Aston Villa enjoyed a 0-2 victory over relegation strugglers Hull City last night to keep their slim chances of Champions League football just about alive. Yet is time for Villa fans to accept that such an achievement is going to be out of their grasp, for the foreseeable future?
With three games remaining Aston Villa sit only three points behind current fourth spot holders Tottenham Hotspur. Whilst Spurs do have a game in hand, they still have the daunting task of Old Trafford. One thing that I think is clear is that despite how close Aston Villa has come to clinching fourth not only this season but last, it will not happen. Despite boasting a top manager in Martin O’Neill and some fantastic young players in James Milner, Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor they just do not quite possess the quality Manchester City, Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur do.
The worrying prospect that faces Aston Villa is in fact regression. It is an incredibly strong possibility and something Villa fans must be prepared for. This summer is going to see some incredible transfer activity. Chelsea are known to be willing to spend having exited the Champions League very early. Manchester United still has a sizeable chunk of money left over from the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has already declared the club will finally spend some cash on players to take them to the next level. These three teams are pretty much guaranteed to be in the top four next season. So with one spot in reality up for grabs much akin to this season. Aston Villa’s credentials are not exactly awe inspiring.
Manchester City’s lavish spending will continue this season and Tottenham Hotspur always spend significantly. With Liverpool looking for new ownership, an influx of cash could be on its way to Anfield. At Aston Villa we are hearing rumblings of disagreements between Martin O’Neill and owner Randy Lerner over potential sales and transfer budget. The last thing Aston Villa can do now is not invest heavily in the squad next season. The bar has been set significantly higher as there are numerous teams with the quality to gain a Champions League spot.
Realistically Aston Villa would do well to gain seventh spot next season. Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City will fight it out for 4th- 6th followed by Villa and Everton battling seventh and eight position. Whilst this may sound doom and gloom, it is realistic. Aston Villa lacks two players of real quality to maintain their battle for fourth spot beyond this season. Two players of the £20 million mark that will give Villa just that little something extra. It’s the only way they have any chance of keeping up with rest.
If Martin O’Neill stays, then he has one hell of a job on stopping Aston Villa regressing. To maintain his high stock within the game he should probably leave in the summer having taken Aston Villa as far as he can. In reality he most likely won’t and stay the cause as his loyalty to the club is strong. It’s going to take some major investment just to maintain Aston Villa’s Champions League credentials. Something that appears to no longer be on offer.
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