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No Christmas Cheer or much needed points for us!


blandy
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Written by John

The score and goal scorers were the same yesterday as they had been at White Hart Lane back in early October. We now find ourselves likely to start the New Year in the bottom 6 and with a need for quick points and new signings to avoid being dragged into a real relegation scrap!

So ten man Spurs got a rare Villa Park win and double against us yesterday and they became the second North London club in a month to leave Villa Park with all three points. We had plenty of the ball but lacked movement up front, a cutting edge and a willingness to attempt a defence splitting ball when a less ambitious and less risky pass could be hit. Spurs found this easier than they if not the press may have anticipated and going down to ten men saved us from what might have been a heavier defeat rather than set us up for a comeback.

We now have 20 points and sit far from prettily sixth from bottom and only four points clear of the bottom three. We need points and need them fast. But with trips to Manchester City and Chelsea to come they are unlikely to come from our next two games given our dismal away record. Our home record also does not bear very close inspection because during the last four months we have only secured two home league wins. So we face a battle starting from now to get the six wins we need to breathe easily.

This has been a very disappointing season to date. It is noticeable how a gap has now developed between Spurs and Villa over the last 12 months. A team who we did battle with for most of last season for a Champions League spot is now doing well in the Champions League and is again threatening to finish in the top 4. We are now firmly in the bottom 6 rather than the top 6 and it cannot all be attributed to the untimely departure of our previous manager.

Yes, we would have been in the top half and above Liverpool had we won. But did that ever look likely yesterday? We have also had many injuries that have exposed our long established lack of squad depth. But it is the big investments Spurs have made that have created the chasm that now stands between us. We were linked in the past perhaps more hopefully than realistically with the likes of Van Der Vaart who has now with his four league goals against us this season shown the difference he has made to them that he might have made to us.

So our current manager needs to now make these sort of players who turn good teams into better ones into realistic targets for us and as a club we need to realise that the January window needs to be used to secure our status rather than to sell one of our remaining players that top clubs would want to balance the books which would prove more difficult to do were we to start next season in the division below us!

We now have injured players coming back and had the likes of Bannan, Clark and surprisingly Reo Coker warming our bench yesterday. Now is the time to use what we have available to best affect, to add to the squad and to try to heal divisions between players and the manager rather than resolve these situations by selling players we might yet need and making wholesale changes in mid season.

My player ratings from a game that left us all feeling less than merry are:

Brad Friedel – 7 – Important saves last night and little chance with either goal. On 3 minutes he dived at the feet of Defoe and got an outstretched arm to the attempted chip over him and on 36 minutes he did well to get a hand to a Palacios shot from the edge of the box. There are few keepers better than him and even less that are available or would be keen to join us now.

Eric Lichaj - 7 – Did as much if not more than could have been expected given he was up against the red hot Bale. His blushes were spared on 25 minutes when he almost played in Defoe but Collins just got to the ball first. Hit a punch from Gomes just wide on 76 minutes and might have claimed a late point on 93 minutes when he got between two defenders but was unable to get a shot on target from a tight angle that would up in the side netting.

Carlos Cuellar – 6 – Started well but was too easily passed by Bale on the edge of our box for their second. Headed a Downing cross a couple of feet wide on 57 minutes but should have done better with a free header from a Downing cross that went well over.

James Collins – 6 – Nearly reached the cross that led to their first and nearly got a tackle in at the start of Bale’s run that led to their second. But pushing him up front was not a tactical triumph. Defoe was sent off for leading with an arm (as he habitually does) when they challenged for a ball on 27 minutes.

Stephen Warnock - 5 – Not at his best once again.

Marc Albrighton – 7 – MOTM – Worked hard throughout and hit some good crosses into the box one of which found the corner of the net on 81 minutes with Gomes having been distracted by Collins failed attempt to get his head on it.

Fabian Delph – 6 – Looked good on his earlier than anticipated return from a lengthy injury but needed to make some effort to try to get in the way of Van Der Vaart’s crucial second when his run was not covered and he was left in space on the edge of the box to apply the killer second. Replaced when clearly tiring on 74 minutes.

Jonathan Hogg – 6 – Got stuck in but I was surprised that Reo Coker was not his replacement when he came off at half time to prevent the referee taking the opportunity to level the numbers in the second half.

Stewart Downing – 6 – Not quite at his impressive best but hit decent crosses into the box as he usually does.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – Headed a Delph cross wide on 2 minutes and was then put clear by Heskey 15 minutes later but had his shot saved by the legs of Gomes who then also pushed out his follow up near post header to deny him for a second time. Met a good Albrighton cross on 71 minutes and had his decent header saved by Gomes and 4 minutes later worked a shooting opportunity on the edge of the area that the keeper pushed wide for a corner.

Emile Heskey – 6 – Unlucky to not get a penalty when brought down by a clumsy Gomes challenge on 8 minutes and headed a Gabby cross wide 2 minutes before being replaced through the injury that Gomes caused.

Substitutes:

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 - Replaced Hogg at half time. A welcome early return for the skipper who did well enough after such a lengthy absence.

Nathan Delfouneso – 6 - Replaced Emile on 38 minutes. Some decent runs but could not quite find an end product. Got himself into a good position on 40 minutes but ballooned his shot well over the bar, had a shot on 49 minutes swallowed by Gomes after Downing had found him with a nice pass, tried a spectacular overhead kick on 53 minutes from a Albrighton cross that did not come off and had a decent effort saved at the near post by Gomes on 62 minutes.

Robert Pirez – Replaced Delph on 74 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating or to show he does still have the legs to offer us something approaching what he was once able to produce so regularly for another North London club.

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Same old same old under Houllier. We go a goal down we lose. 5 defeats in last 6 potentially 7 defeats in last 8 come Saturday. Simply not good enough and he as to go.

As for the game. We huffed and puffed playing the ball backwards/sideways/backwards/sideways but Gomes was rarely worked. We were also at times chasing shadows. And this was against 10 men for 60 minutes.

Couple of baffling selections. Hogg and Delph in the middle with a presumably fully fit Reo Coker on the bench. Then bringing on an arthritic Pires at 2-0 down. As someone in the crowd shouted when he came on " If Pires is the answer then God knows what the **** question is ".

Not good enough and sadly I think it will get worse unless Houllier goes.

Oh a decent crowd yesterday but once again as seems to have become the norm over the last few home games there was no atmosphere. It seems much like with many of the players the fans have lost belief and have had the life sucked out of them.

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Same old same old under Houllier. We go a goal down we lose. 5 defeats in last 6 potentially 7 defeats in last 8 come Saturday. Simply not good enough and he as to go.

As for the game. We huffed and puffed playing the ball backwards/sideways/backwards/sideways but Gomes was rarely worked. We were also at times chasing shadows. And this was against 10 men for 60 minutes.

Couple of baffling selections. Hogg and Delph in the middle with a presumably fully fit Reo Coker on the bench. Then bringing on an arthritic Pires at 2-0 down. As someone in the crowd shouted when he came on " If Pires is the answer then God knows what the **** question is ".

Not good enough and sadly I think it will get worse unless Houllier goes.

Yes. there is most definatley a clear pattern now, that when we go a goal down before half time, the players heads drop and we lose the game.

This suggesting that the manger is not motivating and installing the belief in the dressing room at half time, and that we can go out there and get back in the game. This has not happened once under Houllier, but many times under Martin. A quick example that comes to mind was when we played Middlesborogh away at the end of the 09 season (when on our bad run). We were awfull in the firs half after conceeding a very early goal. The players came out 2nd half a different side with pace, and accuracey. Carew finding an eqauliser and we almost found a winner late on. We also managed the same against Wolves in march when we were 2-1 down. We played badly that day, but still found an answer to grab a point.

This part of managment is so critical i.m.o to the overall package of a good manager. If Houllier is not motivating the players to fight back, then is their much point in having him ?

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I see where you are coming from Mark & RotaxMax. But if we did change our manager now is there any hope of us making any signings in this window (assuming there is now) as a new manager would no doubt need to look at what players he has taken over before making changes?

We also made it clear back then that we do not take employed managers from their clubs so we would be looking at what we had on offer in the summer and then turned down (such as Curbs & KMac) plus Big Sam and Jol as well as at some point in the window possibly Hughes and Hodgson. So do we give GH the window to get his own players in and to try to turn things around or move now? As I recall the last time we had 2 managers in a season was the last time we did go down but I do think we need to see something positive happening both on and off the field early in this window to feel any confidence about our ongoing situation.

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Same old same old under Houllier. We go a goal down we lose. 5 defeats in last 6 potentially 7 defeats in last 8 come Saturday. Simply not good enough and he as to go.

As for the game. We huffed and puffed playing the ball backwards/sideways/backwards/sideways but Gomes was rarely worked. We were also at times chasing shadows. And this was against 10 men for 60 minutes.

Couple of baffling selections. Hogg and Delph in the middle with a presumably fully fit Reo Coker on the bench. Then bringing on an arthritic Pires at 2-0 down. As someone in the crowd shouted when he came on " If Pires is the answer then God knows what the **** question is ".

Not good enough and sadly I think it will get worse unless Houllier goes.

Yes. there is most definatley a clear pattern now, that when we go a goal down before half time, the players heads drop and we lose the game.

This suggesting that the manger is not motivating and installing the belief in the dressing room at half time, and that we can go out there and get back in the game. This has not happened once under Houllier, but many times under Martin. A quick example that comes to mind was when we played Middlesborogh away at the end of the 09 season (when on our bad run). We were awfull in the firs half after conceeding a very early goal. The players came out 2nd half a different side with pace, and accuracey. Carew finding an eqauliser and we almost found a winner late on. We also managed the same against Wolves in march when we were 2-1 down. We played badly that day, but still found an answer to grab a point.

This part of managment is so critical i.m.o to the overall package of a good manager. If Houllier is not motivating the players to fight back, then is their much point in having him ?

Having watched the last two games on TV, it was the same picture when the cameras showed our management team on the bench when we were already goals down. No encouragement for the players, sitting with despondant expressions, an already "we've given up" atmosphere coming off them. This is not what fans expect from them when we are playing like we are.

Don't know what their problems are, but at least MON was motivated and his pitchside activities made it clear to his players he was with them, not so these two. What had McAllister done as a coach/manager prior to Villa, not a lot really, but it seems Houllier wanted a comfort factor and was choosing his old mates. I know Houllier is in his sixties and fans are saying he's too old. I don't subscribe to his age being a factor, as Fergie is older, and Twitchy is in his sixties. GH's problem IMO, is he was too long out of English football and hasn't yet got up to speed, unfortunately, we may be down by the time he does, assuming he does.

I don't think RL will get rid of him this season, as it doesn't seem his style, but it looks like the advisors Lerner relied on when looking for MON's replacement did not do a good job, and probably thought Houllier was a safe pair of hands. What Villa really needed was an ambitious manager like Coyle or De Matteo, but there are not many of these about with a decent pedigree of believing in playing football rather than pass the ball in your own half for 10 passes then punt it forward to lose possession.

The next five months are going to be dire if you're a Villa supporter.

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The next five months are going to be dire if you're a Villa supporter

They will not be what we have grown accustomed to AVFCinSpain but I think we will just about get to the 40 points target we need although there may be some uncomfortable moments along the way. But, getting some 20 points less this season than we did last should still not be acceptable.

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