Writer: Mike Field
Date:Saturday March 30 2013
Crunch time again but against Liverpool this time. The thoughts of our colleague on Vital Liverpool follow.
With thanks to Gavin!
1) What are you now expecting from the season following your start?
Not a lot. It was always going to be yet another transitional season for us but the recent run of form raised expectations briefly before we came crashing back down to earth against Southampton last time out. Fifth and a Europa League place looks like the most we can aim for but the chances of overhauling Everton and Arsenal or Tottenham to achieve that looks slim.
2) What are the highlights and lowlights from the season so far?
Elimination from the FA Cup to League One Oldham has to be the biggest lowlight - we were terrible that day and showed no fight or desire. Highlights have been few and far between although we've enjoyed a number of big wins on the few occasions we have played to our potential. The recent 4-0 win at Wigan Athletic was a good performance, likewise the 5-0 Anfield victory over Swansea City that preceded it.
3) How do you feel your club did in the transfer window?
Good. The signings of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have made a massive difference and helped to ease the goal scoring burden that had previously rested solely with Luis Suarez. Unfortunately the extra firepower came six months too late and should have been added in the summer especially considering Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll all departed. We now need to turn attentions to improving the rearguard especially with Jamie Carragher's impending retirement.
4) Who has turned out to be your signing of the summer?
We've not really got one to be brutally honest. Joe Allen was good initially before tailing off - partly due to injury. Fabio Borini has been disappointing and/or injured and I've forgotten what Oussama Assaidi looks like! The lack of summer transfer activity did give opportunities to a number of youngsters however which bodes well for the future - Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom in particular have impressed.
5) Who is going to be your main dangerman when we play?
'His name is Suarez and he wears the famous red. I just can't get enough, I just can't get enough. When he scores a volley or gets one with his head I just can't get enough, I just can't get enough. He scores a goal and The Kop go wild and I just can't seem to get enough SUAREZ.'
- Ignoring the fact that his previous indiscretions and on-field persona divide opinion, no one can deny Luis Suarez is a phenomenally talented footballer. He's the top scorer in the league currently and has an impressive 29 goals and 10 assists in 40 appearances overall this season.
6) What are your weaknesses, any clues for the game will be appreciated :-)
Defensively we've not been great but a lot of that has been sloppiness or individual errors rather than a particular player or persistent weakness. Given Jamie Carragher's advancing years and how far forward our full-backs push, a bit of pace in behind can cause us problems. We`ve also not been the best at dealing with set-pieces recently, especially corners.
7) Will you have anyone out who would otherwise play?
Not really. Joe Allen, Martin Kelly and Fabio Borini will all be notable absentees but none can be considered game changers of guaranteed starters.
Now with a slightly more Claret and Blue angle...
8) 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?
Given your struggles last season, the change of manager and an inexperienced squad, it's not a surprise to see you struggling. That said, I think you have just about enough quality to stay up - especially in attacking areas.
9) Do you have any thoughts on Paul Lambert?
He's doing as well as can be expected for me. With the resources available it's doubtful too many other managers would be performing markedly better. Also seems a decent, honest guy who admits his own team's frailties as opposed to hiding behind excuses.
10) What have you made of our youth promotions last/this season, anybody caught the eye for you?
Hit and miss. Matthew Lowton seems dependable enough while others like Barry Bannan, Ciaran Clark and Joe Bennett have been exceptional one week and poor the next (when I've seen them at least). Andreas Weimann has probably been the stand out player overall - great work rate coupled with an eye for goal is a great combination of traits to have.
11) Who has stood out most from our summer signings for you?
Obviously Christian Benteke has been excellent. His virtuoso display of power and directness inspired Villa`s victory at Anfield and really made many sit up and take note. 17 goals in a struggling side is an impressive tally and if he continues his present endeavours Villa will find it difficult to keep hold onto him even if they do stay up.
12) If you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?
Christian Benteke would give us a further option up top as we don't currently have a physical presence who can play with his back to goal and hold the play up. Also Brad Guzan would provide Pepe Reina with quality competition between the sticks.
13) Who do you see as our main threat in the game?
See response to question 11... Although both Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann also pose differing attacking threats so we cannot solely concentrate on containing Christian Benteke.
14) Where would you say our current weaknesses are in terms of how you will approach the match?
Defensively Villa seem to lack composure and experience a lot of the time. The likes of Ron Vlaar can also be a little crude and prone to diving in so hopefully the technique and skill of Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho will benefit. If not, the pace of Daniel Sturridge through the middle could cause problems.
15) Finally, a prediction please kind person...
It's difficult to see the likes of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho not scoring but by the same token will Liverpool's defence be able to contain Villa? The way we've been playing recently, and given the way Christian Benteke and co. faired at Anfield, you might as well toss a coin to decide the outcome.
I'll go with a 2-2 draw.
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Date:Saturday March 30 2013
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