Writer: Dan Jones
Date:Wednesday June 3 2009
Martin Laursen has retired. Gareth Barry has joined Manchester City.
How do you replace two of your best players? Who do you replace them with?
Martin O`Neill was loved by almost every fan for his first two years at Villa Park, after taking the side to 6th and promising big things, however after complaints of poor tactics, substitutions and transfer dealings from a growing number of fans, he finds himself in unknown territory. For many the doubts began after he kept the majority of first team at home ahead of a big UEFA Cup game in Moscow. His reason for this was so that the team could concentrate on maintaining their hold on a place in the top4. It backfired not only did the reserves get beaten that night but the side went on one of the worst runs of form in the club`s entire history.
Many have claimed that this summer was always going to be a defining moment in his Villa career. The fact is he is now entering what will be his 7th transfer window, he has continually used the excuse that his squad is too small to compete, while on the other hand he is quick to point out that the money is there and Randy Lerner is 100% behind him. So after 3 years at the helm approaching his 4th season in charge, I don`t actually think it is unfair to assume that he will be using the funds he claims are there to address the issues he claims hold his team back.
If it was going to be a big enough challenge in replacing Martin Laursen, then its just got a whole lot harder as he now has to also find a replacement for Gareth Barry.
I have heard suggestions that Steve Sidwell and Carlos Cuellar are seen as the men to replace the two key players, which I must admit would not shock me, it would disappoint me however and when you consider it cost the club around £40million last summer for us to again finish 6th it obvious that there needs to be huge investment for us to stand still again or even push on. So surely replacing arguably the best two players at the club is a must.
Some good news however since the season ended is that Player of the Year, Stiliyan Petrov has committed himself to the club by signing a new contract. Hopefully there will be plenty more things to be cheerful about in the coming weeks. But they do say bad news comes in 3s (Laursen retiring, Barry leaving, what next?) so brace yourselves…….
One thing I am sure of is that THIS summer will be the biggest in Martin O`Neill`s entire managerial career. Sign the right players and he could have many fans back on side, however if he fails to replace two of the clubs most important players then I think the fans may turn on him.
Over to you, Martin………
Date:Wednesday June 3 2009
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