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Formation and team changes thwart us!


John
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Harry got the point that his team deserved but it will be something that the linesman got that was no doubt intended for Harry that will have everyone talking!

We bought two full backs in the transfer window. To see them both sitting on the bench yesterday was as surprising to most of us as it was to them. Yes we have had two players sitting on the bench so far this season who cost the club £20m in the same transfer window and I’m sure they were itching to get a start. But, do you really change a winning side and a winning formation on the back of one defeat at Stamford Bridge? I think the tinkering in cup competitions at Villa Park so far this season has shown that any critical changes to our normal starting line up upsets the rhythm of our performance and often leads to a poor result. Yesterday we changed our formation, played Cuellar out of position and by pushing Barry back lost the important contribution he offers us further up field. I think we got things wrong this time. I‘m not sure why Martin didn’t change things when things were clearly going wrong. I suppose putting these two on the bench made a change from substituting them during the game as often seems to happen and as a consolation any Ajax scout will have learned very little from their trip to B6 yesterday. But, we needed all 3 points to maintain our momentum and you have to wonder whether we had one eye on our next game yesterday.

At least Portsmouth did not take all three points this time. They are a big side and we nullified most of their threat through the middle although in so doing we killed the game for us as well. By my reckoning we went 75 minutes before we got a shot on target. We had the possession to create things. We had 11 corners to their 2. But, while we are usually a big threat from dead balls this time our corners were easily handled by Portsmouth and the loose balls always gobbled up by players in blue shirts. This was a bad day at the office as was games against the likes of Sunderland, Wigan and yesterday’s opponents last season. To come out of such games with wins will happen nine times out of ten to the big 4 clubs we are aiming for. But, to come out of such games with a point rather than a defeat is an improvement.

Oh and I can‘t close without mentioning that incident that left a linesman bloodied pitch side yesterday. Incidents like this would get the club thrown out of Europe or playing games on neutral grounds or playing behind closed doors if they were repeated on Thursday night. Whoever decided to throw a 50 pence in the direction of Harry must have a screw loose and he fully deserves what is coming to him. He cannot have anything personal against Harry can he? For me, Harry is a real football man, likeable and if we did not have Martin the sort of manager I would like us to have at Villa Park. I’m sure he would have found the funny side of things if it had just been those few chants that he had come up against yesterday. But, someone had to take it further and the inaccuracy of his throw led to the official going down as if he had been hit by a bus and our good name being besmirched, The blame for this rests with just one person but there does seem to have been a few problems with a couple of people who have seats near the benches. I would suggest that anyone who chooses to sit there to vent their anger out on our own bench or towards the visitors with no good reason game in and game out may need to be relocated inside or outside of the ground for match days.

My player ratings from a game that has left us clinging to a top 6 spot by our finger tips are:

Brad Freidel - 6 – Kicking went awry at times but was solid when threatened which was more often than James was. Lucky that Davies was on hand to prevent his one two off the woodwork giving Portsmouth a lead on 28 minutes.

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – Playing out of position and it showed.

Martin Laursen – 6 – Not at his dominant best of this time last season, seemed to struggle for pace on occasion and to handle Crouch which were both equally suprising. Is the captaincy having an impact?

Curtis Davies – 6 – A decent display but must have been relieved when his part clearance off the line was ballooned over on 28 minutes, in much the way he had done when he hit an effort well over on 16 minutes following a dangerous header into the area by Laursen.

Gareth Barry – 6 – Solid enough but is wasted in this position and needs to be free to influence our entire performance where he sees fit.

Nigel Reo Coker – 7 – Hard working, becoming stronger with every game and an excellent ball winner, if only he did not dwell with the ball which sees him lose it more often than he would like. Pushed an effort across the goal from a tight angle on 57 minutes

James Milner – 5 – Did not look the player he has when coming off our bench so far this season.

Stiliyan Petrov – 8 – MOTM - Stood out as our best performer by a country mile. Another fine display on a day that they were rare and it would have been easy to have disappeared.

Ashley Young – 6 – I thought that towards the end of the game he might be about to take the game by the scruff of the neck and win it for us. Had a good run on 73 minutes that brushed the top of the goal netting after James got a finger to it and was denied by the outstretched James 2 minutes later when he hit a free kick from a position he so often scores from.

John Carew – 6 – Worked hard and might just have stolen the game at the death when his header hit the top of the bar in stoppage time.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 5 – No real threat today. May have not been fully ready for 90 minutes but needs to do more in our shirt to claim an England jersey.

Substitutes:

Luke Young – Replaced our captain after he had picked up a knock on 88 minutes, not on long enough to rate.

Up the Villa & bring on Amsterdam‘s finest!

John Lewis

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I agree the personnel changes were, at best, bizzare. Milner came in and was awful and cuellar, unsurprisingly, looked like like a centre half playing at right back. There are two serious flaws with the manager, the first is that he sees nothing wrong with playing players out of position and the second is that his use of the subs bench is terrible. I know we don't exactly have a plethora of talent on the bench but some games are crying out for a change and nothing happens.

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Have to agree with most of the article, but acouple of things did distract from the point.

The amount of money on the bench was one, as just because a player costs a certain amount does not guarentee a starting place, and nor should it.

I`ll be glad when Freddy gets back to full fitness, as this is the type of defender we really need against such opposition, and TBH, Shorey still has to glue into that back four in my view.

Saving L. Moore for Thursday may well be a good decision, time will tell, and putting a NRC in midfield against Pompey was a decent choice to take, as he`s a difficult one to get past.

Fully agree with your MOTM, as he`s really battling right now.

Puttin Barry at LB is nothing new to us, and he does very well there, even if we all know he can be more effective in the middle.

I get the impression that MON wants to plug up on the against goals stats, and seems to be doing quite well so far.

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The amount of money on the bench was one, as just because a player costs a certain amount does not guarentee a starting place, and nor should it.

Agree 100% and that was what I was trying to get over when I mentioned this Overdubber as this might be used as a reason for making the changes. What we now need to do is get back to how we were playing and to the formation that got us where we were up to that Chelsea game. We might have looked tighter at the back but that was at the expense of losing our own threat up front.

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Saving L. Moore for Thursday may well be a good decision, time will tell.

I think you mean L. Young and I don't think he was rested for Thursday at all. He didn't go on international duty and was dropped plain and simple. Hopefully he will be back for Thursday though.

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