Midweek #avfc: Villa slip to 16th, Everton Preview, FA Cup Tickets, Bamford & Andone Links, Vlaar deal & Benteke staying?

Whilst there is an element of feel good factor around Villa Park in recent weeks – this unfortunately has to be tempered against our perilous league position.  

I am, annoyingly to some, Mr Positive when it comes to our survival.  However, it has approached that time of year when remarkable results occur and the unlikeliest of teams rally.  Some may count Villa as one of those unlikely rallying teams.

Who could have predicted the Leicester resurgence?  Further, the prospect of Hull beating Liverpool seemed as remote as Messi joining us on a free just a short while ago.  This is however, the card we’ve been dealt.  These oddities now see us slipping to 16th.  It’s too close for comfort.

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Should Leicester achieve a point at home to Chelsea, we fall to 17th.  If Sunderland manage to beat Southampton at home (and we fail to beat Everton), we slide unceremoniously back into the drop-zone.  It’s now reached the point where even I look at the what ifs and maybes of every fixture.

As I mentioned above, I am positive, we are playing better, we now carry a threat.  However, Sherwood must rue the dropped points that late defeats to Man City & Stoke; as well as securing a solitary point against QPR.  It’s worrying that we risk looking back and identifying exactly where our season was lost, overlooking that Sherwood inherited a club on its knees.

I count us to be in a fortunate position & completely believe that if Lambert had stayed we would be propping up the table rather than plotting our escape.  It’s still a nightmare.

With that said, it remains very much in our hands, but that must result in us achieving big victories, starting with Everton.

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Everton Preview

The Toffees head to Villa Park having secured an accumulator busting 3-0 win over Man Utd.  It is typical that a resurgent United should play Everton into even better form.

Everton under Martinez have been a mixed bag this season, coming in for media scrutiny & is by no means a fan favourite.  Their current mid-table obscurity hides that they have been steady improvers.  Evidence of this can be found in the form table, of which they sit top, jointly with Arsenal.

Some hope can be drawn from Everton’s away form though, in which they have lost 3 of their last 6.  Whilst this may appear a good omen, Villa’s home form does little to inspire, with just 1 win in 6 on home soil.  It is evidently time to tear up the form book, or at least not look at it.

But who cares about statistics? …

Everton should also have a full compliment of players (Gibson aside) to face us, whilst Villa continue to have a never shortening list of absentees.  Aside from the possibility of Agbonlahor returning; Baker, Clark, Hutton & co remain sidelined.  It has been a season of constant injuries, particularly along the back line.

With the defence looking decidedly ropey against Man City, it is here that Villa must eliminate the costly mistakes.  Vlaar has to better steward those around him and also step up consistently himself to shut out the visitors.  We leak painfully straightforward goals, be it the free header at QPR, zero marking at Man City or the Vlaar/Guzan gifts against Stoke/Man City.

Benteke continues to be our WMD and is in prime form.  With the options of Sinclair, N’Zogbia, Cole or Carles Gil as figures to unpick the Everton lock, it is difficult to see the game being goal-less. There is also the added reality that unless we make a breakthrough inside 70 minutes, we will have to go after the game.  This will leave us open to the dreaded counter, so prepare to watch the closing exchanges through your fingers.  

Villa are fast approaching crunch time.  What is currently a manageable and controllable situation could easily deteriorate in the event of a solitary point, or God forbid, a defeat is suffered.  There is no doubt that we are in a better position to win games like Everton than we would ever have had under Lambert, but we have no devine right, and if the victory is secured, won’t necessarily be pretty.

But then, we will all take an ugly, scrappy, in off the arse win.

Winning would obviously lift an accumulation of pressure from the club and also allow for the tricky fixture away at Southampton to be approached as “must not lose” rather than “must win”.

Prediction: Aston Villa 2-1 Everton.

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FA Cup Final Tickets On Sale 

The good news is that fans can now get their hands on final tickets as of Tuesday.  The official site is carrying the eligibility criteria for our clash with Arsenal [30.05.15 – 17:30pm Kick Off] – you can find that here.

Whilst Villa getting to the final is a fantastic occasion, the scheduling, cost and proposed renaming of the most prestigious cup competition is poor.

I’m a modern football fan, but the constant squeeze on supporters is fast approaching a tipping point that will ultimately destroy the game.  An ever increasing drive for wealth within football not only distances the game from the average supporter – but is alienates huge swathes of our community.

How many families, groups of supporters or those with a love for our club are excluded from supporting Aston Villa on the grounds of cost?  We are talking about working, contributing supporters, who are priced out of allegedly the most inclusive and accessible sport in the world.  In an age where sponsor funding exceeds all expectations and measures predictable even a decade ago.

Progress and change should be embraced, but not at all costs.

What does moving the game from it’s traditional 3pm slot bring to English football?  Where is the gain from the “exposure” or revenue invested?  The distinction between the uber-wealthy Premier League and the FA must obviously be drawn, but just because one party strives for wealth, it doesn’t mean the other should follow suit on a pathway to financial gain.

The top category tickets will set a fan back £120.  Is this rationale for 90 minutes of football, at any level?  Is the fact that only 25,000 tickets are available to supporters of any given team fortunate enough to make it fair or reasonable?  Is there any need for the FA Cup to be renamed, even if someone is willing to throw mindless money at it?

Money, isn’t everything, and none of the above gives anyone with a passing or growing interest in football a reason to embrace the game.

Links, rumours, other news…

As the close season approaches the rumour mill kicks into motion.  Quick out of the blocks are links to on loan Chelsea forward Patrick Bamford.  The youngster has scored 19 goals for Middlesbrough this term & may be offloaded by Mourinho for a fee.  One would imagine there are many suitors for him, but a young English player might be drawn to work with Sherwood.

This follows the links to Florin Andone of Cordoba, a 21 year old Romanian.  Possible fee ranges between £2.5m-£6m.  Early days for rumours methinks.  

All these links to strikers point towards a summer of trying to hold onto Benteke.  You never know your luck, and the Belgian seems committed, but whether Villa could resist a big bid from a European powerhouse is another matter.  However, Benteke’s agent has played a move down in recent interviews.

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Vlaar Uncertainty

No real progress on the Vlaar front.  Indeed many seem divided on his worth.  Often injured, prone to an error but clearly gifted, it’s a difficult call.  This is hampered by likely attempts of Vlaar’s representatives to engineer a move away from the club.

To his credit Vlaar has remained silent on the matter, but it remains to be seen whether he will commit – or indeed – whether Villa will opt to keep him.

Vlaar recently said;

“Things have changed for me in the past few months since [Tim] Sherwood took over. It’s been a hard season for me with all the injuries. Now I just want to play and be important for the team. This helps – you can trust me on that.” [Source]

Interestingly, this is followed up by Sherwood’s comments this week on his eagerness for Vlaar to stay but of the need to make an “adult decision” about it, whilst also alluding to the Dutchman’s frequent long layoffs.  Watch this space.

Breaking Bad

…and in other bizarre news, the tale of the Villa Park chef embroiled in the supply of heroin & now jailed.  You can’t make it up, check out the story here.

…until next time. Up The Villa.

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