Rams one on one with a Villan
On the eve of the Rams trip to Villa Park I had a chat to the Vital Villa editor JP Fear. I started by asking -
1. Villa have done well at home this season, can you put your finger on the problem with the away form?
We've been pretty lousy away from home for a number of seasons and better men then me - namely the managers - have failed to put their finger on the reason for that. To be fair this season we've turned the losses into draws so there are improvements, trouble is we HAVE to start turning some of the draws into wins, that has been the killer in the last few years, too many 1 point games. We were unlucky to not get a win out of the Newcastle game, we went to Man City on a high after beating Chelsea at home only to lay down for Citeh to take all the points with just one shot by them! The draw at Spurs was just beyond belief, to go from 4-1 up to 4-4 was naive to say the least. Then we drew 1-1 with Bolton last weekend, I thought we were pretty lousy although judging by the reaction to my match report, others were happy with the performance.
2. O'Neill has been under pressure from certain quarters in the media, what's your thoughts on the Irishman?
I've seen no pressure from the media, in fact I'd say he was a media darling due to the fact he is very likeable and funny to interview. He has a big reputation that the media certainly seem to propogate. I would say there has been the opposite of pressure, there are a lot in the media clamouring for him as the next England manager. My thoughts? I'm on the fence like I am with most managers when they start. I would like to see what he can do but he has admitted himself that he has to get back up to speed following his break from football and hopefully he'll do that quickly. I like MON and hope he is the man to take us forward. With the current style of play I can't see us troubling any higher than 6th in the league but with a few good purchases in the transfer window and then the summer, I'm sure that could change.
One of the main quibbles for those that have doubts is the transfer window activity. He did well to bring in Ashley Young last January but his other purchases are very mixed. I think a good few fans felt insulted and confused at the arrival of Marlon Harewood after we'd been promised 'world class' players and then we have the enigma of Stiliyan Petrov. He cost £8.5m the summer before last and yet we are still being told he'll be a good player when he settles. I know there is a good player in there but how long do you have to wait?!
Time will tell, I'd think he would be more likely to walk if he didn't think he was doing a good job rather than him getting sacked by our owner. That was certainly the impression O'Neill gave when he did a fans forum and explained why he didn't like long term contracts.
3. Your thoughts on Derby's form and from what you have seen do you believe they can stay in the Premier League?
It is really tough isn't it? There are some fairly 'strong' teams in the bottom half of the league and the confidence of your team doesn't exactly seem to be high. Who knows at this stage of the season though, a few wins and things could look very differently. I must admit although I'd like to see the Rams stay up, I would very much doubt, unless Billy Davies pulls a miracle or two in the transfer window, that you will.
4. In your opinion what are the strength's of the Villains and were do you think they need to improve?
At the moment I'm not altogether sure, I've become increasingly confused with us. When we play the ball on the floor and try to pass things we look good but we seem to revert all to easily to the long ball hoofing which isn't pretty and in the modern day of football simply does not work. It might have been fine in the 90's with a tough tackling physical Leicester City but not now. I would think our main strength is our speed. There is plenty of pace in the team especially with Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor. We also have a strong central midfield with Gareth Barry especially impressing.
Improvements? Well our defence need to wake up a bit, we've concede four goals twice so far this season and that isn't good when we have so many decent defenders. The main area of improvement is - like most teams really - the need for a regular goalscorer. We have young strikers like Luke Moore and Gabriel Agbonlahor who are still learning their trade and hopefully have plenty of time to do so. To supplement that we need a player like Nicolas Anelka who can score out of nothing. That would take a huge amount of pressure off our defenders. I would love to think that the Hulk John Carew could be the missing link once fit and in form but to date he shows plenty of menace and holds the ball up well but doesn't yet have the knack of putting the ball in the net regularly. If he starts banging them in then Europe is possible.
5. Who should the Rams need to keep a close eye on this Saturday?
I think Villa will be a handful for you guys because they know this is a game they HAVE to win at home. I would expect Ashley Young and Gabby to be the ones to watch. Gareth Barry will do his usual role of being the engine of the team and I'd not try to get passed Martin Laursen with any headers if I was you, as you will be met by a brick wall!
6. What is your prediction for the game?
I will go with a 2-0 to Villa. I don't think the game will be a walkover and I really hope we don't take Derby lightly, if we do then we might all go home very disappointed.
For my interview on Vital Villa, Click Here