"O’Neill’s stance to go after quality rather than quality is an honourable one, but questionable given how heavily their closest rivals have been investing."
Hopes and Fears
An extremely disappointing second half to the season saw Aston Villa slip dramatically down the league table and at one time looked as if they might be sucked into a relegation battle. Even so, Martin O’Neill remains extremely popular and the faith that he will eventually lead Villa to glory is still strong.
So much that no one seems to question his apparent reluctance to venture in the transfer market, despite the evident need for new players. O’Neill’s stance to go after quality rather than quality is an honourable one, but questionable given how heavily their closest rivals have been investing.
Perhaps even more courageous is the decision to sell central defender Liam Ridgewell to neighbours Birmingham. Once earmarked as a potential England international, O’Neill never really had that much faith in him so a transfer was only logical. Nevertheless, transferring him to such a big rival seems to be tempting faith a bit too much.
From captain, Nigel Reo Coker became West Ham’s chief scapegoat within the space of a couple of months. Aston Villa were quite happy to take him off their hands and even the transfer fee of £7 million seems more than justified. A player with real leadership qualities, he’ll give Villa that little bit of quality they were lacking last season.
Something to Prove
Having spent most of his time at Villa Park injured, the time has come for Martin Laursen to prove his worth for the club, especially following the sale of Ridgewell.
One to Watch
The departures of Liam Ridgewell and Sean Davis means that two of the most highly regarded youngsters to have made the grade at Villa in recent years and who had been expected to form the backbone of the team are no longer there. But with one of the best youth programs around, there are a number of others coming through. Gabriel Agbonlahor grabbed the headlines last year, this time it could be the turn of Craig Gardner.