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written by PB

This week PB takes a look back at those two “winnable” games (who said that!?) neither of which went to plan really and forwards to arguably our most important game of the season to date.

I wasn’t too surprised by the goalless draw with Fulham last weekend. They are developing a bit of a reputation for being obdurate defensively and so it proved once again. Villa similarly seem to have difficulty getting past teams like this that come looking for a draw, whether with or without John Carew in the starting line up.

I was interested to read after the game that Ashley Young feels that he needs to modify his game when he doesn’t have the giant Norwegian to aim his crosses at. I was also interested to hear several commentators (and players) who were of the opinion that had Carew played, he would likely have got on the end of one or two things. Something isn’t adding up. Ash says he plays differently, and yet still puts in balls that Carew would thrive on; balls that, to be fair, Sidwell and Barry were always unlikely to profit from.

I have pondering recently why it is that Ashley Young doesn’t get to play for England more often, and is overlooked by the England manager for players like, for example, Stewart Downing. I wonder whether Capello has decided that although Young is clearly very talented, maybe he lacks just that bit of intelligence, just that bit of variation that makes the difference between a top club player and a decent international. Maybe he has decided that Young without Carew isn’t all that good. I dont know that I would necessarily agree with this latter point, but it is something I have wondered about.

Anyway, I don't think I would read too much into that draw. Liverpool, the League leaders and apparent title aspirants, have drawn their last two home games 0-0 against mid table teams. These things happen. What matters is that you pick yourself up and get on with things and put those wrongs to rights next time out. Which of course as we now know didn’t quite happen as Villa fell to another fairly predictable defeat, this time to MSK Zilina, apparently the Group F whipping boys.

I thought they were quite a tidy team - and big props for their fans by the way who out sung the home support from start to finish 9at least the noise they made on TV was very impressive). The main areas of concern (apart from the very predictable poor performances from Harewood and Knight) were in central midfield where Salifou and Osbourne failed to make any sort of impact and allowed the Slovakians to play through them far too easily. I was disappointed by Salifou, a player I have alot of time for, although I understand he was ill. The fact that O’Neill played an ill reserve central midfield player tells you all to need to know about how he had prioritised this game. The only player really to emerge with any credit was Nathan Delfouneso, although even then I think I would qualify any praise for his fabulously taken goal by asking if he actually did anything else while he was on. Still,he is only a kid, and I’m absolutely certain that the boy has bags of class and that we’ll see lots more of him in the future months and years.

Anyway, the main thing is that Villa have progressed into the last 32 thanks to HSV’s tidy win in Prague and the match in Hamburg in 2 weeks is all about jostling for one of those top two spots that allow what might loosely be described as “home advantage” in the first knockout round. Not only have we qualified with a game to spare, but have done so using our shadow squad in two of the three matches,meaning that we should be relatively fresh for the trip to Goodison on Sunday to face an Everton side who took an early exit from Europe and are starting to really reap the benefits of those midweeks off.

I think Moyes has done fabulously with them yet again. I was pretty sure that this was a season too far for them; that their tiny squad would get found out this time and yet, here we are entering December with Everton sniffing right down the necks of the top four once again. This is a huge game for Villa. If we can win, we can put some serious distance between ourselves and a major rival; lose and we are right back in that pack again where we haven’t been for some months.

I think it will be a difficult game, a really difficult game in fact, but I’m quietly confident Villa will get something from the game - a repeat of last season’s thriller will do me nicely.

Have a great weekend and I hope we’ll catch up again and have a natter about the Villa again next Friday.

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I was interested to read after the game that Ashley Young feels that he needs to modify his game when he doesn’t have the giant Norwegian to aim his crosses at. I was also interested to hear several commentators (and players) who were of the opinion that had Carew played, he would likely have got on the end of one or two things. Something isn’t adding up. Ash says he plays differently, and yet still puts in balls that Carew would thrive on; balls that, to be fair, Sidwell and Barry were always unlikely to profit from.

interesting point, and i think it holds some water.

I think Ash is much more effective when he's got the big man to look for to get on the end of his crosses.

When that big man is either out injured or off form, we need other options.

The Hare is obviously not the man for this. Hence the possibility of Emily coming in in january. We need somebody like that, with the style we like to play and that is most effective for us. RSC would have been good in this regard, but deosn't seem tpo be available. Maybe Ashton is another who could play this role.

But Emily can certainly play this role, and should be available in a few weeeks ....

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I totally agree with the comment about Ash Young. He needs to develope his game more, not only to supply crosses for the big forward, such as Carew, but also to be able to see a defence splitting pass through the middle as none of our midfield has the ability to do this and i include GB in this statement! I hope MON buys a creative midfielder in January and he could do a lot worse than taking a good look at Zilina's Grba who i though was excellent against us and was the best player on the pitch by a country mile! He made our second string midfield look like what they are, very poor and gave them a lesson in constructive midfield football with loads of flair! I'm also sure he wouldn't cost the earth in fees and MON surely couldn't have failed to notice him? I also note the comment above about Heskey and Ashton. I do think MON will buy Heskey in January, but for me, he will not score enough goals to keep us on the tails of the top four. You only have to look at Heskey's goal record to date! We should have signed Ashton before he was transferred from Crewe to West Ham for 3 million. To sign him now will take at least treble that and although i would be worried about his recent injury record, in my humble opinion, he would score more goals than Heskey and therefore would, over all, be a much better signing! I think Zaki from Wigan would be another alternative, but MON will go for Heskey and probably offer Reading what they want for Doyle, which, in the future, i believe, will add two more poor signings to MONs Villa transfer record! Ciaran.

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Harewood wasn't poor by any stretch in the Zilina game - by his standards he had a decent match and linked up well with the other players and even managed to skin a few of theirs. He did mess up a couple of headers but they weren't clear cut chances whatsoever.

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I was interested to read after the game that Ashley Young feels that he needs to modify his game when he doesn’t have the giant Norwegian to aim his crosses at. I was also interested to hear several commentators (and players) who were of the opinion that had Carew played, he would likely have got on the end of one or two things. Something isn’t adding up. Ash says he plays differently, and yet still puts in balls that Carew would thrive on; balls that, to be fair, Sidwell and Barry were always unlikely to profit from.

The Hare is obviously not the man for this. Hence the possibility of Emily coming in in january. We need somebody like that, with the style we like to play and that is most effective for us. RSC would have been good in this regard, but deosn't seem tpo be available. Maybe Ashton is another who could play this role.

Ashton is a top striker, but he's also the only player in the league who spends more time on the treatment table than Owen.

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Good points Peter, and valid in many respects.

With the benefit of yesterday's result, we are in the mix again and creating a gap between many of the others who might challenge after January, but we need to strengthen as well, especially up front and IMO a creative midfielder.

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