Villa World

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WHAM! Review

(No, I haven’t been to see the band…)

Just like the weekend before, it was a good game where I was annoyed we didn’t win. West Ham certainly had their fair share of the chances but so did we and a draw is arguably the right result. That said, 1-0 up with five minutes to go, you always have to be disappointed when you don’t go on to win. It was obviously disappointing that Rob Styles, who is THE worst ref in the Premiership, failed to give us a penalty. But the defending and failure to take chances of both teams meant that on this day, Aston Villa and West Ham were both their own worst enemies.

Neither side are great at the back, neither side could take their chances (barring on each, obviously) and both sides play some nice stuff. Both teams are also in what is probably their ‘right’ position for the season and may well still be there come game 38. That said, going on current form, Tottenham are probably the favourites to take the 7th spot, but with them still facing trips to Anfield and Old Trafford, I am sure the Spammers fans will be hopeful. Personally, I hope Fulham get there though, as I think Roy Hodgson has done a fantastic job. That said, I would like any of the London clubs to get it ahead of Man City. It just seems like footballing justice every time they lose a game of football.

Given the circumstances, we needed the three points. I genuinely felt that if we could take 19 points from our last 21, that Arsenal may slip up enough to give us a fighting chance of regaining 4th spot. Now, that is simply too much to ask. Obviously we must keep going until it is mathematically impossible but, much like our neighbours from West Bromwich, the painful defeat is now not just staring us in the face, it is giving us a big sloppy kiss!

When you consider our home form, the one thing it has to do is give us hope for next season; rectify it, and CL football in 2010-2011 will be a very real, distinct possibility. Maybe we will not be able to sustain the away form, but I don’t see why we should not and even if we don’t, turning these home draws into wins is likely to more than counteract any slip in points obtained away. I’m sure Arsenal will also point to games where they should have won, but the difference is, each of the last three seasons we have been progressively getting better, whereas Arsenal have progressively been getting worse. In addition, Chelsea will not have Guus Hiddink and consequently could face a downturn in form. Plus as we all now, Liverpool are one serious injury to Steven Gerrard away from slipping out of the top 4 themselves.

The top 4 are the top 4 and that is how it is. That is how it will finish this season, and they will – rightfully so – be considered the favourites to finish that way again next season. But in my opinion, the only guaranteed certs are Manchester United. After that, while the other three WILL be the most likely, I am sure that the likes of ourselves and Everton – and probably Citeh & Spuds – will be putting up an even tougher fight next season.

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April 20, 2009 Posted by | Football, Soccer | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Everton Review

Good game!

Personally I thought we deserved the win. Fair play to Everton, they played better football than I thought they would without Arteta. We made it easy at times though, as our defending was woeful.

I did have to enjoy the irony of David Moyes & perennial-whinger Phil Neville complaining about some decisions that went our way when you see the foul on Friedel for their second goal. Both teams had good penalty shouts turned down; from our point of view, Ashley Young does not help himself sometimes. He had one clear penalty not given but if he didn’t dive (which I HATE) then he would get more of these decisions. The irony is he very genuinely gets fouled a lot, so the extra dives just don’t seem worth it!

I thought we did well to come back, 2-0 then 3-1, against a genuinely very good Everton side, and as I said, in all honesty I thought we deserved to win it. I genuinely thought we would once we pulled it level. That said, at 3-1 I would have taken 3-3.

Ashley Young played well but I was surprised he got MOTM. personally, I would have put Milner, Petrov, Barry and Carew ahead of him. I was also pleased with Delfounso when he come on, it was a shame he missed that opportunity to win the game for us.

With Arsenal winning at Wigan (what the hell was that? “Nah, you’re alright mate, that aint a sending off”… WHAT?!) it makes it exceptionally difficult now. We need to win all 6 games and hope that Arsenal lose 3 of their final 6. With them still having to play the top 3 there is a glimmer of hope, but realistically it’s all about finishing 5th now. If we finish 5th, it is further progress. Let us hope that happens again next season.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | Football, Soccer | , , | Leave a comment

Everton Preview

According to the OS, Carlos Cuellar (back) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (virus) are both injury doubts prior to Everton, but Steve Sidwell may be back in contention. Emile Heskey, Wilfred Bouma and Martin Laursen are all still out.

If they are both out, then it will be interesting to see if MON starts with Nathan Delfounso. Ironically enough, after all my harping on about 4-5-1, I would be inclined to look at 4-4-2 against Everton! I just feel that due to the type of game that Everton play, which is a lot of long-ball, the midfield may get bypassed enough that it would be worth starting with two up top. Especially as they are without Arteta, who is key to any variation in their play.

They are also without Anchibe, Yakubu, Yobo, and (probably) Vaughan. So while we have our injury problems, they could be there for the taking too.

I can not emphasise enough how much we need to win on Sunday. I wholeheartedly believe that we can still get 4th, but we HAVE to win on Saturday. Arsenal still have to go to Anfield and Old Trafford, they still have Chelsea toplay and even this weekend face a tricky trip to Wigan. I actually believe their good run and our bad run could have come just nicely, as there is enough games for the tables to turn again.

If we don’t beat Everton though, then I think it could all be over, and we will need to start worrying more about them and the team below us. I believe in us, and I believe Sunday can be the start of a good run, but even a draw is leaving us needing 18 points from the last six games; truth  be told, that is probably the case even if win.

Simply put – Sunday is an absolute must-win for Aston Villa.

Prediction: 2-1

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Football, Soccer | , , | Leave a comment

Manchester United Review

You know, if you had told me that we would lose 5-0 and 3-2 against Liverpool and Man U but I had to guess which way round the defeats were, I would have definitely got it wrong. On the day of the Anfield game, I genuinely felt we could get a result if we applied ourselves properly. On Sunday, I was convinced we were going to get stuffed, even with their absent players.

Yet they go and give me hope!

You will have seen the game, read the match reports and so on, so I wont go into too much detail about what happened. What I will say is, we didn’t capitalise on opportunities the way we should have done, we had two excellent chances to create something just before they got the winner and while they have undoubted quality even without the players that were missing, if we had showed a but more composure then I believe that we could have gone on to win the game.

What this performance did do though, was give me the belief that we can go and put a run together in these last seven games. Starting with Everton on Saturday – make no bones about it, this game is HUGE.

April 7, 2009 Posted by | Football, Soccer | , , , | 1 Comment

Manchester United Preview

So tomorrow we head to Old Trafford. A difficult fixture for anyone, and traditionally appears to be more difficult for us than just about everyone else. We have an absolutely horrendous record there, and against them generally.

I don’t see this changing tomorrow.

I want it to, of course I do, I’m a Villa fan! But I just think that they are not going to lose three games on the spin. So what are the factors?

History – that is against us, clearly! We have not won there since 1983, we have not beaten them in the league since 1995 and we have not beaten them at all since 1999.

Quality – despite having Liverpool done the double over them, I still believe that Man U are the best team in the country. Gerrard and Torres are two exceptional players that would get into any team in the world; I believe if you stuck them in the Villa team then we’d be a lot closer to 1st, let alone 4th. But for overall quality, United are exceptional.

Form – Manchester United have lost their last two games. Can we make it three? I highly doubt it. It would have been difficult enough without that. It’s strange, against most teams, you would look at them losing two on the spin and see it as hope. Against a team like Man U, it seems to make our task even harder.

So is there any hope? Well, our streak-without-a-win will surely end soon, but that is more likely to be at home to Everton. What does give us reason to feel encouraged is that they have Vidic, Scholes and Rooney suspended, with Berbatov (and possibly Rio Ferdinand) injured. In addition, Carlos Tevez is likely to be feeling less than his freshest having travelled back ‘from Mars’ as Sir Alex Ferguson put it; it’s a shame the game isn’t today really! It is also a shame that Christiano Ronaldo was not sent off against Fulham – he certainly should have been.

Therefore it could be worse. But I still expect tradition to be maintained. To be honest, we may have 8 games left, but as far as I am concerned tomorrow is a write-off. Jeez, I hope no-one on the Villa staff is as defeatist as me!

From our point of view, Martin O’Neill has discussed the possibility of reverting back to 4-5-1. I would like to see that. With Emile Heskey out, he may look to Gabriel Agbonlahor, but if he plays with one up top then I would like to see him stay with John Carew. He could still play Gabby out wide, and shove James Milner or Ashley Young into a more central role, but I think he may go with Nigel Reo-Coker or Steve Sidwell. NRC is likely to play whatever happens, as he may well play at right-back again; in all fairness, I thought he was exceptional there in the return fixture at Villa Park. As Wilfred Bouma is unlikey to return in this fixture and Nicky Shorey continues to be left in the wilderness, Luke Young is likely to remain at left-back, meaning that if NRC does play in midfield, then Carlos Cuellar will play at right-back and Zat Knight will return to partner Curtis Davies. Complicated stuff, eh!

Prediction: 2-0.

April 4, 2009 Posted by | Football | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment