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Things can only get better?


John
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Let’s face it we just cannot beat Wigan at home. But, when they have come away from Villa Park with points in the past they heard the final whistle with relief rather than with satisfaction after outplaying us, as was the case yesterday. This was truly a nightmare start to the season!

Let’s get the positives out of the way first it was a sunny day and any watching Rapid Vienna scouts will have been lulled into what I trust will prove to be a false sense of security after witnessing this none performance.

It was end to end stuff for the first 20 minutes or so and that was bad enough as we should not really be content to be trading blows with the likes of Wigan at home. But things then got much, much worse after that as they then went on to dominate the game and to take a well deserved three points.

It seems we have started this season as we finished last. We also look to have brought our dismal home form from last season into this one. Players like Petrov and Gabby who through injury or an extended summer break following international duty had not had a full pre-season looked well off the pace. I wonder whether it would have been worth keeping Reo and Sidwell who had performed well enough together in the close season in our midfield to try and counter what was always going to be a strong midfield challenge from Wigan? It was also a pity we did not have the option of bringing on an impact player such as Big John who I assume did not start due to the niggle that ultimately kept him off the bench. Where was the second half fight back? Where was the late pressure on their defence? Why was our defence allowed to be put under so much pressure as Wigan were able to run through our midfield at will?

Last season we drew 0-0 with Wigan at Villa Park and so we just need to make up a point from our remaining 37 fixtures to get back to last season’s points tally. That can clearly be done but yesterday’s result will have done our confidence no good at all. Instead of looking like a world class sprinter who was bursting with energy on leaving the starting blocks we had the look of a horse that had been left behind in the stalls in a selling plate at the end of a gruelling winless racing year.

My player ratings from a game that did much to damper any pre-season optimism and showed there is urgent work to be done in the transfer market before this window closes are:

Brad Freidel - 6 – Beaten on 15 minutes by N’Zogbia when the post came to our rescue and was then thankful 5 minutes later when Milner was on hand to clear off the line. But, he had no chance with Rodallega’s sweet shot on 31 minutes which flew past him and left him a mere spectator as the ball flew into his net for an opening goal that had been coming for a while. Made a vital stop on 42 minutes when a second looked likely and tipped an effort wide on 73 minutes to prevent a possible third.

Habib Beye – 5 – Not a habib day or debut for Habib who must have had flashbacks to Newcastle last season at times during yesterday’s performance.

Curtis Davies – 4 – Lacked confidence and authority yesterday.

Carlos Cuellar – 3 – Like Curtis lacked authority yesterday and he really needs to show he is capable of playing well in the position he wants sooner rather than later. Carlos also headed wide on 78 minutes with a free header from a corner.

Nicky Shorey - 3 – His poor defensive header found Rodallega for their opener. I had expected Shorey to step up to the plate today but this looked more or a return to some of the worrying performances of last season.

James Milner – 6 – MOTM – Looked the same world beater he had when coming on for England in midweek for the first half hour but faded as did the rest of the team after that. Hit a cracking shot from the edge of the box on 18 minutes to force a rare save from Kirkland and cleared his own lines 2 minutes later.

Fabien Delph – 5 – Gave a passable impersonation of our former captain’s awful midweek howler that led to a Dutch goal in midweek (although Gareth was admittedly unsighted by the pound notes that were in his eyes) on 9 minutes when he played a ball into an opponent’s path that may have led to an early goal or to Davies taking an early bath when the player went down following his challenge. Hit an effort wide on 13 minutes. This was always going to be a tough game for Fabien and it was.

Stiliyan Petrov – 4 – Looked behind the pace and made no real impression in our midfield when it was under the cosh.

Ashley Young – 4 – Had a well hit free kick pushed wide by Kirkland on 38 minutes. Ash was often double if not treble teamed to nullify his impact and influence on the game. We had no Option B yesterday when his crossing dried up and we paid the consequences. Should have done better on 88 minutes when Heskey picked himself up off the floor to square the ball to him only to see his shot blocked.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 2 – The extended summer break paid no dividends here. The only positive moment was one when his persistence won us a second half throw in. But where were the runs and the potent strike threat? Looked too content to be kept quiet. He really needs to push on this season if he is to achieve what he wants from this game in the long term.

Emile Heskey – 5 – Did the hard bit on 14 minutes when he nutmegged a defender to make a good shooting opportunity for himself, but he then dragged his shot wide. Worked hard enough but lacked service.

Substitutes:

Steve Sidwell – 5 – Replaced Delph on 61 minutes and had an opportunity to grab a late consolation goal on 93 minutes when the ball just needed the touch he failed to provide to go in and that might even have been our equaliser and second goal in 5 minutes to seal a Stoke like comeback had Young scored as he probably should have done on 88 minutes.

Marc Albrighton – 6 – Replaced Beye on 68 minutes hit one excellent cross, his time will come, sooner rather than later if yesterday’s game does not prove to be just a one-off.

Nathan Delfounseso – 5 - The last of our substitutions on 77 minutes when he replaced Gabby made no impression in the time he had.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Not only have we continued with our poor home form of the end of last season but we still have a section of ther crowd who turn on the team at the first mistake. Until the 1st goal went in we hadn't been to bad. Some people think we have a god given right to keep a clean sheet which IMO is unlikely with Friedel between the sticks. I have felt for a long time that our players feel under pressure when they play at home because of the reaction of some of the fans. Booing the lads only spurs on the opposition. Iaccept that everyone is entitled to their opinion but again I feel that that's probably better expressed after the game and we should get behind them during it. As for yesterdays performances I think Jordan and Pete Andre are a better partnership than Heskey and Gabby. Ashley young is becoming a cheat who looks for free kicks every time he gets the ball. Between him and Hesk we'll have the flatest pitch in the Prem with all the rolling they do on it. The defence need to be introduced to each other and Friedel is at best past his sell by date. Apart from that I thought it was ok. Bring on Liverpool. Villa till I die.

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Things have needed to get better since last February and MON has been unable to improve on the relegation form. The start of the season should be full of hope, instead we are served an abject display and the manager says we were not good enough and that LAursen needs to be replaced and the rest of the team is good enough and will score goals. He also says the players were tired.. first game of the season.

MON has lost the plot

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