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Take it as it Comes - Man City away report


blandy
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From the evidence of last night, it looks like a new phase has either just ended, or just begun for the Villa.

To put it bluntly, the performance in the first half last night was woeful - as bad as anything we've seen since MO'N became manager. Villa were repeatedly torn apart at the back by the excellent movement of Shaun Wright-Phillips and the passing of Stephen Ireland in particular. Carlos Cuellar looked uncomfortable at right-back, Curtis just looked uncomfortable and with City using the width of the big pitch well, our midfield had no grip at all on the game and the forwards were starved of all but the odd hopeful punt upfield to feed upon.

There were several escapes before City did score, from a clear penalty after James Milner, trying to help out Carlos, bundled over SWP, and Elano scored easily from the spot. SWP had already missed one clear chance, and was to miss more before half time.

Eventually, after about 30 minutes, Villa just started to realise that the point of a game of football is that it's supposed to be played by two teams, not just one, and that both teams should be trying to score and win the game. So the final part of the half ended with Villa at least hinting at an inclination that they might be a bit better than the demonstration of relegation class football they had hitherto given.

To absolutely no-one's surprise changes were made at half time. Curtis, who has been looking increasingly shaky for a while was replaced by Big John, with Carlos moving into the middle at the back, and Milner dropping to right back.

Now before anyone starts picking out Davies as a scapegoat, I think it's worth remembering that it's the manager who picks the team, not the players. Were we possessed of a bigger squad, no doubt Curtis would have had a rest as soon as his form started to dip, instead of playing on with a dicky shoulder and an anxious demeanour.

The same applies to Gabby, to an extent - while he looks fit, he doesn't look sharp - but there's not really a ready made replacement for him.

Anyway, the second half performance was much, much better. GB and Stan started to get a fair share of midfield ball, and to use it well. Carew was more of a problem for their defenders than either Heskey (initially now on the right) or Gabby had been. Carlos looked at home at left Centre back and Villa were taking the game to City. We were on top, but not dominant - City were still breaking and causing threats to our goal, but the game was at least one where Villa were making a fist of getting an equaliser.

Such chances as we did make, however were spurned - a couple of fantastic balls into the box by Ash, one after skinning 3 defenders were wasted. Gabby really, really, should have got on the end of one of them. Another just being 6 inches too

far in front of Carew for what would have been a certain goal, had he made contact. Barry almost scored from a nice dinked ball by Gabby, but Given saved well.

As Villa pressed more and more, City started to break and threaten our goal once more. it was not really much of a shock therefore, when with almost no time left they broke away and got their second - SWP finally managing to bury one of the many chances he'd had.

Thinking back on the game, and recent games and performances, until last night we had not been playing badly, perhaps the luck that we were having a while back has turned, perhaps mental tiredness has seeped into some of the players. But last night the way they started the game was bluntly dreadful. Lacking in thought, togetherness, spirit and fight it was most un-Villa like.

Of course, over a season, all teams will have a spell like this, and will give performances that have the fans and manager scratching their heads and wondering "why?"

Luckily there is now a bit of a gap to the next set of games. In this gap a few things need to happen.

1. Obviously knocks and aches and pains need to be rested up, to recover.

2. A bit of thinking needs to be done regarding when and whether to take people out of the team once or if they start to dip their level of performance. I know we don't have the luxury of a massive squad, and I know loyalty to players is often well rewarded, but the point at which loyalty is responded to with complacent performances needs to headed off before it occurs not after.

3. The team need to be reminded, that as I keep saying to myself "we have good players" - There is a deal of quality in our side, we are not in the top 4 by luck, we are there because we deserve to be, over the season so far, and Arsenal and Everton don't. Let's make sure we do everything to keep it that way for the last 10 games.

4. All teams have bad runs. The good ones don't panic when they do and the best fans don't turn on their players or manager during these times.

5. Some thinking about the longer term also needs to be going on. Where do we need to sort things out - for example, we have again played much of the season with no proper right back. Craig Gardner, NRC, Carlos, James Milner have all played in that position. Our true right back plays at left back. OK Nicky Shorey didn't start so well, and Bouma has been a massive miss, but still, for the third season in a row we are relying on players playing in unfamiliar roles to "fill in". Right backs, good ones, are hard to find, Luke Young is one such, but it'd be nice if he could actually play where he does best.

I'll spare the marks, as they wouldn't make happy reading, for about 5 or 6 of the team, at least. City looked pretty decent, it has to be said.

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agree with pretty much all of that Pete. Was good to meet up and experience a pint or two of Deuchars for the first time!

Sadly, that was probably the highlight of the evening .....

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Totally agree with everything you have said about the Man City game. Not for the first time this season Blandy, our first half performance was poor and that is being kind. I actually thought we were watching a re-run of our UEFA Cup performance against Hamburg, but unlike that night, we did improve in the second half.

Clearly Agbonlahor needs to be rested. He is, as always, giving 110%, but 1 goal in the last fourteen games speaks for itself! Martin should now give the Fonz a chance to show what he can do if we don't revert to one up front. He is knocking the goals in for the reserves and plays more in the mould of a young Dwight Yorke, so would give teams prepared for Gabby, something different to think about! Heskey is also proving why Martin shouldn't have bought him. He will run all day foryou and hold the ball up, but his lack of goal threat is too obvious. However, on a more positive note, when Cuellar was moved into central defence, we looked a lot more solid at the back. Martin should now keep him there and let Davies shoulder and his confidence heal properly! Shorey, or a fit again Boom Boom should then play at left back and Young at right back. James Milner at right, eh, no and our Goalkeeper from Alien 4, simply fantastic!

We don't have too many other options to freshen things up but i hope the break will re-focus the team to the job in hand? So please remember we are still in fourth place, three ahead of the Arsenal and CL qualification to play for!

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...Pretty well summed up.

I will add this though ...For a well thought of Manager in most circles.... Martin does some weird things at times in both team selection and the transfer market....can't believe we are still saying small squad.... its been running for years.

.... something not right there me thinks.

as well as some teams play at times you are only really as good as your worst performance..... despite some great games this year and a quite creditable away sequence the worry for me is some of our competitors do not go as low as us in their bad runs......its a real worry for me.

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