Great expectations, hopes, fears and predictions for forthcoming season

I've been looking at the predictions for this season from most of the newspapers. It's quite interesting: some think that Martin O'Neill's failure to replace big, talismanic players with other big, talismanic players will condemn us to 8th place. Others think that our pace down the flanks and muscle up front will win us 6th again.

Nobody sees us finishing 9th, and nobody sees us finishing fifth. Which makes the whole "media prediction" thing a bit of a wet blanket, really.


So I just wondered what we Villa fans can really expect and hope for come 3pm on Saturday. These are my expectations, hopes and fears.

I Expect

1. That Stan Petrov will make the holding midfield position, and the armband, his own. He has shown enormous character in moving from boo-boy to player-of-the season, and I think that progression will continue.

2. That Fabian Delph will very quickly justify his transfer fee and add-ons. Just like Ashley Young, I think he will quickly show that big money spent on outrageous talent works.

3. That Carlos Cuellar will become a more-than-acceptable replacement for Martin Laursen. Feted in Glasgow, just like Stan, he's taken a while to adjust to the Premier League. But I can see him filling Laursen's shoes.

I Hope

1. That Martin O'Neill - who doesn't like big name signings - will accept that Gareth Barry was a talismanic figure and a huge midfield presence. There isn't a side in the world that challenges for anything serious without that massive, talismanic midfield presence (Arsenal even want Vieira back). And in accepting that, I hope MON goes to Randy and asks for the cash for a serious, serious midfield giant. Sneijder would do it for us.

2. That MON uses his squad. We've seen Marc Albrighton and Eric Lichaj excel in pre-season, so let's blood them and use them in the Premier League. O'Neill has yet to convince me that he's capable of managing beyond his first XI - with a big league campaign coming up as well as a Europa League campaign, I want to see O'Neill manage the playing resources more cleverly.

3. Of course I hope that we will take six points from the scum. But to me, that is a given. A far bigger hope is that we take six points from the mighty, mighty Tottenham Hotspur. A club who are managed by idiots, and whose manager has spent the close season trying to big himself up by linking himself with Ashley Young. Possibly the most pathetic transfer rumour of the whole summer. Ashley Young is worth £30m plus, even more now he will start for England tonight - so why he would go to an inferior club in London, I can't imagine.

So I hope Ash destroys Spurs home and away. Maybe then we'll sell him to Arsenal for £50m.

I Fear

1. I fear that Martin O'Neill will be happy with what he's got. Confidence in your players is one thing, but winning trophies is another. We don't have many trophy winners in our side, and we need to build a winning mentality. I fear that Martin O'Neill will place too much trust in what he has, and not look to recruit proven winners. That's why I've always thought Sol Campbell would be a good player-coach recruit.

2. I fear that Martin O'Neill will play Gabriel Agbonlahor up front every game, every week and in midweek as well. He's a young lad with a great future, but he needs to understand how good he really is. In my view, he's nowhere near full England level yet. He needs competition, and he needs to be rested. I fear O'Neill will burn him out.

3. I fear that we'll play 4-4-2, even though all our best results have come with 4-5-1. MON is tactically certain that with Carew and Heskey up front, we must score goals. I think the vast majority of Villans want, now, to see two wingers tearing at the opposition with a big, nasty striker and a number 10 in the hole. I want 4-5-1 in defence and 4-3-3 going forward - but MON may well end up being more conservative.

My predictions

Premier League: I think we'll finish 6th (again)
Europa League: I think we'll get to quarter final
FA Cup: I think we'll get a shit away draw against one of the Big 4 and go out early
League Cup: I think we'll win it