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Player Match Ratings: How bad must we be?


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Bad enough to have been beaten by a team that had started yesterday’s game bottom of the league. Bad enough for that same team to have done the double over us this season and in so doing having won their first league at Villa Park for 41 years. Bad enough for this to have been our 10th league defeat at Villa Park this season and bad enough for us to still be looking over our shoulders and wondering if we really do already have enough points to stay up because we are struggling to see after three successive league defeats where our next point let alone win will come from.


Having already lost N’Zogbia, Okore and Kozak we now have Benteke added to our long term injury list. Yesterday we also started the game without Delph, Gabby and El Ahmadi. Our squad lacks anything approaching adequate cover for this level of injury. This was demonstrated by our starting line up and by the lack of options we had to change things on the bench.


Before the game it could be argued that the team that started the game bottom of the table looked slightly stronger on paper than we did and so it proved on the pitch. Their hopes of a rare away win would have been higher than normal despite their poor away record given our own abysmal home one. But our list of absentees must have boosted their optimism pre-match as did our first half performance further encourage them at half time.


Clubs must really love to come to Villa Park. I think many of us might have taken a point had one been offered at half time if not before the game. But having gone a goal down we did not quite have the belief or confidence to go on to win it having pulled level with 20 minutes of the game to play and we were unable to stop them getting a late second to send yet another set of away fans home happy.


A point would have maintained the gap between us and our opponents of yesterday. Three would have made us pretty much safe. Lowton’s superb goal line clearance and the referee’s decision not to give Weimann a penalty when he was brought to the ground inside the box were crucial moments in the game. Their late winner now threatens to have a crucial impact on our season.    


This was an open game with both teams creating goal scoring opportunities. We shaded the possession but they looked more comfortable on the ball and were allowed too much space. They had more shots on goal, more shots on target and more corners than we did. So our injury hit side has lost another six-pointer and yesterday and it would have been difficult for a neutral to guess from the flow of the game which of the two sides started cut adrift in bottom place. 


Fans have increasingly called for the head of our manager of late. But who would actually now want the job given the squad they would inherit and the restrictions being placed upon managers at Villa Park by our absentee owner? Fans have added that they would have no trust in the ability of the manager to spend the money they anticipate he will be given in the summer for new signings. But do we really think that the sort of money we need to spend on this team will be made available in the next transfer window or that our owner  would consider appointing a new manager who would expect to be given the funds to bring together a team his own making?


What we have now is a football club that faces a relegation battle every season. It is a club that looks to stay up to get the money that being in the top flight brings at the minimum cost. It is a club that lacks ambition. It is a club that advertises the availability of season tickets for next season whilst we are losing to a team that were bottom of the league before they did for us for a second time this season.


We were promised a bright future. What we have now is a worrying and embarrassing one where continued under investment threatens our place in the top flight this season and should we happen to survive will continue to do so until this apparently endless frugality sees the relegation trap door slam shut with us on the wrong side of it sooner rather than later. This situation is not acceptable for fans who appear to be being again taken for granted and it should not be acceptable for the current custodian of our great football club.           


My player ratings from a game that has left us only two points clear of the teams that are now fourth and fifth from bottom and hoping that our current 13th place does not prove unlucky for us as we give a passable imitation of a boxer who is on the ropes and waiting for the final bell to sound are:


Brad Guzan – 6 – Beaten twice but had little chance with the first and made some decent stops during this game.                                                   


Matt Lowton – 6 – Had a decent game at the back and when moving forward. Made a terrific last ditch clearance off the line on 75 minutes from Holtby’s side foot after he had side stepped Guzan and had seemed destined to score.               


Ron Vlaar – 6 – Needs a solid partner alongside him.                     


Nathan Baker – 4 – Played an awful casual pass out of defence straight to Holtby on 21 minutes but a poor first touch inside the box by Kassami led to him not paying the price for that.      


Joe Bennett – 4 – Replaced on 66 minutes having started well enough but having had his fragile confidence shaken by later mistakes. Could have been made to pay a heavy price for a sloppy half hit pass on 35 minutes that was picked up by Woodrow who ran on before hitting a decent low shot that Guzan did well to keep out.      


Ryan Bertrand - 5 – Started in an unfamiliar role due to our lack of midfield cover and did not look as comfortable as he does when in his rightful position.                                


Leandro Bacuna - 6 – Westwood hit a sweet pass to find him on 31 minutes, he then cut inside the box having out muscled Kassami and struck a good shot that Stockdale kept out with an outstretched hand. His well hit 49th minute shot thudded against the near post off Stockdale after Holt had chested down a long ball from Vlaar for him. Should start in the middle for me.                               


Ashley Westwood – 6 – A decent game although he did give the ball back to them in the build up to their winner and understandably missed having Delph alongside him.    


Marc Albrighton – 6 – Tested their keeper with a 75th minute shot and was always willing to try to take people on and to get crosses over.     


Andreas Weimann – 5 – Headed a 27th minute Albrighton cross a couple of feet wide of the post after Bennett had found the winger inside the box. A ball from Lowton was nicely helped on by Bakuna to Holt who pulled the ball back to Andreas on the edge of the box but his 59th minute shot was blocked by a defender and comfortably gathered by the keeper. Headed an Albrighton cross inches over on 79 minutes and had realistic claims for a penalty 3 minutes later that were ignored by the referee when he was prevented from getting to a Holt header by a defender. Offered some pace up front but we needed goals.         


Grant Holt – 6 – MOTM - Did as much as could reasonably be expected of him. Age is not on his side and he clearly lacks pace. But he can still hold the ball up, put himself about and showed yesterday that if left unmarked inside the box he can still apply a finish. Headed our equalizer in front of the Holte End (where else?) after Hangeland had moved for Albrighton’s corner and left him unmarked. Did less well when having won the ball in the air Weimann then gave him the ball back on 87 minutes but he screwed the ball well wide of the post.                     




Aleksandar Tonev – 6 - Replaced Bennett on 66 minutes and made a surprisingly positive impression. Weimann found him near the edge of the box on 77 minutes and his shot was curling towards the top corner until Stockdale managed to get a hand to it.    


Jordan Bowery – Replaced Albrighton on 91 minutes. Was not on long enough to merit a rating but did in making a late appearance demonstrate our lack of game changing options on the bench.



Stay up the Villa!

John Lewis

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