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Claret & Blue Blood #29


ChrisVillan
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ChrisVillan looks back on a troubling week at Villa Park and tries to find the positives. But mostly it's difficult...mostly.

Ahoy hoy, fellow Villans! If you're like me, you'll have spent the last few days spewing over Villa's most embarrassing result for years. We got well and truly whalloped at Anfield last Sunday and I'm still having flashbacks to the key moments. You know the ones: the dives for the first penalty and the free kick, the ludicrous decision to send off Brad Friedel, and Steven Gerrard screwing up his face in some kind of weird scouse orgasmic gurn, such was the joy at scoring the easiest hat-trick in history. Yes, I'm bitter.

Booooooooooomer!

But it's not been all bad. Not all. Reports this week suggest that after two outings for the stiffs, left back, cult legend and Dutch sweat factory Wilfred Bouma has been given the green light to return to first team action. Freddie picked up a horrible dislocated ankle against Odense at Villa Park in July, and his absence led not only to the signings of Luke Young and Nicky Shorey, but the eventual shifting of Young to left back to cover for Shorey's lacklustre start to life at Villa. In other words, we've missed you big man.

Bouma is my favourite Villa player by some distance. After a shocking start, he really settled into English football last season and was, for my money, one of the best left full backs in the league. Fans often complain that he lacks end product in the attacking third, but defensively he is truly one of the very best. That said, I wouldn't want to rush Bouma back. The team is struggling and Ashley Young is off form. If we expose our returning star to all that, it could become painfully obvious that match fitness is a whole different ball game.

For now, I have no issue with Luke Young at left back. The problems arise from trying to fill Young's spot on the right. Carlos Cuellar is clearly better suited to playing in the middle, and his poor distribution becomes hugely troublesome at full back. Nigel Reo-Coker has, for me, done a magnificent job out there - his passing to feet, strength on the ball and tackling have all improved since his last proper run in the team. But there are situations, particularly high forward or diagonal balls or passes into the channel, where Young or Bouma would benefit from more natural ability in that position.

Hammered, la

Well, f*ck me. 5-0. Who saw that coming?

Last time we took a beating like that, it was dished out by a team much better than Liverpool. It was the same final score against Arsenal on our last trip to Highbury in the dying embers of the O'Leary era. On both occasions, we deserved nothing more than a proper good hiding. Only this time our better-than-O'Leary's Villa team gave Liverpool a helping hand, as did the referee. I use the term referee loosely, of course.

The appalling show of officiating at Anfield on Sunday was partially exposed by the FA's decision to overturn Brad Friedel's red card and suspension for letting Golden Boy run into him. But the refereeing authorities have shown themselves up to be right clowns by asking the FA to explain why Villa's appeal was successful. Clearly, what they said and meant were two different things. In saying "was it not a penalty or just not a red card?", what they really meant was "how dare you make us look stupid?", which has backfired because the FA now has to tell them it shouldn't have been a penalty.

All of which just highlights what we already know. Steven Gerrard is infallible, and the referees all have a massive man-crush on Fernando Torres, the pair of diving, cheating twunts. Not to excuse our performance, you understand. It's just that cheats like these two must be criticised at every opportunity.

Absent-minded Barry outshone by Stan the Man

For some unknown reason, posters here at VillaTalk have been feverishly discussing our Player of the Season nominations - in March. This strikes me as bizarre for two reasons. First, the season isn't over, meaning it's completely pointless. But that aside, surely it's a one-horse race? Luke Young has been a model of consistency in an awkward position but Stiliyan Petrov has been absolutely top class in midfield and has been our best player this term by a million miles.

Of course, not everybody agrees with this. And why would they? Opinion, as the great Brian Clough once uttered, makes the world go round. But the number of nominations for Gareth Barry has had me laughing my bollocks off all week.

That's Gareth Barry, the turncoat in the middle of the park who would have let Fat Mad Rafa saw his toes off to get a move to Liverpool to play alongside his BFF and every DJ's worst nightmare Steven Gerrard. That's Gareth Barry whose first contribution of the season was to give the ball away at Stoke and not bother to chase back. That's Gareth Barry who refused to celebrate scoring until two thirds of the way through the season, who gets caught for pace in every other game, who renewed his threat to leave as soon as fourth looked less than certain, and whose mind has clearly been elsewhere for large parts of the season.

But hey, if you want to pick him over the almost impeccable Petrov, be my guest. You won't be able to next season, because he'll be a Manchester City substitute.

Defour: I hearts Villa lolololz

Okay, maybe he didn't quite put it like that but it sounds like Standard Liege's Steven Defour's got a bit of a Villa fetish. The 20-year-old is after a move abroad and has expressed a specific temptation for Villa Park - though he admits Standard might not consider us a big enough club to sell to. Or something. Still, it's nice to know we're back on the radar, and he's a damn good player too. If I didn't know better than to tell Martin O'Neill to go get him, I'd tell Martin O'Neill to go get him.

Well, that's allz I have time for this week, folks. But remember you can follow me and VillaTalk (me) on Twitter, which I've been on for sodding ages, you luddites.

Up the Villa.

ChrisVillan

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Hi Chris. Loved the post. Agree totally that the ref didn't help matters at Anfield last Sunday. However, playing 4-4-2, with Barry and Petrov as our two central midfielders, was just asking for trouble against a Liverpool side that had just thumped Real and Man U. Couldn't believe that we didn't have a combative midfielder to keep Gerrard company and also to give extra protection to our shaky defence. Only MON knows why he didn't play 4-5-1, which has previously been so successful?

Nevertheless, to end on a more positive note, i certainly don't believe that the chase for fourth spot is over yet, not by a long way. If we lose against Man U and take all three points against Everton, then we will only be six points behind Arsenal going into the final run in. If we take a look at who Arsenal have yet to play, as compared to our run in, then it actually might go right down to the last game, who gets that fourth place and we have Newcastle at home, who may be already relegated by then.

Agree also with your Steven Defour comments. He is exactly the type of quality MON needs to sign as possible replacements for Barry. We should also look at Downing, who has more pace and guile than GB!

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