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After the Lord Mayors Show!


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by John

A game that had started with us having great expectations ended with us in despair having seen our team change before our very eyes from Mr Hyde to Dr Jekyll within 48 hours without the aid of any potion.

Swansea gained their first ever win at Villa Park yesterday and in doing so a team that is still being tipped as a potential candidate for relegation leapfrogged us in the league table and left us sitting far from pretty in twelfth place with them now above us on goal difference, so what does that say for us?

What a way to start a new year having finished off the old one in such style. Having bettered Chelsea at the bridge surely we could beat a Swansea team that had yet to win away from home this season and which had made 7 changes from the one that had taken a point from Spurs on the same day as we had humbled Chelsea. Was it complacency that did for us or playing 2 games with much the same team in 48 hours? Or was it that we started with most of the team that had deserved a vote of confidence after their win at Chelsea but one that is set up to defend and hit teams on the break which has worked well enough away from home but that is not well suited to face a team at Villa Park that is set up with the same intention and that invites us to break them down?

Swansea in giving us our fourth consecutive home defeat gave a passable impression of the likes of Wigan who in the past who have taken points at Villa Park by putting men behind the ball and inviting us to come onto them and then hitting us with their pace on the break. Having gone a goal up and then two clear with soft goals at the start of each half they sat back and waited for the pressure that never came other than in the form of corner after corner that they dealt with without any real cause for concern.

So any break from criticism that Big Eck might have hoped to earn on the back of an unexpected win 48 hours earlier was lost in 90 minutes yesterday with his side giving him a stark contrast between the highs of Chelsea and the lows they hit yesterday. Where does the blame lie? Big Eck is the obvious target as Randy knew he would be when making the appointment but he has taken over a team that he has told us is in the process of being rebuilt but he is not being given the cash to do it. So for me although I would have started with Albrighton and would have liked to see us adopt a more positive approach to the visit of Swansea, he is not the only one that bears the responsibility. A lack of investment and a wretched performance from players who had proved they are better than this only 48 hours earlier also played a major part yesterday.

My player ratings from a game that has seen us plunge once again into the bottom half of the table and led to the points we took at Chelsea being carelessly lost just 2 days later are:

Brad Guzan – 5 – Beaten twice and had some difficulty in dealing with back passes when pressed by their forwards particularly with the one from Collins that he back peddled on and then found one of their players with a hurried clearance whose first touch found Routledge for their second. But he did well to stop another Dyer effort on 28 minutes after he had gone past Warnock and he stopped them adding a third on 87 minutes by bravely diving at the feet of Allen.

Carlos Cuellar - 4 – A decent enough first half during which he got forward reasonably well but his day was ruined as was our own when on 47 minutes. Carlos was beaten all to easily by Routledge who then cut inside and found Graham whose shot hit the post and it was Routledge who reacted before any of the watching defenders to drill the rebound into the net through Cuellar’s legs. Carlos was replaced by Hutton 8 minutes later.

James Collins – 4 – Found the pace of Swansea’s forward movement difficult to manage as did his colleagues at the back and this was another less than convincing display that may see his starting place again under pressure. Got up to an N’Zogbia corner on 22 minutes but his header was directed straight at the keeper.

Richard Dunne – 5 –The best of our defenders for me and although he might well have walked when he pushed Dyer down with both hands after he had lost it after being penalised for a strong second half challenge on the same player it did at least show he was as upset by the way the game was going as we were. Headed over from a corner on 65 minutes and then headed wide on 84 minutes.

Stephen Warnock – 3 – Set the tone for the game with his casual under hit pass back into the direction of where he had guessed rather than made sure Dunne was and Dyer raced onto the loose ball for their vital fourth minute opener which beat Guzan’s outstretched hand having taken a slight deflection as it passed through Dunne’s legs. He was given a torrid afternoon by Dyer who was too fast and too hot for him to handle and although he improved slightly in the second half it would have been difficult to have got any worse.

Stiliyan Petrov – 5 – I was surprised to see him start after hobbling off against Chelsea. He started well enough but did not get forward as he has been doing of late and I think as the game wore on he increasingly felt the affects of playing 2 games in 48 hours and the related knocks taken.

Ciaran Clark - 5 – For me he might have made way for a more attack minded midfield player yesterday when the onus was to be on us to break them down and that change became increasingly pressing when they opened up a two goal lead and we really needed to try to get some pressure on their defence to try to avoid this embarrassing defeat. Did the holding job he was selected for well enough but we were looking for a bit more yesterday. Had a half chance in the second half when a cross from Albrighton found him inside the box via Collins but the ball was taken off him before he had unleashed a shot.

Stephen Ireland – 6 – Started well and was one of our very few players that worried the Swansea defence in the slightest before he was replaced by Marc on 68 minutes. He needs to be encouraged and taking him off when we needed his invention did nothing to do that or to help our search for a goal yesterday.

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – MOTM – Our main if not only real threat to Swansea’s far from overworked defence yesterday. Might have provided us with a late, late consolation goal in the last moments of injury time when Collins nodded down Albrighton’s cross and Gabby fed the ball to him only for his well hit shot to thunder off the post to safety.

Gabriel Agbonlahor – 6 – Started wide again to accommodate Bent’s return to the starting line up and we badly missed the pressure he puts on defenders in a more central role by making space for himself, pressuring defenders and chasing after every ball.

Darren Bent – 4 – Lacked any sort of service and without that he can appear to be a bit of a passenger.

Substitutes:

Alan Hutton – 5 – Replaced Cuellar on 55 minutes and was steady enough in what was by then a shell shocked back four.

Marc Albrighton – 6 – Should have started as we missed the width and crosses he has been providing of late. Replaced Ireland to the tune of boos on 68 minutes and was equally as effective although it would have been better to have had them working in tandem to try to break down the Swans.

Barry Bannan – Replaced Clark on 85 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.

A Happier New Year than this to all of my readers!

John Lewis

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Huh ?? Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – MOTM ?? Were you actually at the game? From my position, R1 North Stand, N’Zogbia was woefull. Playing as a left winger he left Warnock with 2 to mark, and Warnock couldn't handle it. Then when Warnock & Dunne were looking to off load the ball up the left wing, N’Zogbia was either next to Bent, or over with Gabby on the Right.

N’Zogbia has to be the worst winger to play in a Villa shirt. MOM - before he ridiculously got substituted was Ireland.

I understand that Carlos went off injured, but why oh why didn't Clueless put Clark into Left back, substitute Warnock, leave Ireland on, and bring on Marc ?

Then again - I am only a week in, week out fan. I obviously know nothing about football.

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Huh ?? Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – MOTM ?? Were you actually at the game? From my position, R1 North Stand, N’Zogbia was woefull.

Yes I was Baalbwerith.

Then again - I am only a week in, week out fan. I obviously know nothing about football.

As another week in week out fan of many years standing I do not claim to know any more about the game than anyone else. The ratings I have given over the years are open for comment as they have always been and I welcome the opinion of other fans as we can all have different opinions on individual performances having seen the same game. One opinion is no more valid than another and we obviously have a very different opinion on N'Zogbia's contribution yesterday as we do with the quality of some past Villa wingers. One thing we do agree with is that taking Ireland off was not something that either of us would have done and another is that we would have liked to see more of Marc than we did in a game like this.

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Stiliyan Petrov – 5 – I was surprised to see him start after hobbling off against Chelsea. He started well enough but did not get forward as he has been doing of late and I think as the game wore on he increasingly felt the affects of playing 2 games in 48 hours and the related knocks taken.

I am not a huge fan of Stan - too one paced for me - although I do see a marked improvement this year. However, he struggles to play 90 minutes let alone 180 with an injury in the middle. He should definitely have made way for Bannan from the start of this game and Bannan and Ireland, with Clark protecting the CBs, could have been a really good pairing against a relatively lightweight/non-physical Swansea.

Stephen Ireland – 6 – Started well and was one of our very few players that worried the Swansea defence in the slightest before he was replaced by Marc on 68 minutes. He needs to be encouraged and taking him off when we needed his invention did nothing to do that or to help our search for a goal yesterday.

The one shining star of the last couple of games for me and brilliant to see SI getting somewhere near to recapturing his Citeh form of a few years back. But he has been nowhere near to playing two consecutive 90 minutes let alone doing it in 48 hours and absolutely needed subbing IMO, but it should have been a straight swap for GG.

Charles N’Zogbia – 6 – MOTM – Our main if not only real threat to Swansea’s far from overworked defence yesterday. Might have provided us with a late, late consolation goal in the last moments of injury time when Collins nodded down Albrighton’s cross and Gabby fed the ball to him only for his well hit shot to thunder off the post to safety.

Thought he did okay. I would like to see him swapping sides regularly and working much more closely with our no.10 & no.9 as he did with Rodallega. I think/hope that will come (or at least it would under a decent manager) as he starts to recapture his form.

Darren Bent – 4 – Lacked any sort of service and without that he can appear to be a bit of a passenger.

He was very poor. I don't understand why he was bought back in to the starting XI at the expense of Marc following a great win/performance from the front 5.

Biggest loser was Eck. Tactically naive:

- wrong to play Stan in two 90 minutes 48 hours apart

- wrong to change the front 4

- poor/too late subs

- wrong to think you can play the same way against Cheslki away and Swansea at home!

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Agreed on N'Zog and Stan barry'sboots. Petrov has looked a far better player in a move forward role this season it is a pity we did not see him play more there in previous seasons.

It was a difficult one with Bent as without Marc's service he did not threaten but we needed goals and he does get them. The problem was how could we accommodate both and the decision made on that did not work.

Also agree on Ireland's improvement, but I do not think it would have been fair to have thrown on GG with the team playing as it was and 2 goals down.

I do think that we the fans were the biggest losers though. :winkold:

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