newcastle. They have nearly everything, even a nutter of an owner for now, who along with a continuing propensity to buy injury prone players, ensures their mid table obscurity. If they ever get a manager who knows what he's about they'll be a real force. If ever they get real finance behind them and a good manager they will break the top 4.
Man City. Villa without the manager or the owner we have, always in Utd's shadow, but it could soon change and then we would have another contender
West Ham avoided relegation, thanks to the odd cheat who for once have a manager who might repeat past glories and an owner who might finance him well enough to really show if he is as good as he's always promised he would be. My surprise bet if they stay up for a top 6 spot next season.
The rest and those coming up I discount, they'll all be lucky to avoid the drop, Sunderland excluded of course, because they like Newcastle have everything but the right financial backing and they do have the man. If he can repeat this seasons turnaround again, he could even win the Premiership, now wouldn't that be a story for the movies. I can't see it, not until the season after maybe, he doesn't have enough quality players and although he'll give many a run for their money he will ultimately fall foul of the quality that rules the Prem.
Well that's it for now, come late August when the money has nearly been spent, the manager merry go around is over and optimism is at its height, I'll have a rethink and suggest along with all you others how good our challenge will be.
For now suffice it to say, we can only improve as all the other clubs will hope to do.
Can we improve more than them I think so, can we improve enough to tackle the top 4 to find those 20 points extra required, some way to go yet, methinks, unless O'Neill really is the Messiah :)