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Aston Villa Season Review 2006/07


Hugh Larkin

Hugh Larkin has a definite policy to support underdogs. Can be relied upon to support any team against Real Madrid and hopes one day to see Walsall as the top West Midland side....
[full biography]
04/06/2007 09:00:00.
read: 866 times.

2006/07 had the air of a ‘phoney war’ at Villa Park. Everyone connected to the club has spent the whole campaign looking forward to next year and what can be done, now that Martin O’Neill has had time to shuffle the pack and add more new players.

It proved to be a momentous start to the season with Doug Ellis finally relinquishing control of the club to American tycoon Randy Lerner,. The only problem was that Martin O’Neill didn’t get his feet under the table until 5th August, so Villa were left to go into the campaign with David O’Leary’s players and were unable to spend much Lerner cash.

The feel-good factor at Villa Park still proved to be huge though and after years of mediocrity, the new regime at least raised the prospect of an exciting future. O’Neill explained matters in his usual honest manner and the fans settled down to see if he could at least improve the performance of the current bunch- while waiting patiently for the January transfer window.

The manager did manage to slip in Stilian Petrov before the deadline and then arranged short term deals for a couple more Celtic old sweats- Didier Agathe and Chris Sutton. Otherwise he went in with O’Leary’s squad.

Straight away there was improvement. The team looked more solid and organised and up front the resources were arranged more imaginatively. Luke Moore and Gabriel Agbonlahor operated wide of Juan Pablo Angel and brought pace to bear. Gareth Barry again looked like a player with England ambitions on the left of midfield.

For a long time Villa remained unbeaten through a succession of drawn games but serious injury to Moore proved again what a thin squad O’Neill had. Inevitably as winter progressed, the performances started to wilt although the new boss kept on experimenting.

While Agbonlahor and Craig Gardner benefited from the change of regime, Steven Davis didn’t and the end of the campaign saw speculation that the Northern Irish midfielder will be allowed to go. Jlloyd Samuel couldn’t win his place at left back either, although that carried on a trend begun under the last manager.

There was much anticipation about what could be delivered in the transfer window and the new regime didn’t disappoint. Experienced Norwegian target man John Carew came in to provide the physical presence that O’Neill has always had up front in his sides- think Hartson, Heskey. Marshall etc.

Then came a real coup to bring Ashley Young from Watford. Villa spent big to get him (it remains to be seen if it was too big) and at a stroke O’Neill’s persuasive powers backed by Lerner’s cash had made the club serious players in the market again. He then went to Celtic and brought Shaun Maloney to the West Midlands to make it a very satisfactory month.

Bedding in new players, plus the feeling that much was on hold until next year, produced a dip in form after Christmas that was a little worrying at one point. The manager took it philosophically on the basis that Villa had got away with a few points before Xmas (at Arsenal for instance) and fortune now levelled things out.

Eventually the team came out of the slump and ended the campaign quite strongly. In fact, they probably finished in the perfect place- nowhere near the bottom but avoiding Europe. With a beefed up squad Villa have only domestic commitments to worry them in 2007/08.

There has been definite progress over 2006/07. Defensively, Villa are more comfortable, some quality has been added in midfield and up front Carew, Moore and Agbonlahor are potentially useful. More signings will come in over the summer and then the real test begins.

O’Neill will probably talk about ‘improvement’ as being the main goal but for most Villa fans a spot in the top eight is a minimum target from next season- possibly even top six. Exciting times are ahead at Villa Park with the added spice of two City derbies as well.

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