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Two dropped points!


John
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We missed a chance to potentially stretch four points clear of Arsenal yesterday and move up into third due to another lack lustre home performance.

We lacked any real spark against Fulham yesterday. This was an important match as it was the acid test of whether we could perform against the sort of team we have struggled so often to dispatch in the past. We failed the test. Fulham came to Villa Park as they did to Anfield looking only to get a point from a stalemate. We never really looked like we wanted it enough to put any sustained pressure on them. Yes, things improved in the second half, but it would have been difficult for us to do any worse. Yes, we did cling onto a point which we had not against Boro. But, teams like Fulham will come to Villa Park and play deep and invite us to break them down and we must find a way to do this if we are not going to continue needing to pick up points against the likes of Arsenal to make up for points we have dropped against the likes of Boro. Now we have to win at Everton to make up for this result.

So, why did Martin not try to change things by bringing on a substitute or two? Was it that he looked at his bench and could see no viable options on it? Was it that he thought that we would make and take one chance before time ran out on us? I think it may have been a combination of the two but I consider it also shows we need to buy some options in the next window and we should start with a big named striker who will make everyone sit up and know we really mean business. No doubt we will be back to our best on Thursday and next weekend (I hope we are) but we need to string together a run of consistently good performances together and not have these regular hiccups if we are to maintain our present elevated position in the league table and even put some space between us and the chasing pack.

My player ratings from a game that amazingly the referee only played 2 extra minutes when the keeper alone wasted more than that in the second half are:

Brad Friedel - 7 – MOTM – Only had two real saves to make but what saves they were and without them we would have had another home defeat on our hands. Clint Dempsey forced Brad to make a finger tip save from his shot in the first half and then forced him to make a point blank block from a goal bound effort on 74 minutes. On a day when he took the record of 167 consecutive league appearances Brad celebrated with another clean sheet. What a good buy he has been.

Carlos Cuellar – 7 – His distribution improved during the game and he did a pretty solid job plugging the full back slot.

Curtis Davies – 7 – Another rock solid performance.

Martin Laursen – 7 – More of what we have come to expect from him it’s a pity he could not have added one of his trade mark goals from one of our many set pieces.

Luke Young - 7 – Very solid again and looked a bit of a threat when moving forward.

James Milner – 6 – Would have wanted to see more of the ball and to impress himself on the game more than he did.

Stiliyan Petrov – 7 – Not quite at his best today but nobody other than in our defence was.

Gareth Barry – 7 – So unlucky when a header (albeit one straight at Schwarzer) deflected off the keeper’s arms onto the crossbar and out on 70 minutes and was just inches wide with an earlier header that he had to stretch to meet a Young cross on 23 minutes. Great news that he has told Martin he will remain with us for the whole season and if we do get that top 4 spot why on earth would he not want to play in the Champions League with us next season?

Steve Sidwell – 5 – Oh dear! Not a good day for Steve. He struggled to do anything positive and his miss on 40 minutes cost us dear. He got into a good position inside the box found himself on the end of Young’s free kick and only needed to get his header on target to score but he connected with a woeful header that sailed harmlessly over the bar.

Ashley Young – 6 –Too often Ashley’s free kicks were misplaced or too long. Hit a shot into the side netting on 19 minutes but the keeper had it covered. Can do better than this although he played a role in our scoring opportunities that were few and far between.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Little service and had little chance to make an impression as a lone striker against a solid and well organised Fulham defence. Perhaps went wide too often as we have wide men in Young and Milner and needed a presence in the box. On more than a couple of occasions it was left for Sidwell and Barry to provide a target inside the box during his absence.

Substitutes:

None

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Hi John. I must congratulate you on a very realistic report of the Fulham match! Your disappointment is obvious and i think most other Villa fans would certainly feel the same way. I have been banging on for some time now about the lack of creativity in our midfield to break down teams like the much improved Fulham. I think the problem is when we play someone from the top seven, they are not afraid to attack us and consequently, leave space for us to exploit. However, when we play third tier teams in the Premiership, they are happy to play for a point and have ten players behind the ball, so we need that extra creativity to break them down! Unfortunately, we don't have that at the moment and i still think the signings of Reo-Coker and Sidwell have been poor. I though the signing of Petrov would help, but MON has him playing in front of the back four, where he can't create! I also though MON had the team set up wrongly, with just one forward. I mean, we were playing Fulham for God's sake! Yes i totally agree with you that we need at least one striker. I think we need two. Zaki from Wigan would be a great signing and little Arshavin would excite all of us. Arshavin would also create the through balls for Agbonlahor to run on to! Since we are obviously short of creativity, just wondered why MON sent little Routledge on loan to Cardiff, when he was showing signs of improvement? At least he would have been someone on the bench that MON could have turned to for the last fifteen minutes of the match, to at least run at Fulham! Lets hope MON makes the right signings in January? Ciaran.

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My disappointment was not helped with Arsenal's win either Ciaran! :o Some well made observations on your part once again, I think we have a different view on the merits of Reo, I had also thought that Sidwell was looking more comfortable in our shirt up until Saturday and I think Petrov has now found his best position for us and usually makes us tick from there. I think we do struggle to break sides down at home and our game is better suited to away games where the home side will press forwards. On the subject of our striker signings, 2 I had been hoping for and another one that Tom Ross expects us to sign in January were linked to other clubs yesterday. Huntelaar with Real Madrid, Podolski to Manchester City and Owen to Liverpool. Our transfer options may be getting lower, which would not be good news.

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Hi John. I hope Reo-Coker and Sidwell prove you right and me wrong, as it will then mean Villa are doing well. I really don't see them creating much in the way of opening up defences! Would love MON to buy Delph from Leeds in January, as in the long term, he could be another Gerrard! This guy can create and score goals, which our midfield can't at the moment! We desperately need a playmaker, such as Arteta from Everton, who gives them that added class going forward! Everton have now got a lot of injuries, so we should benefit from that! Maybe my head is too much up in the clouds and i'm not being realistic, but Arshavin would also be a great signing, as he is available. Think of the buzz that signing would create around Villa Park and it would show our intent to the Sky4! I totally agree about Huntelaar in the striker department, less so about Owen, as we already have a forward in Carew, who is too injury prone! Podolski im also not sure about, as he has been critisized for not always giving 100% for his club. Unfortunately, i think MON will try and buy Heskey from Wigan, as he is coming to the end of his contract and will come cheap and maybe Doyle from Reading, even though he has just signed a new contract! I sincerely hope i'm wrong about this, as neither of these strikers, would fill me with confidence, that they would score enough goals to keep us on the tails of Arsenal. Is it just me, or is our Villa team becoming more like MON's former team Leicester? Sidwell=Isset Reo-Coker=Robbie Savage Guppy=Young or Milner? Regards, Ciaran.

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Hi John. Must admit, i was very dissapointed with not coming away with the win, as this was my first visit to villa park since we drew with liverpool about 3 seasons ago. The only time i had been before then to Villa Park, was when Villa beat Bradford City 1 - 0 in the old second division and even then i was stuck in with the City fans.....so i could,nt really celebrate :-) But i decided it was time i made the effort, so i bought myself a sat-nav, a ticket, booked a hotel room for the night, and lost a days pay....but it was worthwhile just to be able to sit among fellow villa fans and relax! And as i tried to remember my way back to the hotel where i was staying, there was just one thought that kept going through my head, that was....... im sure we would have come away with the points had John Carew been playing. I just kept seeing Steve Sidwell missing the header with the goal wide open, then imaging JC in his place instead and the back of the net bulging with the impact of the ball. Ah well...we'll never know. But looking on the brighter side of things......the frostbite has nearly healed up :-) All the best..........

ces4villa

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Ciaran we run the risk of this turning into an early transfer window thread. I don't know much about Delph but he might be the one I had read may be on his way to Chelsea. With Huntelaar having now agreed terms with Real Madrid that reduces our potential options and brings the Heskey-Doyle combo yet nearer. I think Isset, Savage & Guppy would be flattered by being compared with the likes of Sidwell, Reo and either Young or Milner. Leicester never maintained a challenge to the top 4 and we will.

ces4villa. I hope your next trip is a winning one. I agree that the option that Big John provides was badly missed against a team such as Fulham. As for the frostbite my own is in the same condition but I assume more of the same on Thursday will have me back to looking like Scott or Oates very soon.

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Hi John. Many thanks for your opinion on my reference to MON's Leicester. I really don't think there is much difference in quality between the players mentioned, although, i sincerely wish there were! I was also referring to the way both teams were set up. I'm actually just frustrated, due to the fact that at the moment, none of the top four are playing with any real consistencey and there is a great oportunity for Villa to break into the top four, if we have the right players to do it. Like all Villa fans, i want to see us being sucessful, especially when we now have a fantastic chairman to back the manager with real money, but the manager has to buy the right players. I think his choice of player has been rather too much hit&miss, with few successes, other than Young and maybe Carew, when fit! I want our manager to buy quality, rather than 'value for money' so we can maintain our challenge for the top four! This season is a great oportunity for us and if MON improves his choice of player, maybe even to buy foreign, if they are good enough, then your statement about maintaining our challenge for a top 4 place will come true! Ciaran.

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