With regular ‘The Villa Appetizer’ (spelt the American way) writer on Christmas hols, we accepted the offer of swapping interviews with wonderfully named Wigan blog This Northern Soul . After Villa’s last two poor results, the club finds themselves back in the world of relegation six-pointers. Both Villa and their opponents Wigan are riddled with injuries, making the game even more unpredictable. Thanks to Alan at This Northern Soul for reaching out and taking part.
The Wigan Interview – This Northern Soul
Being in the bottom three over Christmas is never ideal, are you confident in
your end of season powers to save you again?
You can never be that confident when you’re looking up from the gutter, but, in six
of the eight seasons we’ve been at this level we’ve managed to pull off some kind
of escape. The other two we finished very comfortably and there were great hopes
(after the closing run last season) that we might push on and manage some kind of
mid table mediocrity this year.
Now we find ourselves in almost exactly the same position that we were in at the
mid-way point last year and the question is whether the manager has another tactical
twist up his sleeve, the chairman has the will to throw a few million more on the
barclayspremierleague bonfire or, if neither are forthcoming, whether this year’s
squad has the magic in it to turn things around.
Honestly, I’m not so sure on any of those points. Our biggest hope seems to be
getting over the injuries that have played their part in hampering progress so far
before we get too separated from the pack and then pull together a decent run of
form. Thankfully we only need to hit the sort of form that Liverpool, Swansea and
West Ham have this time, rather than the Champion’s League qualification stuff we
needed last year, but it’s a massive task either way.
Who’s been carrying the team so far and what does Wigan need from the
January transfer window?
The honest answer there is that no-one has been carrying the team so far, which
is why we’re in the position we are in. We had a bright start with the likes of Ivan
Ramis, James McCarthy and, particularly, Franco di Santo standing out, but Ramis
got injured, McCarthy spent a long time without his ‘ideal’ partner McArthur and di
Santo went off the boil. We’ve played well at times, but no-one has been consistent
enough over recent weeks to say that they’ve shined.
Regardless, the first key to this transfer window is to make sure that the squad isn’t
weakened any further. A number of key players are out of contract in the summer
and with, no signs of contracts being signed, it would only be natural for the club
to want to shift them on. I’m not sure a club in our position could take that amount
of instability, especially in January when it’s notoriously difficult to get value in the
If we’re buying then we need at least one more forward and a winger, someone to
give us a bit more energy and verve going forward and someone to finish things off.
If you don’t want Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent and fancy paying their wages for
us, then we’ll take both off your hands.
To many Roberto Martinez is pretty much solely responsible for Wigan’s
Premiership existence. Does he have his critics at Wigan? If he keeps Wigan
up this season, do you think he’ll then seek a fresh challenge?
Bob definitely has is critics at the DW, less so than before the run we put together
last year but there a still a fair few who can’t get used to his style of play and attitude
towards the game. Whilst that must be the same at any club, the criticisms that Bob
attracts from our fans seems to be rooted in a lack of understanding of the reality of
the club’s position in the bigger scheme of things. That’s an article in itself though.
I’m not sure what it will take for Bob to move on though. As Jimmy says in that
piece, he’s probably already taken us as far as he can, as far as anyone can
possibly so you have to think that he’s still here for some other reason, if he’s here to
build the club a stable base then it may take a while yet, but we’ll see, this summer
may well be the one he moves on. As we’ve seen already, it won’t be just to any job,
Villa are cup semi-finalists and were in decent form before the 8-0 tonking by
Chelsea, what’s your view of Paul Lambert and Villa this season? Do you look
at Aston Villa as fellow relegation candidates?
My first thought on Lambert, as a top flight manager was that he rode Norwich’s
momentum from promotion very well. Just like Paul Jewell did in our Premier
League season, and like us with Jewell, I thought that that they would struggle this
year. Accordingly, I was surprised when Villa picked him up this summer, but at
the same time it was good to see a club you’d expect to go with a manager with a
“reputation” giving potential a chance.
As for Villa, I can’t make my mind up. Is the club in decline or is there a deliberate
attempt to take a couple of steps back in order to move the club forwards on a stable
footing, you’re way closer to the workings and day to day business than I am, what
I do know, however is that this season is proving that last year’s struggle wasn’t
just one of those things and, yes, at the moment, it looks like one of us, you and
Southampton will be joining QPR and Reading in the Championship next season.
What is the key to make Charles N’Zogbia play? He’s been very disappointing
in a Villa shirt…
It’s a strange one, because I honestly thought Utd would have been better off buying
N’Zogbia and leaving Young with you. He really did seem ready for the big step up,
why that hasn’t happened at Villa Park, I don’t know. At a guess, last season will
have been down to McLeish trying to put too many shackles on him in terms of the
role he plays. This year, and again I’m guessing, it’s possibly down to the manager
not knowing how best to use him.
The answer, from what I’ve seen, is to make him feel important, to trust him to
make the right decisions on the pitch and to not be worried if he drifts in and out of
games. His best role, or at least the role he played towards the end of his time with
us, is roaming behind a striker but at the same time being allowed to pop up in wide
positions where he’ll probably have most joy.
If that doesn’t work, then it’s obvious that his best position is playing for Martinez, so
you’ll just have to give us him back.
You couldn’t have picked a better time to come to Villa Park. The Villa team
has had its confidence dented by two recent hammerings and has also a
growing injury list which includes most of the team’s experienced players and
defenders. How do you see the match going?
We’ve got our own injury problems at the moment (although there are signs we’re
getting over them) and we’ve not been firing on all cylinders either. To some extents
it’s a nailed on nil-nil, but with the importance of the match, football’s ability to
surprise and both sides’ goal’s conceded record it could end up a cracker.
My prediction, for what it’s worth, is a 2-1 away win. Yes, that’s more in hope than
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Thanks to www.thisnorthernsoul.co.uk