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Mowbray's Madness


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This week PB looks back at last weekend's derby victory over West Brom and the bizarre post match comments of their manager Tony Mowbray - and forwards to this weekend's trip to the North East with a game against Sunderland.

I am with Martin O'Neill in being puzzled by West Brom manager Tony Mowbray's comments in the aftermath of last Saturday's Villa win. Mowbray insisted that Villa "weren't interested in playing football" and implied that Villa were a team who relied on "the percentages". Mowbray here is referring to those teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s who played what became derided as 'the long ball game'. To bracket Villa with teams such as Wimbledon or Sheffield United (or perhaps more latterly Bolton) is just ridiculous.

Coming as these comments did from the manager of West Brom was even more bizarre. West Brom are often lauded for playing 'attractive football' and it seems this praise has gone to their manager's head. Yet West Brom do not play attractive football; its a total media myth. 'The Baggies' are good enough at playing sideways, good enough at playing backwards, but, as a pathetic 17 goals from 21 games will tell you, they are totally useless at going forwards. Tony, there is nothing more boring than a team keeping possession for the sake of it; a team too scared of losing possession to even attempt anything vaguely creative and your team last weekend at Villa Park did nothing at all to deserve anything from the game. When West Brom have the ball you can safely go and put the kettle on or pop to the bar for a pint because nothing of any interest is going to happen. By contrast, Villa launched wave after wave of rapid, vibrant, exciting counter-attacks, ball at feet, five or six players arriving simultaneously in the Albion box - a stark contrast to the slow, ponderous,pedestrian play of the struggling visitors. That Tony, that stuff you saw from Villa is football, not the boring sideways rubbish of your team. Unless you learn that lesson very quickly then you are going down (again).

True, West Brom had more of the ball, and yet Villa, had they taken their chances could have buried them every bit as badly as they buried Birmingham City in last season's derby. Only superb play from Carson and some wasteful finishing kept the score vaguely respectable. This wasteful finishing, combined with a deflected shot from one of the very few half chances West Brom's 58% possession created, meant that we had a slightly nervous last five minutes or so, but that shouldn't disguise what was another pathetic performance from a West Brom team heading for the Championship. No-one is pretending that Villa are on top of their game at the moment, and yet we had in excess of twenty goal attempts last weekend and anything other than a Villa win would have been a travesty of justice. It wasn't a brilliant Villa performance by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm also certain that it wasn't luck - the best team won, and our place in the top four was further cemented.

Speaking of which, the other Mowbray comment that animated us here at PB towers this week was his statement that Villa 'Don't look like a top four side'. At first glance, the inclination, even from Villa fans, is probably to agree with him. On paper we don't look like a top four team. We are conditioned, I think, to think of the 'Big Four' as having some kind of monopoly on superstars, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that actually, this is another myth. When I contemplate,for example, swapping Ashley Young for Cesc Fabregas I am uncertain who would get the best out of that deal - similarly with Laursen for Gallas, Barry for Alonso, Friedel for Almunia, Gabby for Keane. Maybe, just maybe, this Villa team is better,even its individual parts, than anyone inside Villa dare admit or anyone outside Villa dare accept.

I am reminded quite forcibly of 1980-82. I am reminded of how the media back then largely ignored Villa, even in the title run-in, as an irrelevance. Ipswich, with their sexy Dutch midfielders, Spurs with their World Cup winning Argentinians, double European Champions Nottingham forest (featuring a certain Irishman in midfield and a certain Scot on the wing) and of course perennial champions Liverpool were all more highly regarded than Saunders' Villa who had between them at the start of the 1980-81 season a grand total of one international cap, that in the possession of Jimmy Rimmer who earned it as a substitute in a friendly five years previously. That spectacularly unfashionable Villa team, built around a solid work ethic and fantastic team spirit and lack of 'stars' went on to achieve legendary status as we all know,and while I wouldn't be so bold as to suggest that this team can match the feats of 80-82, I will give you something to ponder. Even if you adjust the points tally to take into account three points for a win, this Villa team (I am reliably informed) has scored more points in the opening 21 games of this season than the 80-81 team did. Food for thought I think. This is therefore, statistically, the best start to a season in the club's post war history. Unfashionable we may be, but very,very effective. Ask Tony.

And so the Stadium of Light. It always makes me smile that does, naming a stadium after a mistranslation of Benfica's famous home. Anyway, it is a difficult place to go in defence of our long unbeaten run, especially when you consider that half of our League defeats this season have come against similarly mid table opposition from this neck of the woods.

I expected more of Sunderland this season to be honest. I thought over the summer that they bought well,and seemed to have moved on a level. Who'd have thought that Roy Keane would turn out to be more Kevin Keegan than Alex Ferguson and pack his bags at the first sign of trouble? Very odd. Even odder was the decision to appoint Ricky Somebody or other as their new manager, apparently on the basis of a couple of wins and a shouted comment from a player during a "Match of the Day" interview. Only a couple of days previously Ricky had been telling anyone who would listen that he didn't really want the job because of the demands it would make on his personal life. I think it will all end in tears for him; managing a Premiership club requires a certain pragmatism combined with hard nosed ruthlessness. it requires long cold Monday nights away from home watching the youth team play at Plymouth when you'd rather be snuggled up on the sofa with the missus. I don't think he has it in him, although he seems like a nice enough guy on the telly. Good luck to him, and he's going to need it, especially starting tomorrow. I think we are just too strong for them at the moment and I'd expect a win,although I have little doubt that the media (who are going off us now our stay at the top has an air of at least semi-permanence) will find some angle to make it seem lucky, or Sunderland plucky. I'm going to go for a 3-1 win for the Villa lads.

I'd like to add a quick comment on the Kaka affair if I may. I am really,really pleased that Manchester City are continuing to buy (or attempt at least) 'show boat' players like this. As long as they continue to throw their money on such players they will pose no threat to the top end of the table. Manchester City, a little like Tottenham perhaps, lack a spine and this makes them too easy to play against, especially away from Eastlands. In this League, far more than in any other, you have to have a spine of tough, reliable, top quality players. If Manchester City were threatening to blow this £120m on for example Lampard, Terry, Mascherano, Buffon and a proper centre forward like Adebayor maybe I might be concerned, as that would address their weakness . I don't see, at all, how signing Kaka, or indeed any number of the faltering Brazilian national team will help them in the upcoming relegation battle. Unless they get this window exactly right they could easily go down, and I fear for their future were that to happen. The potential signing of Kaka is madness on every level, almost as mad as the ramblings of the West Brom manager.

Have a great Villa weekend and see you all next week.

PB

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I'd like to add a quick comment on the Kaka affair if I may. I am really,really pleased that Manchester City are continuing to buy (or attempt at least) 'show boat' players like this. As long as they continue to throw their money on such players they will pose no threat to the top end of the table. Manchester City, a little like Tottenham perhaps, lack a spine and this makes them too easy to play against, especially away from Eastlands. In this League, far more than in any other, you have to have a spine of tough, reliable, top quality players. If Manchester City were threatening to blow this £120m on for example Lampard, Terry, Mascherano, Buffon and a proper centre forward like Adebayor maybe I might be concerned, as that would address their weakness . I don't see, at all, how signing Kaka, or indeed any number of the faltering Brazilian national team will help them in the upcoming relegation battle. Unless they get this window exactly right they could easily go down, and I fear for their future were that to happen. The potential signing of Kaka is madness on every level, almost as mad as the ramblings of the West Brom manager.

PB

couldn't agree more Bozzy.

I find it all quite amusing.

A Hollywood signing, and clearly, IMO, not a Hughes one ....

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Hi PB, just wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic written piece! I think what Tony Mowbray meant by his comments on the style of our football, iis that we don't play football which is easy on the eye like Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, or Liverpool and i certainly agree with Mowbray on that! I don't think any of Martin O'Neill's teams do. Nor do we have any stand out individuals, but what we do have is loads of heart, spirit, and a never say die attitude, which is pulling us through some poor form at the moment! We also have pace on the break, but probably lack a creative midfielder who is able to hold the ball and play a defence splitting pass! Villa fans might say what about GB, but GB's form this season has been poor, due no doubt to him carrying an injury and we don't have the creativity in our midfield like the other aforementioned teams. I also think the usual top four have been inconsistant this season, which has also helped us, but i'm not complaining. I believe also that we have been a little lucky this season with own goals and defensive mistakes benefitting us, so our form will have to improve if we are to stay in the top four. We will need a new striker to give Agbonlahor a well earned rest and maybe a creative midfielder to help us break down teams who will play ten at the back to frustrate us. However, i am very proud of our team and the effort they have given the fans. I am also very proud of of our manager who stood up to the reds on Merseyside when they wanted GB and when our team now take to the field to play any of the old top four, we now command their respect! Regards, Ciaran.

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Hi PB, just wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic written piece! I think what Tony Mowbray meant by his comments on the style of our football, iis that we don't play football which is easy on the eye like Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, or Liverpool and i certainly agree with Mowbray on that!

I have to say that I disagree with you very strongly. certainly there are days when we're not so fantastic,every team has them (did you see man U against Wigan the other night) but anyone who saw us in either match against Arsenal for example (and there are loads more examples I can give you) has to accept that on our day we are every bit as thrilling as any team in the League. Even against West Brom, a performance which was generally a little sluggish, there was a period of 15-20 minutes after their goal when I thought we were breathtaking.

I don't think any of Martin O'Neill's teams do. Nor do we have any stand out individuals, but what we do have is loads of heart, spirit, and a never say die attitude, which is pulling us through some poor form at the moment!

Again, I have to disagree most strongly. I highlight in the article a number of 'stand out' individuals on our team who are at the very least comparable in terms of class to their opposite number on other top teams. To describe a team containing Ashley Young as lacking a stand out individual is a strange comment if I may say so

Villa fans might say what about GB, but GB's form this season has been poor, due no doubt to him carrying an injury and we don't have the creativity in our midfield like the other aforementioned teams.

I think that Gareth's play is very understated, and yet he is very much involved in every thing this team does well. When the season end DVD comes out with all the goals,watch how many he has a part in :-) No, he's not the type of player to create a defence splitting pass, but he never has been, and never will be. He is the brains of the team though, make no mistake, without him we'd be half the team we are.

I also think the usual top four have been inconsistant this season, which has also helped us, but i'm not complaining.

While it is true that the title this season will be won with fewer points than has been required for a while,the 4th spot is likely to require a very high points tally,much higher than usual. Arsenal aren't under performing, they are on course for a very respectable 68 points (enough to beat the fifth placed team every year since the League dropped to 38 games,and enough to beat considerably more than half the fourth placed teams), we are just out performing them. We are doing so well that we are currently on course to obliterate our club record from 38 games (which was enough for fourth place by the way). Dont believe the hype from the media - this is nothing like what happened with everton that year, or nearly happened with Spurs. This is a Villa team playing every inch like a top four team and no-one quite knows how to handle it. Of course it could go all tits up very quickly, a defeat today would be a blow (not a fatal blow though, we have shown our ability to bounce back)

I believe also that we have been a little lucky this season with own goals and defensive mistakes benefitting us, so our form will have to improve if we are to stay in the top four.

Looks like its my day for disagreeing with you today :-) If you have players of the quality of Ashley Young and Milner,who deliver balls of the sort of quality for example that led to the own goal against Hull, then these things will happen. I'd suggest watching all those own goals again, and look at the fantastic delivery and the pressure the defender is under (usually from gabby). if you put the ball into the right areas often enough, and have a striker opposition defences genuinely fear then goals will come. They wont all be pretty, but they will all be goals, created through skill and pace.I wouldnt worry about how they are finished. We need to improve our form? wow, you're a hard taskmaster. the best first half to a season in our club's history and its not good enough for you!? Wow.

We will need a new striker to give Agbonlahor a well earned rest and maybe a creative midfielder to help us break down teams who will play ten at the back to frustrate us.

This is admittedly a problem,albeit one we share with all the top sides except man united who, to be fair, have access to the kinds of players we can only dream of. Look at how much Liverpool, chelsea and Arsenal have struggled to win at home - there is no easy way to get through such teams,even with "creative midfielders". Wenger has spent all week moaning about it. If anything, take it as a huge compliment that teams come to Villa and play like that - they do it through fear. once more teams start to play like Hull did,even at home, then you'll know we've really arrived. When we get Carew back this problem will alleviate a little bit, as you cant sit deep against a team playing Carew or you'll get eaten alive (assuming he's on one of his days when he can be bothered).

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Hi PB, just wanted to congratulate you on a fantastic written piece! I think what Tony Mowbray meant by his comments on the style of our football, iis that we don't play football which is easy on the eye like Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, or Liverpool and i certainly agree with Mowbray on that! I don't think any of Martin O'Neill's teams do

Great Article PB,I think Villa play some of the best football in the league fast counterattacking football and full of creative talent in the midfeild and a solid gritty defence and Gabby and Ashley young are fantastic,who wouldnt want them pair in thier team at the moment! Completeley disagree with Mowbray i was at the game and west brom kept the ball for long periods i nearly fell asleep ,soon as we got the ball i woke up we went forward and everytime i thought villa were going to score and we do look like a top side even if it wasnt the best football we played last week it was 10 times better than west brom.

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Hi again PB and many thanks for your answer. Our football in my opinion against West Brom, was anything but 'breathtaking' throughout the match and we were certainly holding on by the end of the game! I also stand by my comment that we don't have any outstanding individuals. Young is good, indeed he is very good, but would teams in the Premiership have Young instead of Ronaldo, who is indeed outstanding? I certainly agree with your comments about GB, but he does not have the form of last season! Your comment about Arsenal not under performing this season i have to disagree with and most football pundits would back me on that. It is quite obvious that their form this season has been inconsistant, as has Chelsea's and Man U! My comment about Villa's recent form has been backed, by no less than Davies and Laursen, who have stated that our team are not playing well at the moment and we have been lucky with own goals and our oponents defensive mistakes. My comment about our form was meant in the context of that we can't always rely on mistakes to win matches and therefore our overall performance has to improve. Dion Dublin commented on this after the West Brom match on Sky! I still think we need a creative midfielder to give us a little more class in midfield, especially when we are under pressure from other teams. Our midfielders have looked rather uncomfortable on the ball and continually give it away. Thats what i meant when i said our team wasn't easy on the eye! However, we are very effective at what we do and we are winning when not playing at all well which is an excellent habit to have. We do need another striker and soon, before we get injuries! Regards, Ciaran.

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Yeah, but Ciaran the point you are missing is that all the top sides do this - go through long periods of not playing so well. This is why playing less than 100% and winning is such an important thing to develop - it is very much what separates the best form the rest.There isn't a single team on the planet or the history of the game that has played really well week in week out over a season, to expect that is unrealistic. Look at United yesterday once again. They keep it tight, and have the quality up front to punish errors. How is that different to Villa? Any team in the top four would have Ashley or Gabby or Barry - if your definition of outstanding is 'at least as good as Ronaldo' then there is only one outstanding player in the world, and you're right, we don't have him. My definition of outstanding is perhaps a little looser than yours, as I imagine most people's is.

I wouldnt listen to the media to be honest. All I heard from them yesterday was 'lucky Villa' for Milner's handball goal. its boring. And incorrect. Milner was about to tap the ball into an empty net from four yards out, and gets hacked down from behind by Chimbonda. Yeah, the ball might have hit his arm as he fell onto it, but if the ref disallows the goal for that then he has to give a penalty and a red card to Chimbonda and the refs instructions are always to allow such goals. once again, look at the quality of the ball from Young. You cant call that luck, not when it happens like that, yet another brilliant delivery resulting in a goal. its the same for the penalty really, the defence are so scared of Gabby's pace that they choose to take him out rather than let him run run onto a through ball - when you do that around your box you risk a penalty- thats not luck thats us having better players than them where it matters. its us not giving up on our principles even when behind, even with ten men we just kept going and going like the energizer bunny and so deserve every little stroke of fortune. The media are always looking for angles,even TV pundits incredibly. yetserday they were banging on about poorly Chelsea played (while they were losing), but what fantastic spirit (when they'd won). Chelsea had nearly forty goal attempts, and were kept out by a one man team (Sorensen). You cant play poorly and get 40 goal attempts - and Stoke cant have played well to concede 40 goal attempts - its just the media looking for a story. At the moment, one of the stories is Villa are lucky and this is the angle they'll follow. If you didnt enjoy that little spell after West Brom's goal then I dont know what you will enjoy to be honest.

As for Arsenal, I'm going to once again stress the fact that they are on target to exceed 70 points. more than they got in 2006/7 (when they finished 4th), more than they did in 2005/6 when they finished fourth, ten more than Everton the previous season when they finished fourth ( we are only 17 points behind Everton's total from that season with 16 games to go - think we'll beat it?). Arsenal are , whether you or the media are prepared to accept it, getting the results you would expect from a team finishing in the top four. The numbers never lie. Just accept that we are also playing very much like a top four side,and getting teh results to go with it - stop being so negative and enjoy it for goodness sake. Yes we need a coupel fo players, I think we can all accept that, but we surely now have to be at the point where we, as Villa fans,accept that actually we have some bloody decent players here already - some genuine top quality.

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No PB. I think it is you who is missing the point. I am glad that you have now agreed that we are winning, without playing well! That was exactly my point! We can't continue to play poorly and keep winning, as the law of averages will eventually catch up on us. As i have already stated in my previous thread, both Davies and Laursen have admitted that they and the team aren't playing well, yet are still winning, which is fantastic! I'm also quite aware that teams can't play well in every game which would be impossible. My point is simple to understand. Our overal form must improve to stay in the top four. I also agree with you that Barry, Agbonlarhor, or Young would not be out of place in any of the other three teams around us and i'm grateful that they play for us rather than anyone else! However, i must disagree with your statement that there is only one outstanding player in the world! Are you forgetting about Messi, Kaka, or a little Russian called Arshavin, who, unfortunately, is probably going to sign for Arsenal? These players are what i would term outstanding! You also seem to have something against the media. I think everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if it disagrees with your own! You also comment again about the West Brom game. I'm sorry to repeat myself, but didn't Davies and Laursen admit in the after match interview with Sky that they and the team hadn't played at all well? Nevertheless they provided we fans with a win, without playing well which was great. I saw no passage of football within that match that any Villa fan could say we were outstanding! You mention Arsenal again and make a valid argument with statistics. Nevertheless, Arsenal have dropped points where they normally wouldn't have and thats what i meant about the inconsistanties of the usual top four! I have watched every Villa match this season and i can't agree that the standard of our football would be representitive of a top four side as we have been giving the ball away too much, particularly in midfield! We also don't have the creativity of the usual top four, but we are in the top four due to producing the results. We have got these results through a fantastic team spirit, being well organised and playing some very effective football and being realistic, we have also had the benefit of things going our way in previous matches, which i will take all day! I am certainly not being negative. I have already mentioned in a previous threads that i am very proud of our team, giving Villa, the fans and our manager 100% in every match this season which has been simply fantastic! I, like you and every other Villa fan sincerely hope that we finish in the top four this season and maybe win one of the cups. However, i don't view Villa's performances through rose tinted glasses and say that we have been playing well through easy on the eye, free flowing football, when we simply haven't! Regards, Ciaran.

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[edit]

I wrote a long reply, but I cant be bothered to get into an argument

We'll just have to agree to disagree

I empathise Bozzy. "There are none so blind as those that cannot see".

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