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Back to square one - Wigan Report and Thoughts


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It's quite hard to write this one. I'm desperately trying to fight the anger that some players clearly have their minds elsewhere, disappointment that we could have now messed up our season in one awful display whilst trying to keep upbeat and remember that the team has improved since last season.

Aston Villa FC seems to have developed a nasty habit of making things tricky for themselves. Whenever it looks like we are in a position where just one win against opposition which shouldn't be causing us problems will take us to the next level, we falter. Is this a mental issue? Do the players choke at the vital time? Is this a squad issue? Are they just too tired so when they need to dig in they just can't manage it? Or is it voodoo? I don't know the answer, unfortunately. I suspect it's even puzzling Martin O'Neill. But one thing I do know is that it is bloody annoying.

Writing an actual match report for this game I think probably isn't needed. We all know the result, and I think that probably describes our performance better than I could. We were poor. At times, worse than that. Wigan weren't that much better, but they did something we simply didn't - create and put away their chances.

Ten minutes into the game you knew what kind of match it'd be. Dull. Wigan came for the draw, wasting time right from the kick off and putting men behind the ball at every opportunity. Villa had no answer for that. Well, this is not strictly true, it's more that Villa's answer wasn't good enough. It was back to long ball rubbish - hoof up to Carew to either lose or flick on for Gabby to lose. We've seen this too often this season - it's certainly not European standard football, in fact i wouldn't even think it's top half football.

This, to a degree is doing Wigan a dis-service. They had done their homework on Villa, and whilst the Villa players may have thought it'd be a stroll about in the park, Wigan hassled and retained possession wherever possible. By deploying Koumas behind the front two, Petrov now had less time and space to work in, and his effectiveness in his 'new' role diminished. They also put two men on Carew at all times possible - which you would have thought would have left more space for Gabby to work in - but this didn't quite work out like that - firstly because Gabby didn't actually get onto many of the flick ons, and secondly, the one time he did manage to get clear he spooned the shot hopelessly wide.

They also contained Ashley Young through, well, treating him rather roughly. On another day, we'd have another referee - one that didn't send off TWO Villa players in his previous Villa game, so the rough handling of Ashley was allowed. As a result, Ashley began to first exaggerate his falls to then just blatantly dive. It began to get embarrassing to be honest.

We just couldn't break through - and then Wigan did. The first an almost carbon copy of Phil Neville's goal last week, the second by powering past Bouma and then beating Carson at his near post. I've become used to typing that sentance now.

And this is the frustrating thing. All the things that disappointed me today, we've seen before. They re silly mistakes, but it's just one game too many now. And instead of going into the last game of the season fighting for fifth place, we go into the game, being player in London where we haven't won for goodness knows how many games now clinging on to the solitary Intertoto place with our finger nails. And with that, any hope of signing anyone half decent in the summer.

Because that's what it comes down to, unfortunately. We just aren't good enough. And to attract the players to be good enough, to get some consistency, we need European football. We already need to add to the side and as things stand we have Mellberg leaving, Bouma free to leave and do what he likes, Carson leaving and most probably Barry leaving too. This on top of selling and not buying and making a profit in January. We simply have so many positions to fill this summer to get us on a level where we can match the likes of Everton, it is near impossible.

But I'm afraid it's very likely that most, if not all of these will be gone. Carson, I have no doubt will be a very good goalkeeper in the future. The trouble is, we need a very good goalkeeper now. We need somebody who we can rely on to make a few very good saves when needed and Scott hasn't done that this season. I feel sorry for him - it just hasn't worked out this season, and unless Liverpool drastically reduce their price and Martin O'Neill can't think of anyone else to go between the sticks then he won't be returning.

Bouma, as we know, has been allowed to have his contract run out. Why, I don't know. People may say "Sure, don't worry he's staying", but can you really trust the situation when agents are involved? I'm not too sure whether Martin truly rates Wilfred either. He's been linked with left backs, notably John Arne Riise throughout his time at Villa, and I just personally think that Wilf has grown so much at Villa we really should have worked harder to let him know he is valued at the club and that we need him to stay. To be put into another panic of having NO full backs at the club will be disastrous.

Gareth Barry, going by his performance today has already packed his bags and waiting for the taxi to Liverpool. That may be harsh - it may be just one of those games in the periods he goes through when he has three or four poor games in a row, but today Villa needed their captain - whether he is in the newspapers or not - and he didn't come through for us. He failed to control the ball, got knocked off the ball and his game was probably summed up by moments after the first was conceded - he went to pass the ball to Nigel Reo-Coker and completely over hit the thing. don't get me wrong, I want him to stay. He's the nearest thing we have to a 'John Terry' figure, a player for all the others to look up to. But his head wasn't at the game today, and if the current rumours and naughty play by Liverpool are getting to him, then it's really simple. Don't play him next week - because another performance like this will hinder Villa more than if he isn't there at all.

It's just a shame, that on a day that was to celebrate Villa's season, of what we have achieved in terms of improvement and a game to send off Olof Mellberg to Juventus with a smile on his face, and a day where we could have cemented our Intertoto Cup place has ended with us unsure whether we'll actually get a Intertoto place at all.

We'll mention more on Mellberg later on in the week, but Olof showed today why we'll miss him. He genuinely cared. He kept fighting to the end. He may have decided to join another club months ago, but he still wanted the win, he still but in every single challenge.

The positive from the game that we can take from today, as with recent failures against Middlesbrough, Fulham and Sunderland is that it leaves the manager and board without any doubt that he has a lot of work to do in improving the team to the standard they want. They will have some hard decisions to do with players previously considered as first team regulars, along with filling in not just holes left in the squad, but the first team.

I just hope that things are done much faster this time around. Because otherwise we may end up finding ourselves back to square one next season.

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Very poor game today, not sure if Wigan played well or we just made them look better.

And it was goodbye Olof, and probably goodbye Barry, Bouma, carson, Berger and Sorensen. MON is going to be busy in the summer.................

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I would put a wager on Bouma not going, his contract will be sorted out. Olly wants a new experience, fair play IMO. Barry is a strange one, will he be the main man at Liverpool, Chelski or Arsenal. Absolutely no way, but does he want a team that are NOW at the champions league stage. I suspect from his body language today on the lap of honour he is gone, certainly hope I am wrong

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OK, I just watched the match. That was crap. Having got that out of the way...

And to attract the players to be good enough, to get some consistency, we need European football.

John, you keep claiming this. It simply isn't true. Europe makes it easier, no argument there. But it is not the only factor.

I really don't follow the sentiment (expressed by you and many others) that the club's position is somehow precarious, that if we don't secure Europe now!, if we don't grab the ultra-best players now!, then everything is just going to collapse into mediocrity. This club is much, much more resilient than that. Indeed, Villa would never have survived the Ellis years without that resilience.

I don't think Barry and Bouma are leaving, and I don't think we're going to have zero impact signings this summer... but even if all of that comes to pass, we will be fine!

This ownership group is *obviously* not stupid, and they *obviously* have significant financial resources. Maybe Randy can spend 50 million this summer, or maybe he can only afford 20. Maybe Barry and Bouma will be back, or maybe we'll be working to integrate a new core. One thing is absolutely clear: DOUG ELLIS ISN"T IN CHARGE OF THIS CLUB ANYMORE. Why keep floundering in unwarranted despair, as if he were still running the show? None of this was ever going to come easily.

I just cannot see the basis for thinking that "back to square one" has any chance of being a reasonable description of our condition come September.

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I wish i could locate some of the posts made on VT at the start of the season but I can remember some of the comments made.

Any improvement on last season will be a bonus.

We are going in the right direction.

thses are just 2 and o.k we have let ourselves down at crucial times but let's not forget the improvements we have made.

We have played attractive football scored more goals than we have since Champtionship winning days and have generally improved all round. This season for the first time in years I have had Manc, Scousers and Gooners complementing me on how well my team has done instead of just taking the piss.

I accept we have a long way to go, I wonder if we are ready for European football yet but I do know this we have improved since last season which really was what we wanted, is it however that people want too much too quickly?

One thing is for certain to ever challenge the big boys we have got to get rid of performances like today.

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i concur with the above 2 posts.

No need for all the doom and gloom. We'll be bigger and better next season, with or without some of the players that may or may not be leaving.

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The wigan game was a huge dissappointment

europe was in our hands, so if we do not achieve europe through the league then we only have ourselves to blame.

Barry i believe will not leave in the summer, he has had his chances to leave several times before, i think he is going to be a Gerrard and stay at villa just because he loves football and wants to play for us.

Bouma however is a difficult one, if the contract is right i belive he will stay, to progress further, yes we do need big name signings but we also need to keep the main players as foundations for when we bring in the players. MON will not be able to build a new squad during the summer, he needs the key players such as Barry and Bouma, and if they do leave they need to leave at the start of the window, so MON has time to rebuild the squad.

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I agree with almost all of the comments in the article, except for the headline. We are not by any means back to square one. We will end the season somewhere between 5th and 7th and this is fantastic progress.

But I do agree it will be very annoying and depressing if we miss out on European football by some route, having had it clearly within our grasp for the past few weeks.

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