The Week In Villa #33 (3/4/09 - 9/4/09)
Friday, 4th April
Martin O`Neill refuses to write off our chances of finishing 4th. While Arsenal are the favourites, it is hard to dismiss what he is saying when you look at the remaining fixtures of the respective clubs. After all… they definitely have the harder run-in… one loss for them and one win for us… all of a sudden, the gap looks pretty small… the pressure is very much on them, not us… plus they are still in three competitions… oh take that look off your face, it could happen!
Saturday, 5th April
Arsenal beat Man Citeh, meaning we have to get something out of the game at Old Trafford or the gap stays at six points. GULP!
From our camp, Gareth Barry does his captain 'thang` and issues a 'rallying cry to the troops` asking for our best performance of the season. If it was anywhere other than Old Trafford…
Sunday, 6th April
Well it wasn`t our best performance of the season, as GB wanted. However it was a lot better than recent weeks. I have asked time and again that we play 4-5-1 rather than 4-4-2 and I was disappointed to see MON hadn`t reverted back, but in all fairness, the performance deserved something.
I was a staunch defender in the face of all the accusation that we were 'just lucky` during our unbeaten run and I refuse to be hypocritical over the bad run and moan about bad luck. However I do have to question some of the decisions, such as five minutes injury time and three very blatantly incorrect offside decisions given against us. That is me not complaining about luck, that is me accusing the officials of being incompetent and showing either intimidation or bias at Old Trafford.
As I said though, I will not be one of these people that gets bogged down in talking about luck. The fact is that, prior to them scoring their third goal, we had two opportunities that we didn`t make the most of (I refuse to join the bash-Gabby bandwagon but the way he give the ball away just before they scored was pathetic) and overall we showed that in order to make the step up in quality, we need to sign some real top class attacking players. That is not me having a dig at MON though, because buying top players in that area of the field is just about as difficult a job as there is in football management, in my opinion.
But the bottom line is, Old Trafford is the home of the best team in Britain, probably the second best team in Europe - in fact, the world - and the performance left me with belief that we can go on a real good run between now and the end of the season. In addition, it was nice to see Nicky Shorey back in the side and doing a decent job. I think he should have been given another chance earlier than this but in all fairness to MON, he was woeful to begin with. Better late than never though, eh!
Monday, 7th April
The aftermath of the Man U game is (predictably) all about them, so let us move on.
Weekly MOTM performer Stilyian Petrov says similar things to what I have done at the top of this review, in as much as Arsenal have the more difficult run-in and 4th is not dead for us.
On the transfer news front, we are linked with three players: Daniel Sturridge, who we have been linked with before; Thomas Vermalen, a Belgian defender who plies his trade with Ajax; and a bizarre story suggesting we will swap John Carew for Tottenham`s Jermaine Jenas. I wouldn`t be surprised to see us sign Sturridge, I know little of Vermalen but I tell you now, I will be AMAZED if that Carew/Jenas deal was to happen. How many times are these swap deals mooted compared to how often they happen anyway? I can`t believe that I couldn`t do a better job than some of these 'journalists`, I tells ya!
Finally, we receive the honour of being named 'Community Champions` by Kick It Out, which is the equality and inclusion in football campaign. Yet more good off-the-pitch news that we can be proud of.
Tuesday, 8th April
The dinner for the fans that travelled to Moscow happened this evening. Graham Taylor gives an interview where he talks about Martin O`Neill having an admission of guilt, hence why the dinner even happened. Plenty has been said about the Moscow affair so there is no point in going over old ground, but what I will say is that I am a little tired of GT and a couple of others at the mo. It seems that there are lots of people lining up to have a dig at MON in the media lately; whether they are right or wrong in what they say, I don`t see any of them doing any better a job though, do you?
Wednesday, 9th April
MON is charged with improper conduct following the Manchester United game. It is indicated that the charge is based on what was said to the officials in the immediate aftermath of the game and not his post-match comments. In all fairness, I think I would have gone ballistic if I was in his shoes.
We announce two friendly matches for pre-season, away to both Peterborough (Saturday 18th July) and Colchester (Wednesday, 21st July).
Thursday, 10th April
Our home game against Hull is moved from Saturday, May 2nd to Monday, May 4th.
There is bad news on the injury front, where MON says that Martin Laursen is struggling with his injury. Not so long ago, we was hopeful we would be back by now. However now, I am not only resigned to the probability that we wont see him back this season, but I am starting to fear that we may not see him back ever. I can`t emphasise enough how much I hope they are unfounded fears; not only for Aston Villa, but for the man, who definitely deserves some better luck than what he has had in his career since joining us.
Finally, MON also talks about how Sunday is a must-win fixture for us. I could not agree more. I mean what I said at the start, that Arsenal can and probably will falter between now and the end of the season. If it happens and we don`t capitalise on it, then really, we will not deserve the 4th Champions League spot. Let`s hope we get back to winning ways on Sunday.