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What Have We Learnt?


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What Have We Learnt From Last Season?

With the initial burst of transfer gossip seeming to fade and the dust being allowed to settle on last season, now is probably the best time to have a bit of a look back and ponder a few things.

When I say “we”, what I really mean is “I”. But I do presume that there may be a few like minded individuals out there who have thought similar things to myself along the journey of last season who have been delighted to have been proven wrong about some things, and rather disappointed to have been proven right about others.

Going into the season on a personal level I felt very disappointed with Martin O’Neill in particular. We’d sold off a fair few players who, yes, may not have had their best days ahead of them but were bodies in a very small squad already. These players hadn’t been replaced and as things stood on transfer deadline day in August I felt at best this squad without a right back (or in fact, right winger – this seemed to have been missed through the disappointment of no right back!) would leave the team limp and terribly one sided.

I don’t think there was any doubt that this did affect us. Petrov was played down the right wing for a long period of the season where he eventually lost confidence in himself and needed to be rested. His lack of pace in that position caught him out – this was before his match winning performance at St Andrews, of course. The right back problem did catch us out once of twice too – having to shove Reo-Coker there ended up in us conceding goals a couple of times towards the end of the season and for a couple of games on the spin we’d start with Olof at right back and end up subbing him at half time for Gardner, only to have to do the opposite the next game. Teams targeted our weak right side and up against the better teams we struggled to match them down that side.

It’s an issue that has to be at the top of the agenda with regards to player purchasing in the summer as it’s not only something that needs to be rectified for the start of the season, but also in time for the Intertoto Cup.

The other area that I think we need to address with a little more urgency than we appear to take with most signings is the goalkeeping position. Thomas Sorensen was a very good goalkeeper, of course he could make the odd mistake, but he was a good goalkeeper fior the club – yet within one mad week last summer, we suddenly apparently bid £9million for Craig Gordon, got turned down by the Scot and managed to sign Scott Carson on loan for the season instead. Again, I was critical of the Carson signing. I felt that whilst Carson was a good goalkeeper, by signing him on loan we were simply just ‘pluggin’ the gaps and would be in a worse position in a years time as Sorenson would be off and Carson would return to Liverpool. Now I must admit I’m rather thankful that it was only a loan. Carson started off well, but we all know how his confidence began to take kicks and the run of 19 games without a clean sheet (18 of those with Carson in goal) was unacceptable. Carson shouldn’t take all the blame, our defending wasn’t great throughout the whole of the season, but Scott did let in goals which really in my opinion he should have been saving.

Goals like Reading’s late consolation. Yes, it was only a consolation this time, but it was a soft effort to let in, and there were many more like it. The Portsmouth game away was lost due to silly errors. In fact, late goals were another problem. Whether it was a concentration problem, fitness problem of just bad luck I don’t know, but Villa conceded an awful lot of goals in the closing minutes of games towards the end of the season.

In fact, it was 11 goals in the last five minutes – all goals that lost us a grand total of twelve points from the position we were in. It’s thirteen goals in the last ten minutes, costing us a total of sixteen points. Imagine how much more successful the season would have been had we just been able to hold on to even half that many points.

It is, of course, easy to concentrate on the negatives. Aston Villa FC produced a hell of a lot of positives last season and these really must be talked about, if not even celebrated. We can leave the ‘off pitch’ stuff to another day, because if we didn’t then I’d be writing this for a very long time.

Ashley Young’s form from start to finish was absolutely inspirational. Whether wide left or through the middle Young has the skill and determination to succeed and I desperately hope that Villa manage to keep hold of him. He took a bit of a dip in form when featured in the Sunday tabloids for what I think is affectionately known as ‘Doing a Grantham’, but came out back on form. Once he’s got that fondness for a tumble out of his system he will be very nearly the complete player. And that will hopefully be at Villa.

We are now a team that you always feel could nick a goal from somewhere. We are at times a little too one dimensional in the play, but with MON acknowledging this I am hoping this will change in the near future.

The spirit built in the squad too, is somewhat incredible. The ‘never say die’ attitude is one that is a far cry from the squad O’Neill inherited – best demonstrated with the incredible draw at Everton where we snatched it back immediately after going behind. We always seem to produced our best football and results when the pressure is on – be it against one of the top lot, or a local derby – that 5-1 result will live on in the memory for a very, very long time.

I think the final lesson I learnt last season is that, as boring as it sounds, we must trust the manager. He’s earnt that respect now. The final position last year was a great achievement, and one which he masterminded and helped gel the team together with. I won’t always agree with the decisions made, like I didn’t with the signing of Marlon Harewood last year – however, unlike last year while I’ll retain the right to be disappointed, I’ll back the decision this time.

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That artical comes across quite negative for what was infact one of our best seasons for a very long time.

I wouldn't say so. Perhaps listing negatives before positives can give that impression, but I thought the points made were fair and balanced, if you take the thing as a whole.

It was a great season, but there are several things which need to be improved, and I think everyone from MON downwards is well aware of that.

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Like you John I hope all supporters this pre - season trust Mons judgement when it comes to signing players regardless of who they are.

I for one believe, that given last seasons achievements, he has earned that trust.

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.....I thought it was a very good and well rounded post.

The so called negatives were truism's and sometimes as painful as they may appear, have to be faced up to.

I think like all great managers Martin Is flawed, due mainly to the complexities of the job.

Ron Saunders was flawed,Alex Ferguson is flawed.... what manager in his right mind would dump Beckham,Stam & Van Nistleroy ..... but he gets far more right than he gets wrong..... and wrong in who's eyes, dare i ask.

As has been said...Aston Villa had a great season by there own standards, but their own standards have been low in recent seasons..... There is much work to do and I Believe we have the manager to do it.

we must not rest on our laurels and think we have arrived, because in the same position the top four would not contemplate it and nor should we.... They are where they are through being ruthlessly single minded about achieving success and so should we.

High expectation is healthy but must be controlled to avoid frustration and must not be used as an excuse to settle for mediocrity leading to a comfortable life.

Getting to the top is damn hard work.... as only one team can win the premiership, but that does not deter the other top 3 from having a damn good go

....and nor should it deter us.

.....6th place is excellent.....but now the hard work starts for the fans, the players, the manager( & and his staff) and the owner and his directors.

and together ain't we going to love it.

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A very interesting read.

So basically what you're saying is that if we'd have concentrated better for the last 10 mins, we'd be playing CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FOOTBALL instead of the Intertoto.

As with last season, where I reported that by winning half of the games we drew (7, I think) that was possible by not conceding something like 4 goals, and scoring another 3, we'd finish the league in an altogether more meaningful position.

Yes, 16pts is a big improvement on this year, and judging by the law of diminishing returns, I doubt that'd be possible even spending a £30M - but it is an interesting prospect.

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I think that you could have used the word "we" as these are my sentiment exactly excellent write up,

As MON's "respect" is concerned he earnt mine when he joined. People never agree all the time but he will see us alright I'm sure of that.

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Well i for one think that is a very good post and does give alot of negatives but the league position itself is an ENORMOUS positive and

its clear that the signings MON did make of Harewood for example were doubted but have now been fully justified- am eagerly anticipating next season

hopefully with some players coming in before hand at they are required but wont doubt Oneill if my expectations arent matched this transfer window i will not doubt

him or the teams chances... Barry will stay im confident Oneill is the man to keep him at the club.

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