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Tough Season Ahead with Squad Depth a Real Issue

The latest instalment of Aston Villa Blog’s partnership with fellow fan site Aston Villa Life has been sent in by editor and guest blogger Matt Turvey and is based around the lack of depth in the squad and the hope that the youngsters can make the next step up.

With most of the close season focusing on the departures of two of the strongest wingers in the squad in the forms of Ashley Young and Stewart Downing, many questions have been asked of Aston Villa in terms of how the team will cope next year.

The concerns are very real and with solid foundation.  Whilst many profess that Darren Bent scored the goals that made the difference between a top half finish and a season in the Championship, there is no doubt that it was the team’s performance, combined with some late good fortune, that eventually led Villa to safety.

Whilst Young was deployed in a unusual second striker role last year, he still performed admirably hence leading to his transfer to Manchester United.  Some may say therefore that losing Young isn’t really something that would affect the wings, but the reality is that whilst Young played in a differing role for most of the season, he was still cover for both wings.

Obviously the other departure was Stewart Downing, who clearly was playing on the wing last year.  In part, Villa were fortunate to have Marc Albrighton emerge from the shadows last year, although I do have some concern that his emergence is papering over cracks a little.  Albrighton might cover the loss of one of the wingers, but not both, and the signing of N’Zogbia is far from definite at present.  Why am I concerned that we have lost two wingers?  It is just a repeat of the Barry and Milner saga, just in differing positions.

You see, Barry leaving, and being seemingly fluidly replaced by Milner, gave an impression that Barry’s sale was somewhat beneficial.  Here, it would seem, was an aging player who Manchester City were offering a comparative king’s ransom for.  Simple business really.  Take the money and run most said.

The reality is though that Barry was never replaced, and when his replacement didn’t get replaced either, then it was patently obvious which way the team was going to go, and it wasn’t upwards.

So for the past few years it has been losses in the centre of the park, and this year the losses are in the wider areas of the midfield.

We currently are enduring a legacy of former managers at present due to how the squad is composed.  Last season was a mish-mash of a year, with crises and dressing room unrest providing the unwelcome topping on the loss of Messrs Barry & Milner in the preceeding 12 months.

Losing both of those players illustrated a problem that didn’t really get fixed during the course of the year.  Looking at the squad, we were down to bare bones when the likes of Jonathon Hogg and Chris Herd had to step up to the Premier League as starters.  No other explanation beyond a dearth of quality would explain such a selection.  That statement is not meant to suggest that those players can’t become good players, but that far more was expected from them than was reasonably possible.

So when our player of the year and a former PFA Young Player of the Year leave in one season, many have a right to feel concerned, to feel upset, to feel lost.  They have a right because they saw the exploits of what happened last year in the centre of the park, and they feel it could be a case of history repeating itself on the wings.

Can Villa afford to have youngsters step up in the middle and wide areas of the midfield?  Or is it simply a case of asking for far too much from a team that needs time and experience to develop?

I am hoping for the best, but when you are having to rely on hope alone, you realise next season may be a tough one.

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