Betfair blogger Gareth
Freeman wonders if Aston Villa can
qualify for the Champions League.
City and Spurs may be the teams people are tipping to break the top four but
following their impressive victory over Chelsea perhaps Aston Villa should be
shown greater respect. In three games against the ‘big' clubs so far
they've taken seven points with victories over Liverpool and Chelsea and a draw
with Man City and Martin O'Neill's side look worthy challengers for a Champions
first half of last season it looked as if Villa were going to upset the Premier League betting odds
and take the fourth spot ahead of Arsenal. However, their form in the
latter half of the season was frankly abysmal and they dropped way off the
pace. Many have attributed this to tiredness and burnout after the
storming start. I'm going to suggest it had more to do with the injury to
Martin Laursen that resulted in the defender's retirement.
mistake, Laursen was an awesome defender and his loss proved massive for
Villa. Over the summer O'Neill reshaped his defence with the acquisitions
of James Collins, Richard Dunne and Stephen Warnock – all at reasonable prices
– and they have all looked the part so far.
of Gareth Barry has not impacted on Villa's fortunes as much as was perhaps
initially thought. They have a very good, solid midfield who are capable
of competing with any of the bigger sides. In James Milner and Ashley
Young I personally feel Villa have the best and most productive wide men in the
league and it wouldn't surprise me if both were included in Fabio Capello's
World Cup squad.
the season began I thought Villa had blown their chances of a top four finish
when they failed to secure Champions League football last season.
City's big spending and Spurs busy transfer window meant that Villa had extra
rivals for a place in the top-four and Barry's switch to Eastlands looked to
have swung a top four place in City's favour.
of City and Spurs out spending and out muscling Villa in the transfer market
they've started this season in good form and after eight games they look every
bit capable of securing a place in the top four. Of the ‘big four'
Manchester United and Chelsea will almost certainly take the top two spots, but
Liverpool and Arsenal both look as if they could be toppled, Liverpool
especially. There is a lot of the season left and only time will tell if
Villa can do what they couldn't last season and maintain their form throughout
but at the moment they're starting to look like a team who could upset the
Premier League's top order.