Writer: Mike Field
Date:Thursday March 7 2013
An all important six pointer, and you know what - it's exactly the same for Reading as well.
With thanks to Josh from Vital Reading.
1) What are you now expecting from the season following your start?
What we pretty much expected before the start of the season, a relegation battle. I believe the quality of the division is constantly increasing, so even if we made a few decent experienced acquisitions in the summer, it was still going to be tough for us.
After our humiliating defeat to Wigan two weeks ago, it was a reality check for some of us Royals fans that we are simply not good enough for this division and it is going to be very tough to stay up.
However, despite this obvious pessimism, it is doable. I'm sure it
will all come down to our game on Saturday and our home fixtures with QPR and Southampton, I think we have to win all three, if not pull a miraculous result from a very tough schedule otherwise.
Considering we appeared dead and buried up to Christmas, believe it or not, us Reading fans are quite satisfied with the position we are in.
2) What are the highlights and lowlights from the season so far?
The highlights probably have to be January, picking up our first away win of the season against Newcastle and stealing a draw against Chelsea, having been 2-0 down with five minutes to play. These really gave us a massive lift and proved that we can compete in the Premier League on our day. In terms of lowlights, our 3-0 defeat was damaging in many senses, losing at home to one our promotion rivals, in thumping fashion too. Our seven game losing run in November and December wasn't too nice either, but was good to see a response
the following month.
3) Who has turned out to be your signing of the summer?
Interesting question, probably defender Adrian Mariappa from Watford. He only really came into the team in November, but has made the spot his ever since. Mapps only stands at 5'11, which is rare for a centre half, but has a great leap on him and the pace to cover himself and his rather slow defensive partners.
The likes of Pogrebnyak and Guthrie have not really hit the heights, despite their experience in the Premier League.
4) Who is going to be your main dangerman when we play?
I get bored of saying it every week, but it has to be Adam Le Fondre. In simple terms, the lad scores goals, he doesn't bring much else to the table, but that's what his duty is at the end of the day. With Pogrebnyak's suspension, he will probably start alongside Noel Hunt again.
Jimmy Kebe can be a bright spark, but you have to get him on the right day, but unfortunately is likely to be out for our game.
5) What are your weaknesses, any clues for the game will be appreciated :-)
You will pleased to here this, opposition that have power and pace.
Our backline can deal with long balls into the box all day long, but when teams get the ball moving and create space in behind our backline, we can be cut to shreds. I'm hoping Benteke, Agbonlahor or N'Zogbia don't read this!
6) Will you have anyone out who would otherwise play?
Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak is still serving a suspension for this red card received against Wigan, while goalkeeper Adam Federici has sprained his ankle, so you will probably see the familiar face of Stuart Taylor. Jimmy Kebe was brought off against Everton early on with an injury, so I doubt he will play any part. Jason Roberts and fellow goalkeeper Alex McCarthy are still a long way from full fitness.
Now with a slightly more Claret and Blue angle...
7) Have Villa performed how you expected in the first half of the season, and do you see us improving or really suffering a relegation battle?
I watched Villa against City on Monday night and I thought they put up a really good fight, but still lack that hint of experience in midfield and in defence. Your final game against Wigan looks like it will be a very interesting one, I can see one of you going down on that day, I just don't know who!
I had a quick glimpse at the fixtures and it appears to me that
Villa have the toughest schedule, but the next two games for yourselves will probably define your season. I'm quite shocked to see Villa in this position considering the stature of the club, but they don't appear to have recovered from the losses of Ashley Young, Stewart Downing etc.
8) Do you have any thoughts on Paul Lambert?
I find him quite a dry character, but my opinion of him certainly improved after a very honest interview on Monday night. Paul clearly has faith in the young players, which I admire his bravery for doing so. If you were to go down, I would personally keep him due to his decent track record with Norwich at getting them out of divisions. He still has a lot to learn though.
9) What have you made of our youth promotions last/this season, anybody caught the eye for you?
As I mentioned, I admire Lambert's decision to place emphasis on youth, even though it will probably benefit more long-term than short-term at the moment. It's been good to see how much Weimann has come on in recent months, having been impressed with him when he was on loan with Watford a few seasons ago. Young Matt Lowton also appears to be coming on leaps and bounds, apart from his corner the other day though!
10) Who has stood out most from our summer signings for you?
Christian Benteke has been outstanding, his all round qualities as a striker is there for everyone to see. Perfect blend of pace, power and end quality in the box, which is rare to come by these days. If you do stay up, keeping hold of him will be crucial for securing your future Premier League status.
11) If you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?
Considering he doesn't get played an awful lot, I still rate Darren Bent as a striker. Similarly to Le Fondre, he scores goals prolifically (well, most of the time). Le Fondre does however lack the physique to play on his own in our usual 4-5-1 system, whereas Bent can probably hold the ball up better than Alfie and bring in the midfield.
12) Who do you see as our main threat in the game?
Your attack will be the focus point of our game, due to their outstanding amount of pace. The thought of Benteke, N'Zogbia, Agbonlahor and Bent is giving me nightmares at the moment!
If you exploit it will enough, especially down the wings, we could see another thumping defeat at the Madejski Stadium.
13) Where would you say our current weaknesses are in terms of how you will approach the match?
Your inexperience in the defence obvious has to be highlighted, so I think constant pressure on your backline, playing our usual direct style is probably the best way to go about it. The movement of Le Fondre and Hunt will cause them a few problems and it will be interesting to see how they handle it.
I'm not too sure how you cope with set pieces, but with Ian Harte
over a few, they can cause any team in the division problems.
14) Finally, a prediction please kind person...
My head and my heart are telling me completely different results.
It's a massive game for both of us, so I can see a very open game with a fair few goals. I'm going to go inbetween and say a fanatic 2-2 draw.
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Date:Thursday March 7 2013
Something For The Weekend (425) (Friday May 24 2013)
And Still More On Benteke, This Time Agent Denials (Friday May 24 2013)
Villa Hospitality Scoop The Main Awards - Again (Friday May 24 2013)
Last Season Was A Necessary Evil (Friday May 24 2013)
Eric Lichaj To Be Released? (Friday May 24 2013)
Lambert Answers Benteke. Another Undeserved Saga? (Friday May 24 2013)
The Villa Times - 23/05/2013 (Thursday May 23 2013)
The Vital Villa Player Of The Season Is... (Thursday May 23 2013)
Bumper Transfer News - SOME Inward! (Thursday May 23 2013)
New Contracts? Better Deals? It's Only Money!! (Thursday May 23 2013)
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