Everyone at Villa Park is well aware that last February Villa found themselves in a similar position but faded away badly and eventually finished sixth.
Martin Oâ€™Neill is desperate for his players to remain focussed and to not get carried away with their success,
“The same thing might happen again. We are on a decent run but the Premier League is very unforgiving. You are going along nicely, you win a couple of games but then you pick up a couple of injuries, lose a game and want to know where the next win is coming from. I think it’s very much the case of same again. We are hanging in but we’re playing well, with plenty of confidence. We are managing to win games when we go behind and when we get in front too. But I heard Harry Redknapp speaking the other day about how fickle it all can be. He said you can win two consecutive games and you’re unbeatable and you lose a couple of games and you’re useless. I think the same applies to us.”
Oâ€™Neill is quick to point out that last season was far from being a disaster. Villa eventually finished sixth but they had been five points clear of Arsenal in fifth as late on as February. In the end Villa won just two of their final thirteen league matches.
“We lost to Chelsea, drew with Stoke and lost to Manchester City and we were rocked, knocked back and lost a bit of confidence. While we regained it eventually by finishing in the top six and getting into Europe, which I think is sometimes forgotten, we were unable to sustain the run.”
This time around Villa have beaten the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United and have won their last four games against Hull, Manchester United, Sunderland and Stoke. They have been beaten in just three games all season and only Manchester City have lost fewer. It really does look as though they are mounting a serious challenge on the top four and possibly even the title.
All through the team Villa have quality and if they can stay free of injuries and suspensions they can break the Champions League dominance of the big four. In goal they have the excellent Brad Friedel. He took a while to settle after his move from Blackburn but now he looks to be right back to his best. At his best, there are few better in England.
In the middle of the defence is Richard Dunne. Mark Hughes must be losing sleep at night about the fact that City let Dunne go and replaced him with Toure and Lescott for silly money. If Dunne had stayed at City Mark Hughes might still have a job. The silly defensive mistakes that have cost them would certainly have been reduced.
In midfield is James Milner. He was always a player of great promise but his record number of England under twenty-one caps and his lack of elevation to full squad until recently show that he has never quite fulfilled that promise. That is until now. Since moving into the middle of midfield he has looked like a class act. He is now an â€˜almost certainâ€™ for South Africa in the summer rather than a â€˜possibleâ€™.
Going forward they have Ashley Young, Gabby Agbonlahor and the hugely underrated John Carew. Together they form a frightening strike-force. Youngâ€™s wonderful delivery, Agbonlahorâ€™s pace and Carewâ€™s awkwardness and strength make them a force to be reckoned with.
On top of all that they have Martin Oâ€™Neill, who whilst he can be an annoying little so-and-so, is quite clearly a hugely talented manager. He is a top man and it would be foolish to disregard what he could achieve with Villa.
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