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Q&A: Wigan Athletic vs Aston Villa

Aston Villa fans look on as a streaker runs on the pitrch during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park.
Aston Villa fans look on as a streaker runs on the pitrch during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park.

Its a funny old game football. And as we approach a game, which in my mind was a week overdue. I talked to Aaron Campeau, from 7500 To Holte, about all things ahead of the game. It looks to be an enthralling contest with two teams, that three points would be very much appreciated.

Now you have had chance to see what Alex McCleish has in mind, what do you think of your new manager? Is he in for the long run? Or will be gone within the next few months?

Assuming Villa doesn’t end up finishing below 15th or so, I think McLeish gets another season. He was brought in because he knows how to work within a budget and suited the style of the players in-house and the club wanted to trim costs and go on a bit of an austerity kick this season. Now that the wage bill is down significantly (and will likely shrink even more this summer) I think Randy Lerner will be willing to give McLeish a bit of money to spend this off-season and see if he can get Villa back to Europe.

I personally don’t like McLeish; I think he’s kind of a jerk, he’s way too quick to throw his players under the bus and his constant claims that his teams don’t tend to play negative football are absurd. With that being said, I think sacking him before next season would be a huge mistake because all of the managerial turnover has caused immense problems. And with the right player acquisitions, I can actually see this team being pretty good, if not especially enthralling.

How do you feel the January Transfer window went for you? Did you buy who you thought you would? Or where there some surprises?

The Robbie Keane loan deal worked out tremendously well; Keane was exactly the kind of player this team needed, and that they were able to perform well enough through a very difficult January and February to make relegation look a very distant threat without having to make a permanent move (with all of the money that would entail) should make the board very happy. Villa also brought in young left back Enda Stevens from Shamrock Rovers, but that deal was done back in August and he’s not going to be making much of a push for the starting XI any time soon.

I’d have loved to see more players brought in, but without players leaving that just wasn’t going to be in the cards. Villa still have some major needs in defense and central midfield, but the players they have now are good enough to get us through the season and this year was always about assessing what we’ve got for the future.

Robbie Keane of course was massive for you over the past two months; did he make that big an impact? Would you like him to stay on at the club?

His impact was enormous. Alex McLeish likes his teams to go from front-to-back very quickly, but without a big target forward capable of winning balls, holding up play and distributing well the traditional long-ball approach doesn’t really work; Keane’s ability to drop deep and create from the midfield was exactly what Villa needed in the build-up; that combined with his ability from long range, vision and positional awareness gave him a skillset unique to Villa and he alone made the team infinitely more enjoyable to watch.

I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to Keane joining the club on a permanent basis, but I’d prefer Villa try to find a similar player elsewhere. Keane is 31 and I think given the situation the club is in it would be better to go younger at the position. He’s also a key player for LA Galaxy and they’ve got a chance to be the best club in North America next season (which would be an enormous step for MLS and for manager Bruce Arena’s legacy) so Villa would almost certainly have to overpay to get him. I also think finding someone that can do what he does from midfield is a better path, because it allows Bent and Agbonlahor to play centrally as opposed to moving Gabby out to the wing. Still, Keane has been so good it would be hard to be upset if he returned permanently.

Aston Villa have been there or there about within the top five clubs in England for the last few years. Where do you feel realistically you can finish? And what would be your ideal realistic finish?

This season, I think anywhere between 8th and 15th is well within reason. Villa would have to play well above what they’ve looked capable of doing so far this season (and get some help from the teams in the European hunt) to finish any higher, and they’d have to fall off of a cliff (and one of the clubs below them would have to sustain a decent run) to finish any lower.

My expectation is somewhere between 9th and 12th, but with the way things look in the middle of the table it really is anyone’s guess.

Who will cause Wigan trouble from the Aston Villa line up?

Gabby Agbonlahor has shaken off a poor 2010/11 season and then some, as he’s looked like a completely different player this season. He’s show more creativity, more skill and all of the pace and strength he had before. On his day, there isn’t a team on earth that he won’t give handfuls of trouble. Darren Bent is as good a poacher as you’ll find anywhere so if he’s getting service, he’s trouble. The real question marks are on the wing; Charles N’Zogbia found himself in Alex McLeish’s doghouse fairly early on and things have only deteriorated. Marc Albrighton has been excellent at times and terrible at others. But if everything is clicking, this is a very dangerous attacking team.

Out of the current Wigan squad which player(s) would you have, and why?

I really like a lot of your players and Victor Moses, Hugo Rodallega, Franco di Santo, Shaun Maloney and Maynor Figueroa would all fit in well at Villa. If you’re asking which player I think would be most useful right now I’d say Figueroa, as Stephen Warnock is a complete and utter disaster and there’s no real alternative. If you’re asking which player I cover the most, it’s a toss-up between di Santo and Moses.

What is your result prediction? And how do you think the match will play out?

I think Villa win, but I don’t think it’s comfortable. This back line is a total mess and Wigan have more than enough attacking talent to nick a goal or two. Still, I think it’s fair to say that Villa are the more talented side and they’ve played quite well away from home this season, so I’d expect them to edge it in the end. 3-2 seems about right.

And finally what is your favourite flavoured pie?

There’s a place here in Seattle called Pies and Pints that does one with beef and mushrooms slow-cooked in burgundy wine sauce. I don’t know if it’s especially traditional, but it’s quite delicious.