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Progression or Complacency?


blandy
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Richard Franks - sellyoakvilla - submitted the following (which has been edited by the mods, so don't shoot him, please) taking a look into whether our fans are happy with our progression, or exhibiting signs of complacent over-expectancy - a discussion much in evidence on the messageboard. Richard's side of the debate is as follows:-

Progression or Complacency?

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that this season has (so far) been an almost perfect Premiership season to follow Aston Villa. You could also argue that the 1992/93 season was one of the greatest, being runners up only to Manchester United; with Paul McGrath scooping player of the season award from the PFA.

Success was almost expected from that season. Did our fans begin to get complacent back then, as they maybe are now?

This season, we have played some brilliant football, and some not so brilliant football; yet we still get results. We’ve surpassed all expectations and we are currently sitting pretty in fourth, six points ahead of Arsenal and three points behind Chelsea in second (however we would be eight points ahead of Arsenal and one point behind Chelsea if we didn’t capitulate at the end of the Stoke game – in fact, both Stoke games). This now leads me to ask whether we have actually become complacent about our progression.

If you look back to when we were under David O’Leary in the Ellis era - 80% of the time, we were absolutely apathetic. We had no hunger, spirit, or fight for the cause. We had one season where we finished sixth and missed out on Europe on goal difference, but apart from that, we had average seasons, and almost got relegated (we finished 16th the season before Martin O’Neill took over). Fans were calling for ‘Ellis Out’ and for O’Leary to be sacked.

In August 2006, Martin O’Neill arrived at Villa Park, and was mobbed by around a thousand Villa fans chanting his name as he departed from his car. “Overwhelmed” was his response when asked about the reception he was given.

Are we overwhelmed still, at having him as our manager? or have we already become complacent, forgetting where we have come from and the progress made, with the attendant danger that such short term memory and unrealistic expectation brings? Will the next phase turn into impatient, unrealistic, fans harming the relationship we have with the manager and with the club?

Over the past fortnight we’ve seen some disappointing results, a 3-1 reverse at Everton in the FA Cup, a 2-0 loss away at Moscow, a 1-0 defeat at home to Chelsea and now throwing away a 2-0 lead at home to Stoke with three minutes left. Many fans vented their frustration by a deafening rapture of boos at the end of the Stoke game.

The past fortnight's bad turn of fortune has sparked a backlash from some Villa fans, who have blamed O’Neill, as he left players behind for the trip to Moscow to concentrate on gaining a coveted top four position in the Premiership.

Many fans agreed with the Manager, but a sizeable number did not agree with, or accept, the logic behind the decision.

So are fans still happy with the steps we've made? or are some now becoming complacent, with no understanding that the ride will not always be smooth?

Since O’Neill took over from O’Leary as Villa manager we’ve been on the up ever since. We’ve had impressive wins such as the 5-1 at home to Birmingham City, the 6-0 away at Derby County, the 2-0 win at home to Chelsea, the 3-2 away at Everton and the 2-0 away at Arsenal to name a few – but has this level of performance led us to have unrealistic expectations for the short term?

After all a lot of our fans have been expecting us to win games left right and centre, but not actually appreciating the progress that O’Neill and Randy Lerner have injected into our club. If it wasn’t for them we would probably be a mid-table team again.

In May 2006, we finished in sixteenth place. Over the past three seasons we have seen a rise of 16th, to 11th, to 6th, and we are fourth at present. Things could be a lot worse.

I worry, for if we are to become a Champions League side in the near future, the trait of complacency could become more widespread.

What we have to remember is – okay, we sometimes don’t play too well – however, the bigger picture needs to be analysed.

We are currently sitting in fourth position; we are six points ahead of Arsenal in fifth place and three points behind Chelsea who are in second place.

There is no need for despondency, or anger when we have made such an improvement over the past three years, and we have our thanks to make for that – to Martin O’Neill, Randy Lerner, General Krulak and everyone else behind the scenes at Aston Villa.

Hopefully the recent short tempered and impatient complacency will be temporary, the progression more permanent.

Richard Franks

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I dont think you can call the fans (arguably justifiable) anger about the UEFA Cup decision complacency. Its our clubtoo, our hopes and dreams. I think O'Neill got it wrong, and that seems to be the majority feeling.

I dont think you can call concerns over our season collapsing complacency either, whether those concerns are proved correct or not. Quite the opposite in fact.

Of course we have come a long way, but there is a pressure attached to being in this position.

Can O'Neill handle that pressure? I'm not convinced, some of his recent decisions and interviews have smacked a little of panic, but we will see. He also has a habit of proving everyone wrong. I hope he continues to do so.

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We had a choice, or Martin had a choice of whether to run our season into the ground by sending our Premiership team to Russia, or giving those players a much needed rest and giving squad players a run out. Do Villa fans think our players are machines whereby they can play from July untill the end of the season without a rest? Certainly GB needed a rest due to carrying a injury. Petrov also needed resting after trying to give protection to our defence when we were playing one up front. Gabby is showing all the signs of burnout and his form is duly suffering. The systems we have been playing has also taken a lot out of the players, with Martin's high pressured game plan maybe now showing it's effect on the players. We don't seem to have the energy to close down players in the final third of matches. Maybe Martin should have improved the squad more in January. Maybe he should have bought someone to replace Gabby. However, he did not, so he had no other choice than to rest some of the players. I don't think there is even a question of whether Martin can handle the pressure. Of course he can! He has made a decision to forsake the UEFA cup, to give us a better chance of CL qualification. No sign of pressure there. The question of whether it was the right decision for other Villa fans, will only be truely answered at the end of the season, so lets give our fantastic team and manager all the support they need to push us over the finishing line to that magical fourth place!

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A few points on this - from me, who is after all a big fan of O'Neill

Firstly with regard to Agbonlahor, I think we need to distinguish between tiredness and being simply out of form, or lacking confidence. He says that he's not tired, I would agree that in either event he needs a rest, but the decision not to rest him lies purely with the manager. You imply that we dont have the players to give him a rest, but its simply not true, according to ONeill himself. ONeill said when he signed Heskey that he and Carew could play together if needed. Maybe he didnt really mean it? He said, when refusing to send Delfouneso out on loan last month that he would be a fully paid up member of the first team squad next season - how about giving him 15-20 mins in the first team every so often then Martin?

As for the UEFA Cup, it seems pretty clear to me that O'Neill has been shocked by the reaction to his decision. What those opposed to this decision will tell you is that we arent talking about the League Cup here, we're talking about a major international competition, the lore of which is woven into the club's (fairly) recent history, that we have spent seven years trying to qualify for, that we started our season early for, that we have played twelve matches in and that our fans have spent thousands and thousands of pounds travelling around Europe watching us - only for the manager to field the reserves in a very winnable position in a competition we were amongst hte favourites to win. These fans will further tell you that they would rather win the UEFA Cup than finish fourth, that the prestige is bigger than tactically positioning the club for future seasons via League placing, which impresses accountants more than it does football fans. You dont have to agree with that majority opinion (I'm not 100% sure that I do), you just need to accept that its there, and I think you further need to accept that the players are probably not 100% happy about it either - one or two media comments from the players have been more resigned than supportive of the managers decision

As for the pressure, we will see. its just my opinion, but I think something has changed at Villa Park since the Chelsea defeat, the noises coming out of there are all wrong at the moment. I hope I'm wrong, because if I'm right, we may yet need to be thankful that united won on Sunday.

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Just a few words in reply to the above comment. The majority of British players will not tell their manager, fans, or media that they are tired, in fear of losing their place in the team, or indeed being ridiculed by the ordinary man in the street who has to work for a living! Tiredness can also lead to a loss of form, whereby you don't have that same sharpness to put away goal chances that you would otherwise score if you were fresh. Agbonlahor is tired and his form is suffering as a consequence. By stating that Martin should have bought someone to replace Agbonlahor, i meant a proven goalscorer, of the same ilk, who would also have improved competition for places in our forward line. I don't think for one minute that Martin would see Carew and Heskey as a long term partnership. Generally speaking, Martin sets his team's up with a front pairing of the one big and little man partnership!

Martin's decision on the UEFA Cup has split Villa fan's opinion. What would Villa fans prefer? To send a full team to Russia which was showing signs of fatigue and risking burnout for the Premiership run in, or rest his main players, giving them every chance of qualifying for the CL? I think Martin has looked at it and felt if we don't qualify for the CL this season, then barring a catastrophic reversal of form, we should still qualify for the UEFA cup again, without having to enter 'The Two Bob Cup!' Good players are more inclined to come to a club playing in Europe, and therefore qualifying for Europe, will help Martin boost our squad in the summer again with better players to replace those at Villa Park who simply aren't good enough!

I think the only thing that has changed at Villa Park since the Chelsea defeat, is fans perception of exactly what we are going to achieve with our present team! I have read in certain threads on this website that we were going to repeat the European Cup successes of the great Villa and Forest teams and now those very same fans are starting to criticize the manager. Maybe now a little bit of realism has set in and we now realise that we are in a transitional period, rather than the finished article! However, to my knowledge, there is no negativity coming out of Villa Park at the moment and we, the fans, should not try and concoct any!

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those very same fans are starting to criticize the manager. Maybe now a little bit of realism has set in and we now realise that we are in a transitional period, !

I would very wary of putting words in people's mouths in order to suit your argument if I was you. of course we are in a transitional period and far from being the finished article, I dont know anyone who has ever said anything different.

As for criticising the manager, if I think he has got it wrong I'll say so. I dont expect you to agree with me, in fact I'd be amazed if you ever did on anything. As far as I'm concerned, prior the Chelsea game he hadnt put a foot wrong in his time here, either in the transfer market or otherwise, but at this exact moment in time I am, for the first time, seriously worried - not about the squad depth or quality, but about our mental ability to cope with the pressure of where we are. We have handed the initiative back to Arsenal for the second time in just over a week, when we could have put them out of sight. You can call it tiredness if you like, but I dont see a tired team (we are still generally stronger in the second half than the first), I see a team suddenly now under big pressure in every game, and you know what? maybe playing in Europe twice a month might have been a welcome distraction, a release from the pressure of the 'Cup Final' that is every league game from now on in.

A win on Wednesday will do the power of good and calm everyone back down again

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I dont think you can call the fans (arguably justifiable) anger about the UEFA Cup decision complacency. Its our club too, our hopes and dreams. I think O'Neill got it wrong, and that seems to be the majority feeling.

completely disagree Bossy.

I thnk he got it right, and i think that is the majority feeling, certainly on here and elsewhere.

I think you'll struggle to find too many that beleive the UEFA CUp to be more importnat the either the PL or the CL. But a different debate entirely.

My belief is that those who beleive he shouldn't have done it, have been very vocal about it.

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What those opposed to this decision will tell you is that we arent talking about the League Cup here, we're talking about a major international competition.

The UEFA a major European competition!?

:?

It's a mickey mouse trophy, only 1 slight notch up from the Carling Cup, IMHO.

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but I dont see a tired team

Strange. For the last few weeks, all i have seen is a tired team, with 2 or 3 players in dire need of a rest.

Now that we are out of the FA and UEFA, the players will get this much needed rest, and should be raring to go for the 10 or so games that is the run in ....

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I was sickened by the crowds reaction on Saturday. We had, after all, played very well.

If this is what it has become, win or be booed, I preferred it when we were nobodies.

For the first time I am seriously considering stopping going.

And this isn't heat of the moment, but 2 days later.

And fickle really is too soft a word for some of those people, I can't bring myself to call them fans.

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I think you get alot of instant reactions and moaning on forums and the interweb as whole. Its just the nature of the beast. I think alot of people on here would be more moderate and would accept the bigger picture if you were chatting to them down the pub. Posts on an internet forum can often be a common sense free zone, (my own included).

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I would very wary of putting words in people's mouths in order to suit your argument

Very, very disappointed in this quote. However, i'm glad that the vast majority of Villa fans on this website can at least understand my point of argument, without trying to make it personal and are supporting our manager in what he is trying to do!

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It's a mickey mouse trophy, only 1 slight notch up from the Carling Cup, IMHO.

In which case it was an error to start our season in mid July in order to participate, dont you think? An error to field our first choice team in six matches in that tournament - two errors, which if you are right and I am wrong about our players being tired, that may well be fatal to our top four hopes. You see, I think the UEFA Cup *is* worth winning for a club like us, I dont think we're so big that we can brush it aside, and I'm a little bit surprised at the arrogance that says we can.

Also, I hope you are ready to change your mind on the importance of the UEFA, because unless something changes, its where we'll be next season too, and if that comes to pass, the decision to turn down a chance to win the UEFA Cup this season will look like a massive folly.

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Also, I hope you are ready to change your mind on the importance of the UEFA, because unless something changes, its where we'll be next season too

I have chosen this comment just to further highlight your negativity PB. We still have an excellent chance of finishing in fourth place. Yes it is true that we have some very hard fixtures coming up and the likelyhood is that, over the next five matches, we are going to drop points! However, i think it is inportant that we get things into perspective here. I would hope that those morons who showed their dissatisfaction by booing the team after conceeding two late goals against Stoke, remember where we have been before Martin and Randy arrived? We also have to remember that those two goals by Stoke, were actually very well worked goals and certainly not lucky!

It is therefore very inportant that over the next period of these aforementioned matches, we, the fans, do not panic, but create that extra 12th man and give the team all the support they need. I think PB, it is you, who, not only is showing signs of negativity, but also the very thing you accused our manager of suffering from, 'pressure!'

Very glad indeed that we have Martin as our manager and NOT yourself PB!

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I think it's simply a case of MON raising expectations with some fantastic performances this term. Some fans have raised their expectations (as we all have), without considering our rate of progression.

I think most fans view our season in perspective, most of us thought 5th place would be a fantastic achievement at the start of the season and are enjoying the ride- even if we do throw away a few results along the way.

The doom-saying vocal minority have always been the minority, it's just their pessimism appears more irrational now then it did in the mediocre years.

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I have chosen this comment just to further highlight your negativity PB

Oh I dont know that negativity is quite the right word. I am certainly extremely pessimistic at the moment, mainly because:

1) Getting knocked out of the FA Cup, a competition we could have won, by Everton really hurt. No disgrace in that exit, but still, it hurt. See, I want Villa to win things

2) Losing to Chelsea was also quite difficult to take. We really needed something from this game to maintain the momentum, to keep the belief intact.

3) Getting knocked out of the UEFA Cup by an (I thought) fairly average CSKA team also hurt. The hurt was double as this was a self inflicted wound. We have put the possibility of qualifying for the second qualifying round of one competition above a great chance of winning another- we have now lumped all our eggs into one basket - on purpose. By anyone's measure that's a massive, massive gamble. if we dont make it into the group stages of the Champions League it will be a disaster now - because it is all we have left - we have abandoned our other routes to glory. Huge risk. If it goes wrong, ONeill will be to blame.

4) The manner of the draw on Sunday was a real kick in the teeth, because it represented a return to something we had previously eradicated from our game - the late collapse,and also because it made the difference between putting Arsenal under huge pressure to putting ourselves under huge pressure. If we dont win tonight, then Arsenal will feel they have had a great week, and with our upcoming fixture list, can you really see us going into April ahead of them? if they overhaul us, it will take a huge effort to catch them up again. We had the chance (two chances) to bury them, and didnt take either.

My worry is, that just at this moment where it really begins to matter we have started to do stupid things, and the manager has started to make, shall we say, controversial decisions. my worry is that if we had what it took mentally to do this then we would be doing the opposite, we'd be rising to the challenge. Maybe its a co-incidence that our longest winless streak this season should occur just now, and maybe it is tiredness,I just think thats too much of a co-incidence

We really,really need to win tonight. Another game without a win doesnt bear thinking about

Am I feeling the pressure? Of course. but you know what? I wasnt a couple of weeks ago.

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I actually agree up to a point with a lot of what you say PB, but if we fail to qualify for the CL, i believe it will be more to do with Martin's failure to strengthen our squad properly in January! Right up until the last day of the transfer window, reports coming out of Villa Park were stating that Martin was trying to buy players. The fact that we didn't probably could be explained by one quote from Martin which stated, 'value for money.' Where do you get value for money now? Certainly the signing of Heskey could be termed as 'value for money'(even though i didn't agree with his transfer due to his injury record and lack of goals) but you really need to shop in the european market were Wenger is a master and Steve Bruce is trying to be one! As we all know, Martin likes to buy British and he generally won't pay the going rate for top British players, with the probable exception of our Messi. Consequently, my point is that if Martin had improved our squad with more quality players from home, or abroad, in January, then he wouldn't have had to make the decision about the UEFA Cup!

Martin has recently stated that if we do qualify for the CL then we will have to strenghen significantly in the summer to cope with all the matches we will have to play.

It may well be that he should have done this last January, but nevertheless, we should all get behind the manager and the team and get ready for a real nail biter of a finish!

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