Date: 29th April 2011 at 10:38pm
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The start of a derby double header sees us entertain the Villa this weekend, Vital Villa were kind enough to answer a few questions.

With thanks to Mike Field.

1) Is the season going as you expected and what has been the highlight and lowlight so far?

There were a few of us who thought we’d see a dip this season long before O’Neill quit – it just seemed too much we’d hit our limit and the bubble had burst with unhappy players, and a lack of interest on the pitch becoming all too regular, but nobody expected the dire performances and results we’ve seen this season.

Houllier took way too long (for whatever reason) to bed in and the injuries certainly didn’t help, but my expectation this season would’ve been no lower than 8th and you have to question whether we’ll achieve that now.

Highlights of the season for me would be the youth promotions and seeing Bannan, Albrighton and Clark especially find their feet and show that although they have plenty to learn, they could be very big players for us over the coming years.

Lowlights could be any number of results we’ve had and the games where the team have just decided not to bother showing up.

2) From an outsiders point of view you have had a woeful season, do you think you are now safe from relegation and where are you looking to finish?

As above, even allowing for the managerial problems and the injuries, anything below 8th would be a serious underachievement with the quality of the players we do have.

I few months ago I would’ve taken 12th just simply so we were safe, given how the table lies at the moment, I can’t see us being sucked back into the relegation mire – there are worse teams and we seem to finally have found a little bit of form – but about 10th would be realistic for us now, which of course is far better than what we have been lucky at for most of the season.

3) Where do you see your current weaknesses this season? Any clues for the game will be greatly appreciated 🙂

Weaknesses are still the same as ever, we have moments of sheer terror defensively where it looks like everybody syncronises the thought ‘did I leave the gas on, did I lock the back door’ – although thankfully we are improving on that score. In terms of attacking play we finally seem to have returned to our best, which is get in the box quick, but under Houllier we do have a tendancy to slow things right down in the final third and look for an opening as opposed to creating one which doesn’t always work.

4) Who will be your key dangerman?

Downing or Bent really. Bent speaks for himself in capitalising on chances since he joined us – which is ironic for many fans as we hardly create any for him whereas in seasons previous we’ve done nothing but create chances for strikers. If you give him two chances, he’ll score one.

Downing is our hingepin in the second half of this season, almost everything goes through him, so if you can shut him down, we’ll be looking to the left side instead and then it’s a matter of simply ‘is Ash awake’ today and he’s been nowhere near his best this season.

5) Do you believe Albion should be worried about our position in the table, or do you feel we have enough about us to survive come the end of the season?

There are worse teams below you, and you are on a decent run the last few games, so I’d be very surprised if you didn’t pick up at least another 4 points in the run in, so you are well safe – at least this season.

6) Obviously we’ve swapped Di Matteo for Hodgson, do you think we’ll now be a completely different prospect compared to the game earlier in the season and have you been surprised by the impact Roy has had on our results of late?

A good portion of Villans wouldn’t have minded Hodgson as O’Neill’s replacement, so it’s little surprise he’s almost instantly kicked back into Fulham mode and improved you at the back.

As for the game, stat wise Albion were on top in the earlier clash, but we were just better infront of goal – I’d guess the game will be tighter following your improvement, but at least from what I’ve seen so far in terms of how Albion are dangerous, Hodgson hasn’t altered that, so I’m not expecting much difference other than you won’t be as open at the back.

7) If you could take one of our players, who would it be and why?

Odemwingie is the obvious choice as he looks like a natural finisher who can do it in this league, but I quite like the look of Graham Dorrans myself.

I’ve no idea if he’d work at Villa, but he’d be my pick.

8) Who do you see as our main threat?

Odemwingie without a doubt. Again it’s the obvious choice, but at least from what I’ve seen of him he’s just clinical in the mould of Darren Bent. Two chances = one goal on a pretty regular basis, and I’d love to two such finishers at the club.

9) Where would you say our current weaknesses are in terms of how you will approach the match?

Despite Hodgson’s improvements and better organisation of your team defensively, Chelsea and Spurs showed that you can still be opened up nicely, and with us running ourselves into some form and getting back to our best in terms of quick attacking play, I’d guess we’ll look to run your fullbacks quite ragged, and beat your back 4 on the turn.

10) Finally, a prediction please fellow football fan…

I think we’ll be too strong in attack, or at least I hope so. 2-0 to us.

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