Jump to content

Weird and Wonderful


PB
 Share

Recommended Posts

This week we are looking back to a fantastic, gritty win at Sunderland and forward to a difficult Cup tie at Doncaster and even more difficult League trip to Portsmouth.

I have to say that this Villa team just keep on surprising me. Just when you think that the gas tank is finally empty, just when you think there’s no more to come, they dig deep and produce yet another performance full of grit, character, fight and no little quality. At half time against Sunderland I was worried. It seemed like we hadn’t turned up, and i wondered whether this was the day when your wonderful recent string of results came to an end.

Oh me of little faith! Where do they get it from? Once again, the longer the match went on, the stronger we got, this time even able to brush aside going down to ten men as nothing more than a minor inconvenience as we overturned Sunderland’s deserved half time advantage. I told you the media would dress it up as ‘lucky’ didn’t I? Its a bit boring now isn’t it? I don’t see how James Milner being tripped as he’s about to tap the ball into an empty net is lucky. I don’t see how Gabby Agbonlahor being assaulted by two Sunderland defenders is lucky. It seems once again to be the case that ‘the harder we work the luckier we get’.

Anyway, as Agbonlahor commented this week, its a bit weird to see Villa right up there so late into the season. Look at that League table. Look at Villa - just a meagre three points off the top, three points ahead of the ominously consistent Arsenal and eight ahead of sixth placed Everton. We have an astonishing and unprecedented 44 points from 22 games,an incredible five consecutive away League wins and are on an amazing run of twenty four points from ten games. The pressure we are exerting on the ‘Big Four’ by being right in there amongst them at this stage of the season must be huge. No matter what happens from now on in, this season has been absolutely fantastic, and yet there is no sign, given our strong finishes to most recent games, to suggest we are at the end.

These repeated strong finishes are rather making a lie of the manager’s repeated claims that his team are dead on their feet. I’m troubled by his talk of dropping the UEFA Cup, and I’m not convinced at all how necessary it is. Most of the first team actually haven’t played that many games having been extensively rested from European games earlier in the season or not in the team at that time. Others, like Milner, Sidwell, Cuellar, Reo-Coker Bouma and Carew have missed fairly substantial periods this season for one reason or another and should be relatively fresh. I do wonder a little bit whether this is O’Neill playing games a little bit. Lets just say that if we field anything other than our strongest possible team against CSKA or in for example an FA Cup quarter final I’ll be extremely unhappy. Europe is absolutely vital for us - the experience will stand our guys in good stead for next season’s continental campaign and getting our European ranking up a little will also be a big help.

I can understand however if we field a weakened team against Championship strugglers Doncaster this weekend in the FA Cup, and indeed the manager has hinted that there will be changes for this game at the Keepmoat. Doncaster have changed home since our last meeting with them - one of the lowest points in our club’s recent past when we were hammered 3-0 just a little over three years ago, in a League Cup tie. Only James Milner and Gareth Barry survive from that Villa team. Despite their lowly League position, Doncaster seem to be in a bit of good form at the moment, and I think we can expect a similar work out to that given us by Gillingham in the last round. Rumour has it that John Carew might be available for this one after the best part of three months effectively out of the team, and if so that will be a major boost and might allow Agbonlahor to sit this one out. Also missing are the suspended Ashley Young and Luke Young, and the still injured Martin Laursen. I would also imagine that Curtis Davies and Gareth Barry will start on the bench. Nicky Shorey gets yet another chance to show that he isn’t a waste of money, and Nathan Delfouneso can perhaps put his indifferent performance at Gillingham behind him. Whoever plays will need to be up for it, as we can expect Doncaster to show us no respect and give us a hard physical examination. I’ll be happy enough with a replay.

Then, on Tuesday, we can expect the big guns (minus the still suspended Ashley) to return for the trip to Portsmouth that could, should West Brom do us a favour at home to United, see us go joint top of the League,even if only for a day. How fantastic would that be!? With there also being a key match at Goodison where Arsenal are the visitors (draw please) this is real opportunity for Villa to properly cement that top four place. For what its worth, I don’t think we’ll win. We never seem to beat Portsmouth these days and despite their League position they are really a decent side. I’m currently working on the theory that if we match last season’s results over the remainder of the season we’ll finish in the top four. From our remaining games we got, in the corresponding fixtures last season, twenty nine points (nine wins, two draws and five defeats), which would take us to seventy three. If we got seventy three points and didn’t finish in the top four it would be totally unprecedented. As such, we can, as fans, relax a bit against Portsmouth as this is one of our five allowed “defeats”. If we can steal a point (I think its about time we got another own goal, or Brad Friedel grabbed an injury time winner, just to extend our ‘luck’) then that’s a bonus, but a defeat wouldn’t be the end of the world.

However, as Brad Friedel himself has said this week, we shouldn’t look more than one game ahead and he’s right, it is a bit of a mugs game. You can get yourself worrying about this permutation or that, and in the end convince yourself that we’re all doomed. Given that we don’t know who is going to be fit, or injured, or suspended, or bought, or sold we should indeed just look at things one day at a time. So for now, lets just really enjoy being up here in the lofty perch we currently occupy, little old unfashionable Villa hanging onto the coat tails of the rich and famous, and hope that when I write next week’s article we are still going strong.

Have a great Villa weekend.

PB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi PB. Great report and rightly so, very positive. Share your misgivings about MON fielding a weakened team against the Russians, as they will be a real challenge! I think the Villa players at the moment are in a mindset in which any defeat is totally unacceptable and we can thank, not only the players, but our manager, who is doing a fantastic job, for that! Portsmouth have been severely weakened with the players they have lost and i would also expect us to get at least a point, especially if we can have Carew back, as we have missed his hold up play! Will also welcome another own goal, defensive mistake, or indeed a Brad goal to continue the, eh, 'lucky Villa tag' but i would rather have a fantastic performance with free flowing football that top four sides should produce once in a while to shut those who have the audacity to criticize, up! Regards, Ciaran.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Realistic assessment Peter.

The feel good factor the team are experiencing will hopefully carry us through, even if we have lesser teams for Doncaster and Russia, though I agree, we should take advantage of being in Europe, if only for the benefit of the younger players.

When we get Ashley back along with Martin and John, plus perhaps some new signings to provide better depth, we will have a sound platform to take us through to the end of the season.

I hope that the occassional loss will not take the edge off the great run we're on, but spur them on.

UTV

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...
Â