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theunderstudy's Season Review 2010/11


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An article review of our season, warts an' all.

The season started with a bang – and not really a good one. 4 year occupant of the Aston Villa managers chair Martin O’Neill, walked out on the club a mere 5 days before the seasons start. Turmoil and chaos reigned, most Villa fans were in shock. Kevin MacDonald took charge.

The season started brightly, with a crushing 3-0 win at home to West Ham, where the scoreline 10-0 would not have flattered Villa. Then deflated rapidly with a horrific 6-0 defeat at Newcastle, and a second successive Europa League defeat to Rapid Vienna. A win over Everton was followed by a gutting defeat at Stoke. Then a lacklustre draw at home to Bolton, which was Kevin MacDonald’s final game in charge. Here started the reign of Gerard Houllier.

A cup victory was followed by a delightful late win at Wolves, and then Villa led 1-0 at Spurs. Gerard Houllier had appeared to have stepped effortlessly back into English football. Then Heskey went off injured – Spurs came back and won 2-1. From then on, Villa players seemed to be injured left, right and centre. Villa entered a period with very few wins, and too many draws and defeats. Villa also had an injury crisis, with thirteen players unavailable at one point, including 8 midfielders.

December saw a good win over West Brom, followed by gutless defeats to Spurs, Liverpool, Arsneal and Man City. Houllier ignored the Villa fans who travelled to Anfield, which many found hugely disrespectful, which wasn’t helped by Villa’s dire performance. It looked very bleak at Villa Park, a spirited draw at the holders Chelsea was not enough to boost morale around a time like this. Villa lost to Sunderland in early January, and a lot of fans had had it. Houllier out.

Then luckily, we had a bit of a pick up. In a hitherto appalling season, it got a bit of a rise. We signed a young full back on loan, and (according to their fans) “Sunderlands third best striker”. The signing of the fullback, Kyle Walker, didn’t cause much of a splash, but the signing of the striker certainly did. Villa had captured Darren Bent, “overpaying” claimed everyone, but we didn’t care. We had Bent.

He made an instant impact (as had Walker in his debut Villa game) by scoring, but Bent’s was a very crucial winner over eventual Champions League qualifiers Man City. Villa then secured their first back to back wins of the season, with a victory over Wigan. It started to look brighter, and Villa fans were looking hopefully up the table, rather than looking nervously down it. Then we failed to beat either of Fulham or Blackpool in games we had the lead a total of three times. A decent performance in defeat at United and a convincing win over Blackburn also occurred.

Then a moment which many fans did not forgive, or understand. Seemingly throwing the cup tie at Man City, by sending a weaker side to Manchester, puzzling when you consider we had a mere two ties in March to play. Which we lost, a poor defeat at Bolton after battering them, and a horrible, gutless performance at home to Wolves.

If the Sunderland home defeat earlier in the season had made many Villa fans want Houllier out, this was breaking point for even more. The odds of Aston Villa going down had been slashed. The majority of fans were resenting the continued presence of Houllier.

However, so late in the season, too late for most (myself included) we hauled ourselves together and started playing as a team. A draw at Everton, where they had a late penalty to salvage a point, and back to back wins against Newcastle, avenging the seasons earlier defeat, and a double over West Ham, with an injury-time dramatic late winner from Gabby Agbonlahor.

Another twist in the ongoing Villa saga, as Houllier was rushed to hospital with a heart complaint, just as it had looked like he had made Villa safe. Gary McAllister took over as boss, and his first game was a forgettable draw with Stoke, which was followed by an enraging defeat at West Brom. A dire draw with Wigan followed, and it looks like somehow, Villa could still be relegated, up next were Arsenal away and in-form Liverpool at home, some were calm, others maintaining Villa were still likely to go down. But 15 minutes into the game with Arsenal, Darren Bent showed why Villa had splashed out on him, netting twice at the Emirates. 73 minutes of defending followed, then a consolation Arsenal goal. Villa had achieved safety, by a comfortable margin, the attention switching to whether or not the Second City’s second team could go down. On a dramatic final day, Villa cruised to a 1-0 win over Liverpool, and Birmingham went down. A Somen Tchoyi hattrick at Newcastle for West Brom ironically sealed Villa’s status at the top midlands team once again. A 9th placed finish for a side that still could have gone down with two games to go.

Was this season good enough? Not really. We should have done a lot better, 26 points dropped from winning positions. If we had held onto a few more leads, we could even have made Europe.

Did the manager do a good job? Not really either. We struggled nearly all season, but we showed we can be a good side as we showed on the last two days.

Should Houllier stay? Not for me. His health is far important than football, and really the poor performances this year haven’t helped his case.

So were there bright spots? Yes. Wins over Liverpool, Citeh, Arsenal, Everton and Newcastle were all very welcome, as were the wins over West Brom and Wolves. Downing’s improvement, Albrighton and Clark’s emergence, and watching SHA go down brightened up the season.

However it wasn’t quite good enough, but we still finished top half. Another note was 81.3% of our league goals were scored by Englishmen. Impressive really.

Overall season rating 5 out of 10. Poor season, and one I will hope to forget, but in no way a complete disaster – however wholesale changes need to be made this summer – it’s a defining summer for the club.

Good health to all, and up the Villa. Roll on 2011/12, and lets hope we have a great season next year!

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but we showed we can be a good side as we showed on the last two days.

Last two games?

I'll read it later fully, bit tired atm, but that bit stuck out.

[cliché]Yow go n' write one den[/cliché]
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A pretty fair assessment of a mediocre season. Thanks, Mr Understudy :) However, not sure I understood the relevance or meaning of your point that "81.3% of our league goals were scored by Englishmen"?

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The first liverpool game was a big turning point with the fans.

that was the point when Houllier lost the backing/respect of many Villa fans.

i think that was bigger than the throwing of the Man City game.

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it’s a defining summer for the club.

I'm trying to remember a summer that wasn't hailed as either "defining", a "crossroads" or something similar.

Precisely what I was thinking. This is just a normal summer which is always defining.

More seriously 26 points dropped from winning positions. That is frightening. If we could have saved just half of them we would have been 6th, well 5th in reality as we dropped points against Spurs so in the Europa League.

That is a big learning point for next season.

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