I’m going to say it now before I get attacked: this is a 'doom mongering' post. If you don’t want to read the disappointment, please look away now.
It appears to me to be that time of the year again where Aston Villa capitulate. The one thing you can notice this year is that it’s not as bad as previous years. We are, as a team, making progress year-on-year. The problem for me is that O'Neill doesn’t appear to learn from his mistakes. Players are looking tired and injured and those players are still playing games. Dunne had a poor game the other night and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was 50/50 in the days leading to this match.
For me, Liverpool will finish fourth. Spuds have a tough run-in, Citeh don’t want it enough and we are throwing away points to teams we really should be beating. Two points at home against Wolves and Sunderland is poor. Of the last potential 12 points, we’ve picked up 6 and it's not good enough against teams in the bottom half of the table (okay, I haven’t checked but Stoke may be mid-table).
With Chelsea coming up and with them in a state of hot-and-cold form we could beat them twice inside a fortnight, but I fear we could also lose twice in a fortnight. For the me I’d like just like something from Stamford Bridge and with the semi-final settled on the day, anything can happen.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as we’re only four points off fourth. Unfortunately on current form that gap is going to increase as time goes on and while we are not on a terrible losing streak like this time last season, I'd take a loss to win the next three. It isn't all about one points.
However, one thing that disappoints me is that O'Neill will play his favourites regardless of form. Agbonlahor and Ashley Young have both suffered from patches of bad form over the last couple of seasons and they've continued to play. What I would expect is for them to be dropped/rested for a game or two. Being selected irrelevant of form can create complacency and that’s something we can ill afford in the team.
So, onto the remaining league fixtures this season. I’ve decided to include Everton because they are a side capable of catching us up and I have a small worry that they are going into the business end of the season in-form and looking dangerous.
- Villa: Chelsea (a), Bolton (a), Everton (h), Pompey (a), Hull (a), Blues (h), Citeh (a), Blackburn (h)
- Spuds: Pompey (h), Sunderland (a), Arsenal (h), Chelsea (h), Man Utd (a), Bolton (h), Citeh (h), Burnley (a)
- Citeh: Wigan (h), Burnley (a), Blues (h), Man Utd (h), Arsenal (a), Villa (h), Spuds (h), West Ham (a)
- Pool: Sunderland (h), Blues (a), Fulham (h), West Ham (h), Burnley (a), Chelsea (h), Hull (a)
- Everton: Wolves (a), West Ham (h), Villa (a), Blackburn (h), Fulham (h), Stoke (a), Pompey (h)
Spuds are playing the four teams around them in that time and if they get through those okay they will take fourth, but I don't think they will. Pool, Everton and us have the best run-ins, but given the close proximity of Everton and Pool I think we really need to up the ante before we lose ground. In our two games in hand over Pool we’ve only managed to close the gap to 1 point, which isn’t good enough.
So, it’s getting to squeaky bum time for our hopes of playing CL football. Personally I want CL football, but I know others would be happy wit the FA Cup. Qualifying for the CL is what will take us to the next level as a football club, but we have to get there first.