Date:Sunday December 27 2009
Villain Of The North said it when he asked, what would your reaction be if Villa were to finish this season in sixth place with no cup wins?
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If that were the case then I would have to accept that O`Neill isn`t the right man for the job. I`ve always been firmly in the corner of Martin O`Neill believing he is the right man for the job but the end of this season could well change that.
We`re in the same position we were in last year with the Champions League place being ours to lose. At one time we led Arsenal by eight points! So to blow it in such spectacular fashion really hurt, but I could at least make some excuses for O`Neill.
There was the size of the squad, injuries to Laursen & Bouma, the uncertainty surrounding Gareth Barry and the distractions of the Uefa Cup campaign.
Nobody was happy about Moscow but it was a massively difficult decision that O`Neill had to make. There was just no way that the squad would have been sufficient enough to deal with attacks on both fronts. We all desperately craved a long European adventure but we all wanted to push for fourth.
O`Neill obviously made the assault on the league his main priority. It was a decision that I ultimately agreed with at the time so I can hardly criticize him for that now. He did however have to put all his eggs in one basket and was a decision that ultimately came back to haunt him due to the collapse of fortunes in the league.
Although we may be in the same position as we are this season, there are some fundamental differences.
In the close season Randy Lerner again invested heavily in the team and O`Neill was able to bring in the kind of players like Richard Dunne, James Collins, Stewart Downing, Habib Beye & Fabian Delph. All the kind of players that have not only massively increased the numbers, but has massively improved the squad as well. Even despite the losses of both former captains through Laursen`s retirement and Barry`s defection to City, there is no doubt that the squad is much better shape than last season.
In this year`s Europa League we had an embarrassingly early exit of the powerhouse of European football, Rapid Vienna. However, I still maintain that is a blessing in disguise. If we`re all honest we would prefer to get into the Champions League than win the Europa League and with the competition taking 17 games to win, start to finish, then it`s a competition we could do without. Half a Premier League season is absurd for a competition that most of us aren`t really that interested in.
These are 17 games more that Manchester City & Tottenham wouldn`t have to play so would we be in the same position as Everton if we had to add these fixtures to an already busy schedule?
Although we have that little bit bigger and better of a squad, I`d still rather not have to play these games.
I`d much rather win either/or the FA Cup or the Carling Cup.
But now as we find ourselves sitting in fourth place of the Premier League and in the semi final of the Carling Cup with a trip to Blackburn next Tuesday, we have a real chance of achieving something.
I would think it`s fair to say that this is a bigger chance to achieve than what we had last year.
This year despite more competition from the likes of City & Tottenham, it seems that fourth place is even more up for grabs than it was last year. Liverpool seem to have outdone the previous year of Arsenal`s woefulness, and face a much harder prospect of fighting for it back.
So now as we sit pretty in fourth with our next opposition Liverpool, if we were to blow it again as we did last year, then all O`Neill will have proved is that he has learnt nothing.
There can quite simply be no repetition of last season mistakes as there will no one to make the excuses.
There is no reason why we can`t have a season of success. All the ingredients are in the mix and we`ve been playing some good football of late. Yes were perhaps taught a lesson against Arsenal, but all that proved is that you can`t win every game.
Fabregas showed real class to win that game for them today and it`s now all about how we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and get on with it.
We can win the win the Carling Cup, or we can claim fourth spot… Either will at least earn Martin O`Neill another year, but to win nothing, then that for me would be the defining moment in O`Neill`s tenure at the club.
He got us close, but not quite there.
I`ve always been an O`Neill fan and do strongly believe in the team. We have all the chance in the world to make our mark this season so now it`s simply down to the manager.
I`m not interested in this becoming about his shortcomings as a tactician, or his lack of knowledge of the foreign transfer market, as where we are as a club speaks for itself.
We`re in position and ready to go…
Please, please Martin, I really want you to do it.
Date:Sunday December 27 2009
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