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by John

Last night our lack of incoming summer transfer activity came home to roost and our main chance of success (if there really was any) passed us by to be replaced by the grim task of gathering 33 points from what looks like being a long hard season.

This was not acceptable. Supporters will have come to the game last night who had not renewed season tickets and they will have seen little to tempt them back into Villa Park. Youngsters attracted by low prices will have gone to the game with friends or family and will have seen nothing to attract them to make watching this football team a habit.

For a second time in 4 days we were less effective than our visitors at Villa Park. Small wonder given we did not have an on target shot until the 87th minute and that then came from a central defender that the boos rang out on the 66th minute and then again at full time from those still in the ground.

How we miss the spark that Walker gave us last season and the guile, ability and pace that Young and Downing gave us. These players won games for us last season and turned performances like these around. Without them teams like Bolton can be a match for us at Villa Park and a team that came to Villa Park on the back of four successive defeats had very little difficulty in pushing us to one side and out of a cup competition we last won in 1996 (which is also the last time we won anything at all).

We lacked creativity and invention last night and have since the first game of the season. We looked a below average team and the “good honest bunch of lads” who now play for us pose little threat up front without Bent and the odd injury or two exposes our clear lack of squad strength. We picked a strong team but it seems we have a formation that is not getting us results and we need to work on getting the best from what is left of the players we had at Villa Park last season. Big Eck is an obvious scapegoat but he can only work with the tools he is given and there are too many tools missing from his tool box at the moment.

My player ratings from a game that led to a swift cup exit are:

Shay Given – 6 – Saved by the post on 34 minutes when Wheater almost headed home a corner. Picked the ball out of the net twice but he cannot be expected to save us every week.

Alan Hutton - 5 – Has yet to settle in.

James Collins – 6 – Steady enough most of the time and he did have our one shot on target.

Richard Dunne – 6 – Reasonably solid.

Stephen Warnock - 6 – I had not expected he would have played having picked up a knock on Saturday but I was glad he did when he got in a good block on 5 minutes to deny a Kakuta shot that looked goal bound.

Marc Albrighton – 4 – His crosses lacked accuracy and the runs he did make came to nothing. Marc was once again disappointing before being withdrawn on 73 minutes.

Barry Bannan – 5 – Played a good ball to Warnock on 45 minutes in our best move of the game but the defender shot wide. Needs to impose himself more on games to retain his starting place.

Stephen Ireland – 5 – A couple of promising moves forward and may be worth giving a run now.

Stiliyan Petrov – 6 – Another who I had not expected to start. He worked very hard and tried to hold our midfield together but his impact reduced as the game wore on.

Gabby Agbonlahor – 7 – MOTM – One bright light on an otherwise shocking evening. Ran tirelessly and was our only goal threat being inches away from turning in crosses on 76 and 79 minutes.

Nathan Delfouneso – 4 – Played wide for some reason and made little impression out there.

Substitutes:

Charles N’Zogbia –Replaced Marc on 73 minutes. Needs the games and should have started. Not on long enough to rate or make an impression.

Up the Villa!

John Lewis

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It is what I feared when we appointed the manager, and also compounded the issue by not spending any money after the loss of Young and Downing. Alex McLeish has shown at sha that his teams are workmanlike and will work hard for each other, on the other hand they tend to be lacking in creative spark and excitement, and also they tend to fail to score enough goals. I wonder how many times this season we will win, and win by a margin of more than one goal? Randy has gone down the route of throwing his all behind the kids to come good. I seem to remember Doug had a similar plan back in the mid 80's. Very depressing times for us Villa fans after the promise and hype of 4 or 5 years ago.

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Was thinking particularly last night about Ashley Young. He used to love cup games and would have eaten up a tie like this almost single handed.

I really don't think McLeish should be the main target for criticism. We have had the heart ripped out our team and last night suggested that once you pick a few of the fringe players, the quality dips to an unacceptable level.

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Was thinking particularly last night about Ashley Young. He used to love cup games and would have eaten up a tie like this almost single handed.

I really don't think McLeish should be the main target for criticism. We have had the heart ripped out our team and last night suggested that once you pick a few of the fringe players, the quality dips to an unacceptable level.

We are the seventh highest revenue generating team and probably pay the seventh highest wages. There should be enough talent in there for McLeish to work with to at least match the likes of Bolton and Newcastle. We have

- one of, if not, the best keepers in the Premier League

- a back 4 made up of internationals with Cuellar and Clark in reserve

- a winger that is the envy of most clubs outside the top 6

- 3 England internatinal strikers

There should be enough talent in there for a decent manager to make work. The guy hasn't got a clue how to set up our front 6 and I feel his trading in the summer has left us unbalanced in CM. We needed a strong athletic DCM and he hasn't addressed this - Jenas is not that player. He doesn't seem to have a clue how to respond when things are not going well and his tactics are pants.

He should get the blame fairly and squarely.

No-one would be moaning if we were losing close games to the top 6 - we can no longer expect to compete with them given our spend BUT we should be competitive and outplaying most other teams IMO.

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Agreed. On paper, this squad is more than capable of beating teams like Wolves, Newcastle, Bolton et al at home. To be beaten in a close game could be counted as unlucky, but we have put in such appalling and lacklustre displays that the blame has to lie at the feat of the manager. We're not even competitive at the moment, and are rolling over without a fight. McLeish said he wanted to win this cup, and was taking it seriously. If that was the case, it shows a very worrying inability to motivate his players because they certainly weren't up for it last night.

Oh, and John - barring Ireland, Gabby and Given I think your player ratings are at least 2 points above what they should be! Just one man's opinion though, but it really was one of the worst performances I have ever seen in my 10 years as a season ticket holder. Even worse than some of the tripe David O'Bleary churned out!

It's a stark realisation of just how far backwards we have gone when a match at newly-promoted QPR is a "must win" game. Not so much because of league position, but if Mcleish can't get a reaction out of the team this weekend after what we witnessed last night then he might as well p1ss off back to Glasgow and let Kevin Mac take over like he should have done before Houllier came in last season.

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by John

How we miss the spark that Walker gave us last season and the guile, ability and pace that Young and Downing gave us. John Lewis

Exactly what I feared would happen this season. We looked a decent team at times from January onwards last season with those three attacking down the flanks and Bent providing the goalscoring threat up top.

Now all three are gone and there's not much happening for us in attack.

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Bannan deserves a better rating than that, Albrighton was utterly atrocious, wasted any chance he had and got beaten to the ball again and again by Gardner, who lets be honest, is shit.

Bannan, Gabby, Ireland and Petrov all looked decent, N'Zogbia good coming on.

Hutton, Warnock, Albrighton and Delfouneso were shocking.

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I really don't think McLeish should be the main target for criticism. We have had the heart ripped out our team and last night suggested that once you pick a few of the fringe players, the quality dips to an unacceptable level.

The quality available to him is more than enough to beat a bolton side who have been dire in the league.

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Oh, and John - barring Ireland, Gabby and Given I think your player ratings are at least 2 points above what they should be! Just one man's opinion though, but it really was one of the worst performances I have ever seen in my 10 years as a season ticket holder

Yes, AVFC Bristol I see where you are coming from and I found myself wondering how long it had been since we turned out such an inept performance and I was thinking back to the days of DOL as well. I also looked back to the days of GT(2) when the lack of investment in the team led to the same sort of performances.

Bannan deserves a better rating than that

I had hoped for more from him given a second start inside a week but felt he did not do as much as he might have done. I know he and others are young lads who are being expected to do a lot very soon and to fill big boots but like Albrighton I consider this is a big season for him the understudy and I agree he had the better game of the two by some way.

given we almost a near strength team out and Bolton made many changes, the nature of the loss is very worrying for our long term future in this league

110% my concerns as well Richard!

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