Opposing View: Aston Villa
Hopes, fears & expectations for the season?
I'd take anywhere from 15-17th this season with change in both the playing personel and the tactics that are foreign to anyone. There are a few who see us finishing top half once we click, but I'm not one of them, 14th place this time round would be an exceeding of my expectations even though I expect us to click and become consistent in our performances sometime this month. But even then, I still see us struggling to build a comfortable buffer because even as we click, with our youngsters and those new to the league, mistakes will still be made as they adjust - but hopefully we'll do enough in the second half of the campaign to see us safe, even if it's not particularly comfortable.
I don't see us going down though, but I wouldn't be surprised to see 17th place by a single point being the difference.
What are your thoughts on Paul Lambert's appointment & first few months?
Very happy, just the sort of man we need, get the club playing the right way from the top down so our future youngsters can bed in easier already knowing the tactics, and also focusing on bringing in players from the lower leagues that could turn out to be gems instead of paying hyper inflated fees for average journeymen like we have in the recent past.
We've opened as expected, very inconsistent, one great performance, one average, one very shoddy. But we all know it takes time, the biggest debate is will we click with enough time left.
The Norwich performance has seriously scared many fans because of how lacklustre it actually was, but given that was the worst performance so far, I'm hoping it was a bad day at the office because the team have shown themselves capable of far more than that.
Randy Lerner - is he interested anymore or just tightening his belt?
Definitely interested I feel, although granted there are plenty who disagree. We had to tighten the belt with our wage issue and finances, but that's been done now. The conspiracy heads say Lambert has gone for the bargain basement because that's what he's been told to do, but Lambert's made his own choices, and I do think a lot fans will feel more at ease with the owner (especially given the start we've had) if in January, Lambert is again allowed to add 5 or so players (preferrably at least 2 of whom are experienced short term signings to aide the youngsters as they adjust). That was the one thing we missed last window, was a couple of older wiser heads who knew the league to provide support.
Who has done well out of those signed this summer?So far, Brad Guzan (admittedly a re-signing as opposed to fresh) has really stepped up to the plate and he's deserved his place with his performances. Matt Lowton has settled in nicely, and then Ron Vlaar. The others have had their moments (those given a first team chance so far anyway) really, but haven't been as consistent as those so far.
Darren Bent - what's the story?
A lot of it is mountain out of a molehill. I personally think he's putting in far more effort this season than previously in terms of chasing, but with a very inconsistent midfield supply, we need than poacher from our frontline.
In many matches, we started out with strikers who had earnt their positions...in the last few Lambert seems to be trying to suit the strikers to the opposition - hence Gabby for pace, Benteke for strength.
The strange decision though against Norwich was Benteke off when he was the lone frontman, for Bent, who isn't reknowned for holding the ball up and bringing other players into it?
He's still figuring, but obviously he's used to being a guaranteed starter regardless, that's isn't the case anymore.
Whether he moves on or not, some fans will be gutted, others will be happy if we replace him with a more rounded striker.
One player you'd drive to his next club & why?
Has to be Alan Hutton. He doesn't figure in our plans, he's never really put in a performance that has won fans round, so he's just a drain on our wage bill, and for him, he's wasting a part of his career where he could be playing.
Nothing particularly personal for anybody I don't think, but the move here just hasn't worked.
One Sunderland player you'd snare & why?
If not Adam Johnson, I think Connor Wickham. I just think at some point he's going to explode into a very useful frontman. I haven't seen much of him at Sunderland, but the bits I saw in his Ipswich days he reminded me of a Crouch type of player. Not a beanpole, but good feet, good head...and Wickham has a touch more pace.
Who's unavailable for Saturday & how will you line up?
Dunne and N'Zogbia are definitely out and I'm not sure if Joe Bennett serves his suspension against Swindon or yourselves.
That's about the best I can tell you at the moment (pre Cup match) as we seem very hush hush ahead of games when it comes to injuries. A few players were missing from the bench against Norwich that you'd have expected to see like Bannan, but was that choice or injury?
I'd imagine Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker will both be undergoing late fitness tests on Thurs, Friday to judge their involvement.
I'd expect following Norwich:Guzan; Herd, Vlaar, Lowton, Lichaj; El-Ahrabi, Ireland, Holman, Albrighton; Bent & Benteke.
Benteke if he plays - do we get the scorer or the misser?
I'd take a 1-1 to be honest. But any kind of win after our last performance would be a Godsend.
Cheers Mike. Make sure you head on over to Vital Aston Villa to check out my answers so Mike`s questions!