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blandy
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Posted by: John

A brave attempted second half comeback was not enough to negate an inept first half display that gifted Arsenal a two goal half time lead that they reclaimed in the death throws of this game as we searched for an illusive equaliser!

Our first home league defeat of the season has left us within a whisker of the bottom 5 and some distance from the top 5 that Houllier had set as our target for the season this weekend. To finish in the top half would be a triumph for me given the size of our current injury list and looking at the run of fixtures that we face up to and including New Year’s Day. But one of the few sides that are currently beneath us have shown a poor start to the season can be remedied by a solid second half of the season and if we are still above Everton, who are that team at the end of the season I think we will be nearer the top 5 than the bottom dwellers.

When neither Ashley Young nor Stewart Downing are firing we have very little to worry defences and so it proved yesterday. Arsenal exposed our defence from the start and with better early finishing the game could have been beyond us within the first 15 minutes. The fact that they took 38 minutes to find the net came as a surprise, but they added a vital second soon afterwards that made a comeback more than unlikely. We know they are a smooth running football machine but they also got into our faces from the start and did not allow us the space that we gave them all too easily in the first half. For much of that first half we struggled to get out of our own box and were forced to look like an away side for much of that half and not a good one either.

Les tasses de café must have been flying from Gerard during the half time break because we shook off our first half lethargy and offered a threat that had been absent for the first half for much of the second and although they all too quickly regained their two goal cushion after Ciaran Clark’s first our second did have them worried that they may get pegged back as they had done last weekend against their near neighbours. But, that late equaliser never really looked like coming even after we had thrown Richard Dunne up front to seek it which left a hole in our defence that they exploited in injury time to give a score line that better reflected the game itself than would have a 2-3 which would have suggested it was much closer than it actually was.

So next week’s Cup Quarter Final begins to take on increased significance. No longer is it just a battle for local pride (although that is always enough to make it more than just another game) it also now represents our best opportunity of a third Wembley appearance in 2 years and of securing the European qualification we have now grown accustomed to. It will be difficult but we must win this one or a cruel harsh winter of discontent will threaten to stretch before us.

My player ratings from a game that exposed all of our current weaknesses are:

Brad Friedel – 7 – Made a splendid one handed save from Chamakh on 43 minutes after he had climbed above Collins to head a cross goal bound. Had little chance with the second that came from the resulting corner when Nasri was left in oceans of space on the edge of the box and his first time shot took a slight deflection off Young who was belatedly trying to block his effort taking the ball past our keeper. Might have hoped to have got in the way of their third when Rosicky put Chamakh through who outpaced Dunne and fired the ball under Freidel as he went down near his feet. Did better on 78 minutes when he came off his line to deny Chamakh an opportunity on the edge of the box. Again had no chance with their fourth when Chamakh lifted a cross over him to an unmarked Wilshere at the far post.

Luke Young - 6 – Both he and Collins went for the same ball on 38 minutes and both missed it leaving Arshavin with the ball at his feet which he hit past Freidel’s outstretched hand with the help of a slight deflection off Collins.

Richard Dunne – 5 – Like his central defensive colleague found Arsenal’s quick movement and pace difficult to cope with.

James Collins – 5 – See above.

Stephen Warnock - 5 – Gifted the ball to Chamakh inside the first minute on the edge of the box. Chamakh was then denied an opener by a combination of Freidel who came off his line to get a touch to his effort and Collins who was in the right place at the right time to clear the deflection off the line. Not at his best.

Stewart Downing – 5 – Has probably been our player of the season up until now but that player surprisingly went missing in action yesterday.

Robert Pires – 4 – Took a knock and was replaced at half time. Like his former team mates showed he too could find his man with passes with relative ease but to expect him at his age and after what has been so long an absence from first team action to hit the ground running against opponents of this quality was asking too much but ask Gerard was forced to do by our lack of other options.

Ciaran Clark – 7 – MOTM – The first half seemed to pass him by but his brace of goals gave us grounds for what turned out to ultimately be unrealistic hope. A headed clearance fell to him on the edge of the box on 51 minutes. He did very well to chest the ball down and power a sweet shot past Fabianski for our first goal. Might have had a second on 68 minutes when the ball fell to him inside the box but his shot hit the side netting. He added a second on 70 minutes when Dunne did well to win a header from a Young corner that Ciaran headed onto the underside of the bar and a couple of feet over the line.

Barry Bannan – 6 – Nice touches but he found this a harder game to make an impression on than others have been.

Ashley Young – 6 – Had a quiet game by the high standards he sets for himself. He was on the end of a good cross from Downing that was headed on by Clark on 24 minutes but hit it over from a tight angle.

John Carew – 4 – Made Pires look youthful by comparison yesterday. Lacking the pace and goal threat that made him such a threat to defenders yesterday. I would like to suggest this is because he was rushed back from being out injured too soon and took one for the team by playing as our lone striker but the pace and threat had been absent before that and the big question is can it be recaptured with us?

Substitutes:

Nathan Delfouneso – 6 – Replaced Pires at half time and his pace made a difference to us up front as did the move from one to two strikers.

Stephen Ireland – 6 – Replaced Carew on 67 minutes and looked decent enough.

Chris Herd – Another late introduction into a game when he replaced Bannan on 85 minutes. He does show potential during these runs outs but was not on long enough to merit a rating.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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First half was one of the worst performances I've seen in a many a year. The line up was all wrong. Carew is never a lone striker and Pires is good for 20 minute cameos at the end of games at best and should not be starting games at this level. The fact the manager made these two selections is very alarming.

We sat back for the first 45 mins and allowed Arsenal to run rings round us and should have been 4 down going in at half time. Second half was better, it couldn't be any worse in all fairness, but 4-2 flattered us in the end.

Why Houllier is consistently not playing to our strengths is baffling. We are at our best when we play at a high tempo , getting the ball forward quickly instead of this all too frequent backwards and sideways passing for passings sake negative tripe. We need to get back to no nonsense defending and getting stuck in to the opposition instead of standing off. If he is not careful he will take us more into the mire than we currently are. We have the players to be doing so much better.

The crowd yesterday was very subdued with over 4k empty seats. The atmosphere was crap and didn't get going even when it seemed we may somehow get something out of the game for a period in the second half. Regardless of the fact Houllier as proved to be a very uninspiring appointment these lads really need our backing especially the younger ones.

Hugely disappointing day all round.

Sha next up. Houllier really needs to up his game as defeat against that tripe is unacceptable.

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The crowd yesterday was very subdued with over 4k empty seats.

Do you live in your own little world Mark?

Do you not understand people are losing their jobs?

It's a month before Christmas also....To some people working overtime on a Saturday so they can get their children/family presents for Christmas is more important than paying out £30 to watch Aston Villa play football.

It wasn't really that bad of an attendance.

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The crowd yesterday was very subdued with over 4k empty seats.

Do you live in your own little world Mark?

Do you not understand people are losing their jobs?

It's a month before Christmas also....To some people working overtime on a Saturday so they can get their children/family presents for Christmas is more important than paying out £30 to watch Aston Villa play football.

It wasn't really that bad of an attendance.

I sure do live in the real world pal I have two young children so please don't preach to me about the cost of Christmas etc.

I would never criticize any one for putting work before football or who simply have higher priorities and certainly not those who have recently unfortunately lost their jobs.

More worrying for me yesterday was the lack of atmosphere. It was simply none existent and didn't even pick up that much when we looked for a brief spell like we might some how get something. There was more than enough people present to create an atmosphere and get behind the lads even if they aren't over inspired by the manager.

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The crowd yesterday was very subdued with over 4k empty seats.

Do you live in your own little world Mark?

Do you not understand people are losing their jobs?

It's a month before Christmas also....To some people working overtime on a Saturday so they can get their children/family presents for Christmas is more important than paying out £30 to watch Aston Villa play football.

It wasn't really that bad of an attendance.

I sure do live in the real world pal I have two young children so please don't preach to me about the cost of Christmas etc.

I would never criticize any one for putting work before football or who simply have higher priorities and certainly not those who have recently unfortunately lost their jobs.

More worrying for me yesterday was the lack of atmosphere. It was simply none existent and didn't even pick up that much when we looked for a brief spell like we might some how get something. There was more than enough people present to create an atmosphere and get behind the lads even if they aren't over inspired by the manager.

Perhaps the lack of atmosphere was more about the poor first half performance and when we got back to 2-1 immediately let in the third. We don't seem to have enough fans willing create an atmosphere to lift the team when we are playing poorly, and a lot of empty seats doesn't do anything to improve it either. When we are playing well, the fans are tremendous, but on days like Saturday, there a lot who despite the criticism of O'Dreary, are fickle, but they're not alone, the Spuds fans booed their team off at half time only three or four matches ago.

On the question of atmosphere, for those who recently on another forum talk about the need to increase the ground size to 60,000 as an incentive to get a billionaire to buy Randy out, they might just think about what it would be like with a stadium only half to two thirds full.

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First half was one of the worst performances I've seen in a many a year.

This.

And I disagree with Jon's marks for Luke Young - I thought he had a 'mare

Not my marks, Roberto! :winkold:

I thought he had a mare too, and woould have marked him as such, if it was me dooing the ratings! :mrgreen:

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