Q&A With Aston Villa

  • March 16, 2018 | By Chris Mann
  • URL Short URL: http://b-ac.es/8dc90

Phil Parkinson's methods may not always be pleasing on the eye, but they should be good enough for Bolton to retain their Championship status.

Those are the views of Aston Villa supporter Matt Booher (@mattbooher13) from 7500 to Holte, who spoke to us ahead of Saturday's clash between the two sides.

In the following Q&A interview, Matt shares his views on Villa's all-or-nothing approach to promotion, how Steve Bruce has turned around a fledgling team since the New Year, as well as why Parkinson will prove to be a success when all is said and done at the end of the season.

Q: After a disappointing 13th-placed finish last season, Villa have looked good this term and remain in the promotion picture with nine games to go. With near neighbours Birmingham and Wolves initially struggling to adapt at this level, not to mention clubs such as Sunderland, Hull City and ourselves at Bolton, why do you seem to have taken to it with ease?

A: Most Villa fans would likely say it hasn't been all that easy. While it's a sample size of one - Aston Villa - I think most fans would be surprised at the level of deterioration inside their clubs while relegation is happening.

Villa's last season in the Premier League was poor - really poor - but an ownership change post-relegation forced a complete turnover of club officials, managers, and squad. The club was cleaned out quickly.

We started slowly under Roberto De Matteo last season and Steve Bruce arrived to right the ship. Bruce stabilised an attack-heavy squad and gave us a defensive spine this season by going out and convincing John Terry to join Villa.

It's only very recently Villa fans have warmed to Bruce and it correlates with our upturn in form. A 2-1 loss at Brentford on Boxing Day had the daggers out but since then Villa have ripped off 10 wins, 2 losses, and a draw, including seven wins in-a-row to start the new year.

Villa have also benefited from investment and resources. The 'big club' debate is pretty stupid but Villa have resources many clubs don't have available in terms of money and academy.

It's not all roses though. Financial Fair Play is a serious concern once the Premier League parachute payments run out. It's feeling like an all-or-nothing season.

Q: Sticking with sides who have struggled after dropping out of the Premier League, other names such as Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic have also fallen from grace over recent years. What do you think it is about Championship football that makes life so much more difficult than the top-flight?

A: I think the cadence of a Championship season forces clubs to perform more frequently and more consistently when compared to life in the Premier League. 46 games compared to 38. Midweek fixtures.

Sides in the Premier League seem have one of two goals - Champions League or survival. So, in actuality, only six or seven sides are truly going for it. Most seem content to make do with staying in the Premier League.

At least 12-15 clubs at the start of a Championship season have a shot at promotion. And while they don't have extensive resources, they've decided to go for it and makes getting off to a quick start essential.

In the Championship, the compression of the table makes it far move competitive. Points can be gained everywhere and the differences between the top and bottom of the table is much smaller.

Squads aren't as big in the Championship so teams play more games on tired legs and perhaps resort to more physical play to keep games close.

Also, officiating is a bit more spotty making for unpredictable moments. A lot of proud clubs and historic grounds create atmospheres where even top clubs have a hard time going to bottom-half sides and winning points.

Q: Villa went into their midweek clash with QPR on the back of three successive wins - a sequence of results which brought 11 goals. However, a surprise 3-1 defeat leaves you seven points behind in the race for automatic promotion. How do you rate your chances between now and May?

A: Automatic promotion went with the QPR loss.

I think Wolves, Cardiff, Villa, and Fulham all deserve to go up, but one will be left out. I'm sure Derby and Middlesbrough will also have something to say about it before it's all said and done.

Villa have three wins, four losses, and one draw against the current top six. Games at home to Cardiff and Derby loom.

What's concerning is that Villa failed to score on their trips to Wolves, Cardiff, Fulham, and Derby. I believe they're a different side now as those games were played what feels like an eternity ago, but promotion feels like a long shot.

But there is still all to play for and even with nine matches left in the season, a twist or turn in the season remains. Bruce is a specialist in this area so we remain optimistic.

Q: Bolton have been in good form since a dismal defeat at Villa Park in September. In fact, had the season started from the game that followed, Wanderers would be 13th in the division and 12 points clear of the relegation zone. What have you made of our campaign, and is Phil Parkinson capable of guiding the club to safety?

A: My context for Bolton is limited to our matchup back in September and scanning the matchday scores. At the time I was surprised to see they were propping up the table.

Bolton has some size and played a physical game, which is effective in the Championship. The tactics against Villa seemed spot on.

You're six points clear of the relegation zone and closer to the teams above you versus below. Goals seem hard to come by though.

I was critical of Bruce's early days when he set up Villa in a very conservative approach. I argued at the time you can't win promotion on the back of 1-0's, but you can certainly win safety and I see Bolton climbing over the line and remaining in the Championship.

They appear to be a hard-working side short on goalscoring, but you're not shipping goals in buckets and Phil Parkinson has them tactically sound so I think it'll be good enough.

Q: With leading goalscorer Gary Madine sold to Cardiff City, Wanderers are still somewhat of a team in transition. Who do you think stands out as your biggest threat going into the weekend?

A: Villa have shown an ability to score in bunches, even against good sides.

Robert Snodgrass and Albert Adomah on the wings with Jack Grealish in the pocket have been driving the bulk of Villa's scoring opportunities. Lewis Grabban has been an effective January signing and while Villa don't have a go-to striker, we've scored three-or-more goals six times in our last 12 matches.

James Chester has three goals in three games from set-pieces. We can score from anywhere so a blitz of goals should concern Bolton - or an early goal.

Chasing a game against Villa is tough because as opponents push forward our wingers and Grealish can exploit the space behind the opponents' midfield and run at an exposed defense. It's how we've been piling up the goals recently.

Q: Finally, what is your score prediction for Saturday's game?

2-0 Villa - a goal in each half as Villa puts their QPR disaster behind them and get back to the business of winning promotion.

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Sky Bet League One Standings

Pos Team Pld Pts
19 Rochdale 34 36
20 AFC Wimbledon 35 35
21 Tranmere Rovers 34 32
22 Southend United 35 19
23 Bolton Wanderers 34 14
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