Villa boss seeks home comforts
Martin O'Neill admits Aston Villa have to rectify their dismal home record of recent seasons if they are to push for a Champions League spot. O'Neill has transformed the fortunes of Villa and led them to three successive top six finishes in the Premier League. But Villa have had to rely chiefly on their away record in trying to rub shoulders with the elite. The facts show that since the 2002-2003 campaign Villa have only once chalked up 10 victories during a season in front of their own fans - in 2007-2008 during O'Neill's second season in charge. The last two campaigns have been particularly frustrating with Villa so close to breaking into the much-vaunted Champions League only for their form on home soil to let them down. Villa only lost on three occasions in both campaigns but they had only seven and eight wins respectively to show for their efforts and too often had to settle for frustrating draws. Last season Villa could not force victory against the likes of strugglers West Ham, Wolves and Sunderland whereas on their travels they won nine times and their 32 point tally was the same as achieved at home. O'Neill said: "The home form is something we should try to improve for this coming season. We'll try our best to find some ways to try and win a few more games. If we could win one or two more at home, then who's to say we couldn't improve our overall position? Our away record has been up there with the very, very best in recent seasons. I think that the home form is something we should look at and obviously try to rectify." O'Neill is likely to be busy in the transfer market before the window shuts at the end of August as he accepts Villa need to bring in new blood to try to maintain a challenge to the likes of Manchester City and Tottenham. He spent nearly £40million last summer in bringing in Stewart Downing, Stephen Warnock, James Collins, Fabian Delph and Richard Dunne although he recouped £12million from the sale of Gareth Barry to Manchester City. The Irishman is aware Villa will need to strengthen, particularly if midfielder James Milner follows Barry to City. He said: "I was really proud of the team last season. We opened the campaign with a loss to Wigan Athletic and, up until the last couple of games, we shared with two other teams the least number of defeats. "That told you a bit about the character of the team and we picked up more points than the previous two seasons. But, if anything, the league is stronger than before. "We would have to try and improve the team even just to stand still. You look at the teams that you want to compete against. "Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and, apart from last season, Liverpool are contesting quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals of the Champions League, and they can hack it domestically. It is tough. "I would also expect Manchester City to be a major force this coming season. In this day of recessionary times, they can push on. "They have made it known they will do that and will go for really quality players and not looking to go for players to fill squads, but the very best quality. They will be an absolute major force. "Tottenham are very strong and I would think with the season they have, they could possibly get stronger. "You would expect Liverpool to get themselves together again and go strongly. It was more competitive last season than ever before and some rich owner might come along at another club and go for it."
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