Angel warns: 'We don't want our season just to drift away'

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The Independent Football

Juan Pablo Angel believes Aston Villa will have a greater chance of attracting quality players during the transfer window if they can sustain a push for Europe this month. The Villa manager, Martin O'Neill, has made it clear he wants to strengthen his squad in January, which will be tested to the limit during a hectic Christmas and new year.

Angel believes it is vital that Villa do not slip out of the race for a Champions' League or Uefa Cup spot as they prepare for tomorrow's Premiership game at Sheffield United. "We don't want the season just to drift away," he said. "The manager told us the next month or so will probably dictate where we are going to be in the final analysis.

"We have to get the next couple of months right and then we will have a chance to remain in the top part of the table for the final push. But it is also important in terms of attracting players. It is a big difference if you go to a team that is competing for a top-six place and Europe.

"If you are a struggling team, it is difficult to attract quality players. I am sure if we can hang on to where we are at the moment, we will have more chances to bring in good players.

"The manager is well aware of what he needs to make the squad he is looking to develop. If we can have more depth in the squad, it will be better and, the more quality we have, the more chance we have to compete at the highest level."

Angel admits Villa's home reversal by Manchester City 10 days ago acted as a wake-up call and they responded by earning a creditable 2-2 draw at Portsmouth thanks to a late goal from the Colombia international.

He said: "The Manchester City game was like a reality check. We have had a great start to the season and we have to hang on to it. We know if we are right, we are hard to beat and that has been happening so far.

"It was like a good wake-up call for everyone against City and told us we had to get back to basics and do what we had previously been doing - closing people down, getting the chances and putting them away."

Angel was left out of the starting line-up for the first time this season in the draw at Fratton Park but he is in a contented frame of mind compared to last season. "The atmosphere is much better than it was. The way we are playing and the results help too. We're in a good position in the League and all those aspects help with the happiness around the camp.

"I'm really pleased with everything and I'm feeling fit and well. I'm feeling stronger and more confident with every game played. The more you play, the better you feel. It's as simple as that with football."

Chris Sutton could return to provide even stiffer competition for places against the Blades after missing the last three matches with a calf injury. Angel said: "Chris has that winning mentality from his time at Blackburn, when he won a League championship medal, and Celtic. He's a great lad, a very intelligent guy, and I think he's done extremely well in the games he's played in so far this season. The manager knows him well and what he can bring to the squad.

"But we're very lucky because we've got Gabriel Agbonlahor who can play through the middle - and Milan Baros too. Milan is a great striker. He's probably frustrated with the way the season has started but he'll be back firing and will bring a different option for the manager."