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Send for reinforcements!


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by John

The transfer window slams shut next week and the money must be found now to back our new manager because otherwise our place in this division will again be at serious risk and it might just be too late to be able to turn things around by the time the next window opens!

It is perhaps too early to mention the R word unless you are Robbie Savage. But our first home game of the season was nothing less than relegation form and will have added some credence to his prediction for us.

Everton could have hit us for six had they been so inclined and our team still bears the scars from last season and our heads drop too readily when we go a goal down. A losing habit is hard to break and Villa Park is no longer a fortress. Everton bossed the game yesterday and we were shown to now be lagging some way behind a team that over recent years we have been very closely matched with. It is fortunate that they took their foot off the pedal with the game won.

Yes we may have overspent and paid big wages to claim three successive top six finishes and our owner may have wanted to balance the books but this under investment in the playing side needs to be addressed now and the blinkers need to be taken off because we are regressing on the playing field and becoming a soft touch. You can appoint the best of managers but without backing him in the transfer market he can only do so much. We did not back the last manager and cannot make the same mistake again. On paper we no longer look a stronger team than many we will face this season and Everton are the first of these we have come up against. Injuries have already hit hard and these along with suspensions (the first of which will see Clark absent) will further stretch a squad that is lacking in numbers as well as in experience to the limit during this season.

The club has the look of the early 60s and the mid 80s about it for me. I for one had thought that our days of relegation concerns were some way behind us. But we seem to be content to make those same mistakes again and whilst other teams speculate to grow stronger we are overtaken not just by the likes of Manchester City and Spurs but now by Everton and Swansea and this downward spiral needs to be halted.

My player ratings from a game that has left us pointless and one place off the bottom are:

Shay Given – 5 – Shay will have been as disappointed as we were with their second as he really should have been able to keep Fellaini’s header out. His splendid save on 63 minutes denied Pienaar a second and Everton a fourth.

Matthew Lowton - 6 – Matt has made quite a step up and his learning curve will be a steep one. A tough home debut in a team that was much below par.

Ron Vlaar – 6 – Ron will need time to become accustomed to the pace of the Premier League. That will not be easy to do at a time when he is expected to hit the ground running and looked upon as the senior player in what is a very inexperienced defence.

Ciaran Clark – 5 – Caught Jelavic’s back foot on 57 minutes and was shown a red card as a result.

Nathan Baker - 6 – Offered nothing coming forward but what could we reasonably expect of a centre half playing there? He looked far more comfortable when moved into his familiar central defensive role to the extent that the defence seemed tighter after he moved there. Made a great saving tackle on 49 minutes to deny Naismith as he was about to pull the trigger.

Charles N’Zogbia – 4 – He is half the player he was at Wigan and after a year with us he really should be doing much more than this. Showed a flash of what he can do on 40 minutes with a good run into the box that ended with him being swamped by defenders but the odd moment is not good enough.

Karim El Ahmadi - 6 – MOTM – Hit a speculative shot from around 30 yards that changed direction in flight and left Howard only able to help into the corner of the net for our 74th minute consolation goal. Showed signs particularly after that goal that he could become an influential holding midfield player for us with more games and support from those alongside him.

Chris Herd – 5 – Replaced on 59 minutes as we looked to reorganise our defence following the sending off. Solid enough up until then without reaching the performance level he showed so often last season

Barry Bannan – 4 – Hit our first shot on target near half time which was easily gathered by Howard but failed to provide the creativity we need in the middle and he really needs to step up to the higher and consistent level of performance that he showed when he was first given a run of games in the team to get in ahead of Ireland.

Nathan Delfouneso – 3 – Replaced at half time. Did little to show he can act as reliable cover for our first choice strikers this season or that he should have started ahead of Weimann. This start was his opportunity to show he can still have a future at this football club and it is one of a long line of opportunities that he has failed to grasp.

Darren Bent - 5 – Isolated and lacked the service he joined us to get and without service he cannot be effective as he is quite simply there to put chances away and if we do not create any for him he will not turn games like this for us. His one opportunity was a late attempt to turn in the ball after Weimann’s shot had come back off the post and that was blocked by Baines otherwise his main contribution was keeping out Distin’s header with assistance from the bar.

Substitutes:

Brett Holman – 5 - Replaced Delfouneso at half time and showed a couple of bright moments.

Eric Lichaj – 6 – Came on following Clark’s sending off on 59 minutes and was solid enough.

Andreas Weimann – 6 - Replaced Bannan on 70 minutes and might just have grabbed a second for us in injury time when Holman’s reverse pass into his path was hit sweetly first time only to come back out off the post.

Up the Villa and Stay Strong Captain!

John Lewis

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