Does the Premier League now have a ‘big five’?

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles

After a dominant victory at the Emirates and a well earned competitive draw against Manchester United, are we finally seeing the establishment of a new big club in the Premiership? Is the ‘big four’ developing into the ‘big five’?

After having come up against all of the so-called ‘big four’ this season, Aston Villa have only lost to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge while proving more than capable against Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. Excluding their match against Chelsea, Villa have shown that they are a force to be reckoned with when coming up against the other teams out of the big four. Liverpool endured a battle at Villa Park, and were fortunate to come away with a hard earned point. Arsenal found it difficult to break down Villa at the Emirates and when they did, they failed to take there chances.

Ultimately Martin O’Neill’s men in claret and blue made Arsenal pay. A Clichy own goal and a clinical finish from Gabriel Agbonlahor proved enough for Aston Villa to claim all three points. And in the evening kick off on Saturday, Villa coped with the threat of the European champions, Manchester United, while providing their own threat to United’s defence.

The athletic ability of Agbonlahor up front and the speed, dribbling, and crossing abilities of both Ashley Young and James Milner on either wing proved a stern test for Sir Alex Ferguson’s back four. At the end of 90 minutes, the United boss could hardly have any complaints at the result, with both teams having good chances to snatch a victory.

How has Martin O’Neill set about creating a strong unit at Villa Park?

He has found the right balance of experience and youth. With the acquisition of Brad Friedal during the summer, for the first time in many years, Villa now have a reliable pair of hands between the sticks. Friedal is renowned as one of the Premierships, if not one of the world’s best shot stoppers.

Friedal enjoys the presence of Danish international and captain, Martin Laursen in front of him, who provides guidance for Villa’s young starlet Curtis Davies, whose fine form this season, has earned him a couple of international call-up’s but is still waiting to make his full international debut. Luke Young, Nikey Shorey and Wilfred Bouma are all competent full backs with good experience and have all captained their previous clubs ( Charlton, Reading and PSV) at one stage or another.

As we move into midfield we are greeted by even more leaders on the pitch in the shape off the combative Steve Sidwell, the tenacious Nigel ReoCoker, the technical Stilian Petrov and the versatile Gareth Barry. Arguably the biggest coup of the summer for Villa was that they managed to hold onto Gareth Barry. He is there inspirational midfielder.  Ashley Young, James Milner, Gabby Agbonlahor and John Carew provide the main attacking threat for Villa.

Young and Milner, both young attacking midfielders provide great width for Villa and the experienced Carew enjoys the service that both supply as they regularly whip in dangerous crosses. Agbonlahor is Villa’s top scorer this season with 8 goals in all competitions. The 22 year old, is deadly on the counter attack with the Premiership’s quickest defenders finding it hard to cope with his raw pace.

What is for sure is that O’Neill has developed a squad with a strong core that are a force to be reckoned with, especially at Villa Park. Only Middlesborogh have come away from Villa Park with three points this season. A minor blip for Martin O’Neill’s men. With the solid start that Aston Villa have achieved so far this season they now find themselves lying in 4th place, 1 point behind Manchester United. This leaves Aston Villa with every reason to believe that they have a chance of qualifying for next years Champions League, especially with the decline in Arsenal’s form.

So who said that only the big four could challenge for the Premiership? Aston Villa are a team to watch out for, Martin O’Neill is a manager who only recognises success.


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