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Villa move on up into eighth!


John
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Crisis what crisis? We have four more points than we got from the corresponding three fixtures against Wigan, Liverpool and Fulham last season and we sit level on points with Arsenal & Liverpool and are three points behind Manchester United with a game in hand!

Roy Hodgson’s Fulham played like they had just come off their 5 hour flight from Russia and been pushed straight onto the turf at Villa Park. A number of misplaced passes in the first half and a subdued overall performance demonstrated the price small squads can pay for European campaigns.

This was not a great game and it was not a particularly entertaining one. Fulham had plenty of possession but never looked a threat to Brad’s goal. I think that Martin wanted his team to show him they could grind out a result like this at home and although it was not pretty it was effective it produced a home win which was a rare treat last season. Gabby’s timely strike settled the game with half an hour to play and it can’t have done his confidence or World Cup hopes any harm. How tempting it must be for any England qualified player we have or for any such player we may be looking to sign to know that either Fabio Capello or his assistant Franco Baldini will more likely than not have a seat in the stands and so be there week in and week out to watch as they press for inclusion in future England squads.

So what will this season that is devoid of European distraction eventually become? We have six points from nine which is a good start. We can play as near to our first choice team in cup competitions as we like without worrying of player burn out. There are really no excuses this year are there? Another couple of signings would help the cause but we will go into our next game with more than a little confidence given that it is a side for which seventeenth place would no doubt merit an open top bus parade that we will face. Let’s continue with our winning ways, plunge them into the relegation mire in which they are content to bi-annually wallow and put those three points in the bank as we strive for a third top six finish in three years!

My player ratings from a game that has gone half of the way to banish the early season negatives (the opportunity to complete the task will present itself in a fortnight’s time) are:

Brad Freidel - 6 – Rarely tested but found some difficulty getting a Beye back pass under control on 17 minutes before putting the ball out for a throw when under some pressure.

Habib Beye – 5 – A passable impersonation of Ray Wilkins but where Ray’s passes usually moved sideways Habib’s were almost exclusively backwards yesterday. Beye does provide much needed cover but our defence will be strengthened as will our forward options by Luke’s timely return.

Ciaran Clark – 8 – Looked born to play in our central defensive role yesterday and it became clear yesterday why Gordon Cowans rates his potential so very highly. Dunne needs to stop haggling over money and start playing football for us or he may find Ciaran has made the position his own. Neither lacking in confidence or ability on yesterday’s showing. There will be tougher forward lines for him to face but Martin now needs to tread the fine line between having experienced players at the back and keeping young talents like Ciaran happy at the club which we failed to do with our last similarly promising talent who now hold together the Bolton defence where he could have now done the same with us.

Carlos Cuellar – 8 – Three very solid defensive performances on the bounce from Carlos who relished the role of senior partner in the middle of our defence yesterday alongside Ciaran. He is at last beginning to look the top quality reliable defender Martin was confident he had signed a year ago. Will he like Petrov having taken a season to adapt to the change from Scottish to English football blossom into a big hitter as Stiliyan has? Got a flick on to Young’s corner for our opener.

Nicky Shorey - 6 – Full marks to Martin for leaving new signing Warnock on the bench and giving him time to settle into the club before being thrown into the action. It would have been hard on Nicky to have been immediately replaced given his recent encouraging performances and on yesterday’s display he appears to have resolved to not give up the shirt meekly.

James Milner – 7 – Another in a string of reliable performances from a player who is likely to come to the fore for England in the forthcoming season.

Steve Sidwell – 7 – An encouraging display on his return to our midfield. He is beginning to show signs of returning to somewhere near the performances and level of consistency he used to produce for Reading and to look capable of filling the hole in our midfield that was expected to have been there last season but was created this season when our former captain left in search of financial gain.

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Kept things solid in his deep lying midfield role.

Nigel Reo Coker – 8 – MOTM – A welcome return to the team. He dominated the midfield with his all action and totally committed performance as he had at Anfield. Nigel should be the first name on the team sheet for the battle that our team will face against vastly inferior but spirited opposition after the international break.

Ashley Young – 7 – Stretched for but did not quite get on the end of Gabby’s good cross on 12 minutes. Another better game from Ashley who now needs to build on these performances with a view to recapturing the form and consistency that he showed for most of last season that did so much to make us top 4 challengers for so long.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – Hit a tremendous goal to settle this game on 59 minutes and was on hand to pressure Paintsil when he presented us with a third minute own goal from a venomous Young corner. Gabby did very well in the lone striker role that suits him so well. He pulled the trigger, picked his spot and beat Schwarzer from 20 yards with his left foot strike to seal this win.

Substitutes:

John Carew – 6 – Replaced Reo on 73 minutes. I loved that moment when Paintsil just bounced off him on 76 minutes!

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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Nice report

I'd agree with mosf what you've said but I think you missed out two of our best players yesterday

John Pantsil - 10, why anyone has ever been convinced he's a footballer is beyond me, I'm not even sure he knows which way he's kicking most of the time, he took his goal very well

Aaron Hughes - 9. Possibly his best ever game for the Claret & Blue, no wait..............

:mrgreen:

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Yes rjw63 18 home wins would be more than acceptable and I'm sure we could all grow to love those constant 2-0 home wins. Bickster, I agree 100% that both both Pantsil and Hughes made very significant contributions to our win yesterday. My thanks go out to Agent Aaron and his new deep cover convert agent JP! :lol: BOF, it was like he had walked into a brick wall - superb!

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