20 November 2017   |  Last Updated 07-02-2015 12:16

      Friday 06, February 2015

      Overview: Does Aston Villa's current squad justify Michael Owen's statement?

      AFTER Michael Owen’s comments in the Birmingham Mail this morning, which suggested ‘Aston Villa have their best team in years’, it calls into question whether the former England striker has actually seen this current Villa side play this season. With the lowest goals tally in Europe’s top five divisions, let alone the worst in England, the Claret and Blue faithful are currently on a precarious path to the Championship due a mounting number of reasons. Liam McCallion takes an in-depth look into the last five seasons at Villa Park to see whether Owen’s statement is justifiable.

       

      Season: 2010/11

       

      Best bench: Guzan, L Young, Collins, Makoun, Agbonlahor, Heskey, Delfouneso
      Overview: The early departure of Martin O’Neil and the 2010 PFA Young Player of the Year James Milner, hit Villa hard at the start of the 2010-11 campaign. The arrival of Gerrard Houllier lead to a great loss in form of Holte End favourite John Carew which was upsetting to see for supporters, whilst Stephen Ireland generated great frustration following several lacklustre performances. That said, the season-saving arrival of Darren Bent in January, along with the creative input from Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and the upcoming Marc Albrighton did at least bring some excitement to the season.
      Rating: 8.5/10

       

      Season: 2011/12


      Best bench:
      Guzan, Clark, Dunne, N'Zogbia, Ireland, Bannan, Weimann. 

      Overview: In all due respect the short-lived Alex McLeish era was 11 months of utter negativity with rare highlights. The squad lacked quality, not experience, following the summer departures of (Ashley) Young and Downing. Alan Hutton received a lot of criticism in his first season at full-back, while a short-term loan signing in the form of Robbie Keane was vital at the time. Darren Bent and Richard Dunne’s mid-season injuries along with Stiliyan Petrov’s shocking acute leukaemia diagnosis depleted the side and it left their season in tatters, but they did rescue survival during the penultimate game of the season.

      Rating: 6.5/10

       

      Season: 2012-13 

       

      Best Bench: Given, Bennett, El Ahmadi, Holman, Sylla, Ireland, Bent.

      Overiew: The arrival of Paul Lambert in 2012 marked a new ethos for the former European Cup winners, as a mass entrance of youth replaced the deadwood of the club. Villa found a gem in Christian Benteke, who scored 23 goals in his debut season, while the cheap as chips purchases of Matt Lowton and Ashley Westwood gave belief in this philosophy which was once criticised by ex-pundit Alan Hansen. With a pacey counter attack the front three always looked good going forward but in a reverse of the typical American football jargon – the best offense is not the best defence as Villa conceeded 69 goals.

      Rating: 5.5/10

       

      Season: 2013/14


      Best Bench: Given, Luna, Baker, Bacuna, Tonev, Alrbighton, Kozak.

      Overiew:This was the season Villa were supposed to change their fortunes. A win at Arsenal gave belief to this theory especially with the incredible rise in form of Fabian Delph and Ron Vlaar. However Benteke’s injury broke his self-belief and confidence and the goals dried up without him. Winter loanee Grant Holt couldn’t replicate the same form he experienced at Norwich under Lambert, who he himself had no clear back-up plan to hoofing it up field. One plus point was that Aleksandar Tonev sure knew how to find row Z!

      Rating: 6/10

       

      Season 2014/15 

       

      Best Bench: Given, Lowton, Senderos, Westwood, Cleverley, Cole, Agbonlahor.
      Overiew: With the club up for sale, current owner Randy Lerner tightened the club's purse strings which left Lambert relying on bargain deals and bosman transfers to boost his squad last summer. This wasn’t all bad, however, as the Scottish gaffer performed a dramatic U-turn on his previous philosophy of breading youngsters, as he reintroduced experience along with the infamous ‘bomb squad’ – all bar Darren Bent. With much more quality in the side the club justified their early position, but following their best league start since 1998-99 the club has since staggered into the abyss and relegation is an ever-present thought in every Villa fan’s mind.   

      Rating: 8/10 
       

      So in conclusion to the last five seasons, maybe Owen is right. The Birmingham side’s current squad is, without question, one of the strongest they’ve had in the last few years, five to be precise. But whilst they may have more quality in the side, the performances, on the other hand, have hardly highlighted this. With the club now being continuously mocked on a daily basis by the national media due to their woeful statistics, it’s hardly surprising to see a disrespectful invitation from Seaford Town make the headlines.

       

      With 15 games left to play it’s still left to be seen as to whether ‘the best side they've had in years’ can keep this once great club in the top division. Regardless of whether you read much into stats you can't can't deny their effects of reality which at the moment suggests the club is in freefall!

       

      By Liam McCallion
      (Twitter: @LiamMcCallion23)
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