How Short Are Villa From A Top 4 Place?
deano.avfc asks: How short are we of being genuine Top 4 challengers?
Our ex-manager (twice) Graham Taylor said that we need at least 5 quality players to challenge the big-4. He then went on to talk about our use of 23 players, the least in the Premiership. When he watched us
play with out first XI we were great but beyond that we looked a poor side at times.
A World Cup squad contains 23 players. Generally managers select 3 goalkeepers and 2 for each other position. To keep this simple I want to present a 23 man squad for Villa at the moment as well as a few extras - mainly youth players who you would not want to over-rely on.
Goalkeepers - Friedel, Guzan and Taylor Seem fine to me - a nice trio.
Plenty of comments on this site on why we should replace Friedel this summer, but I think we are okay for another season or two. I think money should be spent elsewhere.
Right-backs - Luke Young and ??
Luke Young is an excellent player and certainly could be a first choice RB for a top-4 side. Boro's player of the season last year, and could have been ours if he has a season consistency at RB. Therefore we need a decent substitute RB.
Left-backs - Bouma and Shorey
We really did miss Bouma this year. I did not think Shorey did too badly when he did play LB but a 100% fit Bouma would not look out of place in a top-4 side. But will he be 100% come August? Shorey as a second choice is great - but would he be happy with that?
Centre-backs - Davies, Cuellar, ? and ?
I do not mean to be unfair to Zat Knight but I really do not think we can rely on him every other game. Davies lacks concentration at times but has all the resources needed to be an excellent centre-back. Cuellar has only had a handful of games at centre-back but looks a decent player. However, in an FA Cup final (!!) I would be happier with Davies alongside a top, top quality centre-back. Cuellar and another as alternative choices.
Right-Wing - Milner and ?
Milner certainly good enough as a right-winger for a top 4 side but no competition which is the same for the other flank.
Left-Wing - Ashley Young and ?
Problem just the same on this flank - we need natural width and I think that if both Milner and Young were unfit we would have some weird Heskey / Agbonlahor combination on the wings. We need two wingers, especially as Milner may be used through the middle more if Barry moves on.
Centre-midfield - Barry, Petrov, Sidwell and Reo-Coker
Looks good to me IF Barry stays, if he doesn't we need a real top drawer player and we will have to smash our transfer record for this!! Gardner included as a squad player, which may be a little unfair but I have to say that the big-4 would not rely on him as one of four central midfielders. Would he be as good as Lampard, Ballack, Mikel or Essien.
Strikers - Agbonlahor, Carew, Heskey and ?
No getting away from it, Emile WILL be used frequently next season. Gabby and Carew are a good strike-force but we obviously need another option. I am not going to say it is clear that Gabby and Carew are our first choice strike-force as I am a fan of playing two strikers who are on form rather than a clear-cut first and second choice.
Squad Players - Knight, Gardner, Delfouneso, Albrighton, Bannan, Salifou, and maybe 2 or 3 more.
So...I think that this clearly shows we can only really afford to lose Harewood.
In my opinion, I would have Lescott and bust the bank to get him -he can add the goals we will miss with Laursen retiring (as well as meaning he cant score against us!!). The striker option is a difficult one and I think we need a striker we can rely on for a 1 in 2.5 goals ratio - I think Darren Bent is a great and realistic option!
Kyle Naughton, Gareth Bale (left-back or left-wing) and David Bentley would ensure we have sufficient depth in the squad as well as excellent competition for a first XI that picks itself at the moment.
Would this be enough for a top-4 place, I certainly think so. But, just to make sure, throw in Defour!