Martin O’ Neill has really showed his pedigree and class at turning around a football team that in all honesty had nothing to look forward to. Aston Villa were the midtable kings. Relegation not ever a worry, nor was the push for European qualification. Being an Aston Villa fan had become a tedious affair. With Martin O’ Neill’s appointment in 2006 the fortunes of the club have changed massively. With secure financial backing in the form of Randy Lerner, Villa have spent wisely on young hungry English players and are now reaping the rewards. A League Cup final and a FA Cup semi final place alongside a possible top four finish clearly shows just how much Aston Villa have come along.
I feel though now Aston Villa are about to hit a very hard ceiling that is going to take some expensive tools to break down. What Villa have is a great unit. A solid foundation of a team that mixes experience in players such as Richard Dunne, John Carew, Emile Heskey and Stilian Petrov for example, with younger more agile players like Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner. For Villa to break into that top four they need two top players. By top players I mean around the £20 million mark. That’s the difference between a top four side and those guys that finish fifth or sixth.
My money is still on Liverpool gaining the fourth spot purely because they have two world class players in Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa do not. Manchester City have the squad close enough to Liverpool to challenge with the likes of Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor upfront but do not share the same togetherness and team mentality as Aston Villa. It will be tight, but Villa will miss out.
The problem Martin O’ Neill is starting to have is very similar to the one David Moyes over at Everton has been having for a number of years. Investment. Moyes has built a side similar to Aston Villa, good team dynamic and unit with some really good players. Though Everton did break the mould with their fourth finish in 2005, they were quickly dispatched out of the Champions League in the qualifying rounds and could not cope with the added burden of games on a thin squad. Subsequently the next season they were no-where near the fourth spot. The only way Martin O’ Neill can take this Villa squad to the next step is to get Randy Lerner to splash out somewhere in the region of £40 million. That is unlikely.
With Manchester City about to spend boat loads again in the summer Villa are going to have to spend to compete. Tottenham are back in the mix also. With teams like Everton on the march up the table it is going to be difficult for sides to get into the top eight, never mind the top four.
Aston Villa does have a chance but they need a striker of real quality in the box. A finisher who can give end product to Agbonlahor’s pace and Milner’s vision. Wolfsburg’s Edin Dzeko who Sir Alex Ferguson is known to be a keen admirer could be a great option. A great all round striker and scores goals a plenty. Another potential signing could be Luis Suarez from Ajax who has hit 27 goals in 26 games in Eredivise. The 23 yr old attacker is catching the eye of many and would be a good prospect for Aston Villa. Both would cost around £20 million each. These are the sort of players Villa need to attract to make the move up. I would also argue another up and coming centre back would bolster Villa considerably. Palermo’s Simon Kjaer could cost upwards of £15 million after impressing massively in the defence minded Serie A. The Danish international is believed to be ready for a move to the Premier League with Tottenham keen admirers. Villa should make a move for the 20 yr old.
Whilst Villa fans may not agree on some of the player picks I have made, the underlying issue for the Midlands side is beginning to come to the boil. To take Villa to the next level they need a couple of genuinely class players who could become world class. It’s the only way they will see Champions League football.
You can follow all Matthew Balmforth’s blog’s on twitter:http://twitter.com/Soccer_Opinion