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      Just visiting?   27/12/16

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PB

Swindon

Back from the game, and well, i dont quite know what to say about that......

First things first..... last minute winners away from home in the cup are bloody epic, and I dont care who it was against, but moments like that are what football addicts out of us. Absolutely fan-bloody-tastic, the away end went mental.

More rationally, we look very at home at this level.

Defensively we are just a joke. Comical really. First half we played OK, we contained the expected rush early on, put our foot on the ball, played through it pretty comfortably, scored a couple of good goals and seemed to have it in the bag, easy street. It wasnt a particularly impressive performance, just comfortable

Second half, well, we got played off the park from 45-85 minutes. Totally outclassed. They scored two, could have easily been four or five. Just a total shambles of a football team, so, so fragile. Then, at 2-2, instead of crumbling away altogether, we suddenly stepped up about 20 gears, passed it quickly and incisively, nearly scored twice, then did score.

How important will that goal be? We will see. It felt like a big moment.

PB

Not Good Enough

Well, that wasn't very pretty, was it? I wrote on twitter that I felt uncomfortable about being outplayed (and we were very outplayed) by Norwich. Alan Hansen reportedly described our performance as embarrassing, and while i dont usually have much time for the miserable sweaty, on this occasion he was right. it was embarrassing.

I dont do knee jerk reactions, and while I remain confident that we will come through this, I'm not *quite* as confident as I was before. For me, what has changed from our performances against Newcastle and Swansea is that we arent working as hard, and thats whats worrying. In those two games, our best of the season.we hunted in packs, shutting down the spaces, making it hard for teams to play against us. We did the same in the last round of the League Cup too at man City. Yesterday, and last week? That energy and enthusiasm seems to have dissipated, Norwich just had it too easy. They had too much time on the ball, we didnt shut them down at all and we were very lucky to steal a point.

On the plus side, we are starting to see what Benteke is made of. I thought that was a great 70 minutes from the young man, and taking him off for the zombie Bent was a mistake, as we lost our 'out' ball. If we are going to stay up, The Beat will be a big part of the reason why.

*************

Me and Tim are heading off to Swindon on Tuesday, hoping we arent on the wrong end of a cupset, as Tim goes to school with a few Swindon fans. Despite their current financial plight they have been on an up since the mad Italian arrived there. Looking forward to meeting up with old firends, and hoping the match marks the start of an upturn,

PB

Tic Tacs

Welcome to "Deadly Doug ate my hamster". I hope you enjoy .... feel free to interact :-)

So, I was watching Chelsea on the old telly box at the weekend, and I think I've seen the future, or the present, or something, of where Lambert wants to take Villa - and I notice Aston Villa Review agrees with me, although I'll need to listen to the podcast to find out why .. I am listening as I type, so will let you know.....

Chelsea are, albeit at a very different level, going through the same kind of change we are. They are moving from being a physical, quite direct team that relied heavily on Drogba, to being a pass and move team playing "Wengerball", narrow 4-2-3-1,, without wingers, goals coming from all over the pitch. They've added 2 key players that make it work for them, Hazard and Oscar, who alongside the rejuvenated Juan Mata sit behind Torres and cause absolute mayhem against Premiership defences. These four sit in front of two hard running, hard tackling midfield holding players (at the weekend it was Mikel and Ramires) and the width in the team is provided by two very attack minded full backs, Ivanovic and Cole.

I think this is the way forward, and I think Lambert has given a few hints that this is the template he wants Villa to follow. First, we are playing very narrow without wingers, and trying to play through teams. Second, he has hinted that he wants to play Benteke up front on his own, and the two full backs he has brought in are slowly gaining the confidence to push forward. it seems like the players who are thriving (if thats a word you can use under the circumstances) under Lambert are those who can fit this sort of system, whereas those who dont are being quietly (or otherwise) marginalised.

I can see it working too in the long term, although we just dont have the players to make it work at the moment. If you look at the strongest team we could play in that formation you'll see a few glaring weaknesses:

Guzan

Lowton Vlaar Dunne, Bennett

Delph, El Ahmadi

Gabby, Ireland, Holmann

Benteke

Its just too lightweight isnt it? Especially in that holding midfield zone, Delph and El Ahmadi arent strong enough to hold it together. While they are both decent players, I think that Karim would be better further forward, and neither have the physical presence to dominate that part of the pitch. The other glaring weakness is that that three behind Benteke dont create enough, especially when compared to the Chelsea template.

So thats where Lambert needs to do his work.

People will say that we have wingers in the shape of Albrighton and NZogbia, but seriously, I think this way of playing with wide midfield players taking on full backs is gone, because you will get over run in midfield

As for Benteke, if you are one of those currently giving the lad a hard time, you WILL eat your words. I hope you eat them with the lad still at Villa and not being driven out by the boo boys, but one day you will see that the lad is quality. Look what he does at the front of a serious Belgium team (who play 4-2-3-1). if he can hold his own in that company and score against the likes of Serbia and Holland, then he is easily good enough for us. He will score goals, as long as the fans dont crush him as they have done others before.

What about Bent? What about him. We spent 75 minutes on Saturday playing with ten men. His time has gone, Let him go to QPR, Benteke is the better bet by far..

*****

My Swindon tickets arrived today in the post. Really looking forward to that!

**********

Its possible to be both concerned about the current situation at Villa but optimistic for the future, thats where i am, I believe in what Lambert is doing in the same way as I believed in what Houllier was doing (on the pitch anyway). I think, in the long term, we'll be fine. but it will get worse before it gets better