Soccer Premier League

Barclays Premier League: 5 Aston Villa Storylines To Follow As Season’s End Nears

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5 Aston Villa Storylines To Follow As The Premier League Winds Down

Premier League: 5 Aston Villa Storylines
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The storylines may have been different for Aston Villa two weeks ago, as it looked like they were settling in for a middle of the table finish in the Barclays Premier League. Now with their form trending downwards, the Villains may not feel as comfortable in 12th position. Villa's 27 points puts them just four points clear of 18th as the back half of the Premier League table continues to bunch up. For many fans of the team, the start to the second half of the season has killed all optimism.

On Saturday, Villa lost 2-0 to West Ham, playing a very casual first half and then seeing Kevin Nolan score twice in as many minutes early in the second half. Scoring in bunches has become a theme for the Villa opponents of late. Since other teams do not fear the Villa attack, they then sit back and dare to be broken down. With seven matches played since the new year, Villa has come away with two wins and bowed out of the FA Cup with 2-1 loss to Sheffield United.

Some aspects of this season mirror last year, as Aston Villa was in the relegation conversation around the midpoint of the 2012-13 Premier League season. They would finish middle of the table and finish the season in a way to provide optimism for fans. This case of deja vu may give some comfort, but general reaction after Saturday's loss on social media shows more anxiety than comfort. It also doesn't help that their home record over the past three seasons is dreadful. Manager Paul Lambert and play on defense are what seem to be called into question the most. Blame could be placed across the pitch, as we will see in this post.

Marc Albrighton has been a bright spot for the Villains and provided a bit of a spark in the second half against West Ham. Albrighton was the offense providing precise crosses and getting off a few shots proving that he should get more time on the field. He could not inspire the rest of the team and that is partially why so many questions remain for Aston Villa.

Douglas Smith is a soccer writer for Follow him on Twitter @DFresh39, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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5. Will The Ron Vlaar Injury Be A Concern Moving Forward?

Ron Vlaar Aston Villa
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In order for this team to change its current momentum, they need to get healthy. The biggest injury is Ron Vlaar, as the captain's hamstring injury is a big blow to the defense of Aston Villa. When Vlaar starts, the team gives up half a goal less on average than when he is out of the lineup. A hamstring injury can be one of the trickiest for any athlete, but Villa needs their captain healthy.

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4. Is There A Plan In Place For The Summer?

Villa Park
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Villa was quiet in January and has relied on a young lineup over the last two years. Given the gap to the top half of the table, it made sense to stay put. They keep a strategy that it is better to deal in the summer because of better prices and availability, but the time is now to put the plan in motion. The team could lose up to 10 players on their current roster, including youngsters Albrighton, Gary Gardner and Nathan Delfouneso. There could be more money available with the possible departures and potential contribution from a sponsor that will also help to renovate a portion of the stadium.

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3. Will Paul Lambert Get A Contract Extension?

Paul Lambert Aston Villa
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News broke last week that contract talks had began on an extension for Paul Lambert. Chairman Randy Lerner started the talks with Lambert, who says there is no rush as he still has time on his current deal. However, the Premier League culture is to look for a quick fix, which generally comes through the firing of the manager. Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner often work together on large scale decisions like this. Of course, there was a rumor that the club was for sale last week as well, which Faulkner denied. If it is on the market then the contract talks become a moot point.

Reading comments of fans on Villa stories will show that they do not give their blessing to a contract extension. This could easily become a point of contention between club and fans.

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2. Will Aston Villa Regret Not Selling Christian Benteke?

Christian Benteke Aston Villa
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Christian Benteke has been the focus of transfer rumors during the last two windows, but remained with Aston Villa. His form has slumped this year, with only eight goals this year, two of which were on penalties. Obviously, a striker needs service, but the decline is noticeable. He is not the same player that scored 23 goals in his debut campaign in England.

He was linked to a £25m move to Tottenham and Chelsea last summer, but pulled his transfer request quickly before signing a new contract with Aston Villa. Benteke became a hero of sorts for the Villa fans, but now he is part of a slumping side and is not without blame. He will need to regain his form for his team to have success.

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1. Where Will Aston Villa Finish?

Brad Guzan Aston Villa
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The bottom half of the table in the Premier League is bunched very tightly. Villa is one of the teams sliding and will face a team in a more dire situation, Cardiff City, on Tuesday in Wales to try to get back on the right track. Newcastle and Norwich are the matches that follow, so Aston Villa is coming up on a stretch of matches they should feast on. They could restore optimism and it will be needed in the next three, because Manchester City and Chelsea are on the schedule in March. The next five matches will determine the fate of Aston Villa.