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Player Match Ratings: This was no rousing send off!


John
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So we head to the FA Cup Final next weekend on the back of two confidence sapping defeats. Those two defeats reminded both us and our new manager that there is an awful lot of work to be done if we are to avoid another season of relegation worry next year.   

 

Burnley clearly wanted this win more than we did. We had players who had given their all to keep us up and to get us to the Cup Final in recent games who seemed for a second time to have nothing left to give. Our players would have been aware that one knock might see them miss a Cup Final appearance but our visitors had no such distractions and left the division on a high.    

 

Surprisingly we started with our third choice keeper between the sticks rather than Guzan in Given’s absence. Our defence even more shockingly included N’Zogbia in its ranks so there was clear cause for concern for a defence that had leaked six goals last weekend. Burnley sure enough took an early lead and they were able to hang onto it without too many causes for concern. We did make some chances but those were either saved by Heaton or spurned. On another day we might have put one, two or three of those opportunities away. Let us hope that other day will come next Saturday.

 

Our eighth home league defeat this season has seen us finish fourth from the bottom rather than 15th which would have been the case had we won. We ended the season only three points clear of the drop. We have lost games against all three of the relegated teams and have taken just 5 points from a possible 18 against them. Even the likes of Sunderland and Newcastle ended the season above us so how bad have we been over the course of this season?

 

Tim has done what he was appointed to do having secured our top flight status with a game to go and I think if we had needed the win yesterday to stay up we would have got it. But Tim has also given us the bonus of an FA Cup Final appearance. We will go to Wembley as underdogs but we did so in the semi-final and emerged victorious. Tim now needs to perform another magic trick by leading a team out at Wembley that are able to shake off their last two inept performances and perform at the same level as they did to keep us up and to get us to the final. Do you want to bet against him being able to do that?

 

My player ratings from a game that those present who have not been regular attendees at Villa Park this season might have replied “sitting here” when asked “Where were you when we were cr*p?” are:

 

Jed Steer – 6 – Had little to do yesterday other than to pick the ball out of the net. He did well to come out to block a 64th minute effort from Boyd who had the ball played through to him by Ings and had then ran clear past Baker. Might have been embarrassed in the first half when he half came for a ball that Ings headed on into his hands rather than over him and into the net.                                                                        

 

Leandro Bacuna – 5 – Not at his best today but he was far from being alone in that.                             

 

Nathan Baker – 5 – On the positive side Nathan played the full 90 minutes to prove his fitness on his return from injury. He was beaten too easily in the air by Ings when he headed home their 6th minute winner.   

 

Ron Vlaar – 6 – A steady enough defensive display. Hit a hurried shot high and wide on 18 minutes having received a header from Baker in the centre of the box.                                   

 

Charles N’Zogbia – 4 – Hit the ball sweetly on 73 minutes after getting on the end of a half cleared Bacuna cross but Heaton reacted well to push the ball out for a corner. Charles may be a lot of things but this game showed that he is no wing back. Injuries led to his being played out of position yesterday. But what we lost up front by playing him there was not compensated by what he did at the back. He cannot be blamed for not being able to fill this role adequately but surely this was an opportunity to give one of our youngsters a run out in a role in which they would be at least familiar?                         

 

Tom Cleverley – 6 – Not quite as effective as he has been of late.              

 

Ashley Westwood - 6 – Hit a shot over the bar on 43 minutes after N’Zogbia had pulled the ball back to him on the edge of the box. Might have hit an equalizer 2 minutes later when Gabby back headed the ball to him and he fizzed a shot that Heaton did well to tip over the bar.                                        

 

Fabian Delph – 7 – MOTM – Forced a save from Heaton on 73 minutes from 30 yards and hit another in injury time that flew just wide of the post with the keeper unsighted. The best of our midfield yesterday and kept trying to get us working more fluently.                

 

Jack Grealish – 5 – Jack was some way off his best. Appeared to have one eye on next week and would have benefited from a game off. I’m sure Gil would not have minded stepping in for once.     

 

Gabby Agbonlahor – 3 – Has done nothing to force himself into our starting line up since his return from injury. Looked off the pace again yesterday and was far too comfortably handled by the Burnley defence. Really should have done better on 63 minutes when the ball broke to him off a defender following a Benteke run into the box and he placed his shot straight at Heaton who kept the ball out with his legs.     

 

Christian Benteke – 6 – Christian chested a Bacuna cross down before seeing his 36th minute shot deflected just wide of the post. He then out muscled Trippier two minutes later to power a far post header from a Delph cross that Heaton saved at the foot of the post. Thankfully he came out of this game unscathed.       

 

Substitutes:

 

Scott Sinclair – Replaced Cleverley on 72 minutes. Unable to make enough of an impression to earn a rating in what time he had been given.

 

Alan Hutton – Replaced Bacuna on 80 minutes. Alan was not on long enough to merit a rating.    

 

Staying up and up for the FA Cup Villa!

John Lewis

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Excellent report, John, and spot on re performances. I can only assume Sherwood decided to play nearly his strongest team because he felt after Southampton that they needed to play themselves back into form.

Unfortunately, they didn't, so I am feeling a bit low about our Cup prospects. I'm not sure what has triggered such a sudden slump in form.

Edited by briny_ear
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Many thanks for the comments above. I think you are correct on the reason for the team selection yesterday but sadly it did not work for us.

 

I guess the players were shell shocked by those early goals last week and could see no way back from 4 down so it became damage limitation for the rest of the game. I also think that having already secured our safety and with one eye on the game next weekend they failed to produce the level of performance they had done in previous games under Tim yesterday.

 

I think our confidence has taken a hit due to these last 2 games. The question now is whether the team can raise its performance level back up to where it had been previously by next weekend. I think we have grounds to doubt it. But I am going there hoping we can do to Arsenal what we did to Liverpool.      

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It was interesting watching the game and then watching the highlights back.

 

If you'd just seen the highlights, you'd be wondering how me managed to get nothing from the game but the feeling when watching was that we just weren't going to score and it wasn't our day. Vlaar definitely should have taken his chance IMO.

 

I'd generally agree with your marks this time, except for Grealish who I think warranted a higher score than a 5.

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