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We're Passing The Ball!


blandy
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by jimcohen

After 28 minutes at Upton Park today, the 3,000 Villa faithful clad in a mix of the traditional claret and "glow in the dark" neon green realised something was different about Villa. We were doing something that for 38 games last season, we very rarely did. Pass the ball!

"We're passing the ball, we're passing the ball! We're Aston Villa. We're passing the ball!"…came the chant. And what a delight it was. The triangle of passes all over the pitch led by the industrious Delph, promising KEA and floating Ireland looked slick and quite refreshing. The game ended with 65.8% possession to Villa, which as the away team, especially as we are Villa, is quite astonishing! Admittedly, some of the possession fizzled out as they made there way to JJ's goal, but the signs are there of what Lambert wants us to do, and I like it.

We played a fluid 4-4-1-1 with Ireland in the hole behind Bent, but N'Zogbia and Holeman on the wings were constantly cutting in and swapping positions, and Lowton at RB was offering a lot of extra support down the right flank, making N'Zogbia's wondering a lot more effective.

Given, Clark and Vlaar were obviously given the same brief by the gaffer, with very few long balls being played and only when there were no other options. A delight to see made more entertaining every time Collins lumped the ball long for West Ham, only to be found by a Villa head or Given's gloves. Given always looked for a quick throw out or shot pass, and Vlaar and Clark, with Lowton on the right always offered options. Passing from the back, and through the midfield with wide men cutting in, we found it easy to keep the ball, and only really lost it when we went up to Bent too quickly as the major issues with this current side was the lack of support for our new captain.

Bent clearly offers a goal threat, and does help out well for set pieces, but his game is very ineffective without support and as much as KEA, Ireland and Delph tried, we just didn't get men forward ahead of the ball and Bent enough. This for me was the main issue of our play. Yes we were away from home, and the team has to remain disciplined and in shape, but we were there to win, and you don't win many games without shots on goal.

Baker at left back was is obviously filling a hole. I was delighted to see Lambert stick to his guns and not even include Hutton and Warnock with the travelling party. They are not good enough and need to be replaced. Lowton is the man for RB, I really like the look of him, but Baker will be exposed too much at left back and I hope he doesn't get disheartened if he has to play there too much. At one point today Vaz Te slipped passed Baker as if he want there, but Baker won everything in the air and offered good cover at centre back when Lowton was bombing on and the defence shifted over. The lad is a great prospect in the heart of our defence but he is not a full back.

Bannan, Gardner and Weimann all came on and the youth will play a large part on this season, but apart from Bannan, our subs today did not have much of an impact, and BB only had 9 minutes. Weimann was limping onto the team bus leaving as well, so I hope he is ok. He face was grimacing a lot as he stepped up to the bus and I don't think that was just about his lack of service during the game.

This new look Villa team, with 4 new starters and only 187 appearances between them (Giggs has 539 on his own!) did look a little raw in parts, but the promise is there. The Intent from the manager to play the way football should be played and the way Villa fans want to see us playing gives me hope for the next 37 games. We did create a few chances today, and looked solid enough at the back, I think we are nearly there.

As I said in my last post, 2-3 more players are needed, but with Gabby and Albrighton coming back that will help a lot with our attacking side, and Dunne will be a big bonus to our inexperienced back 4.

Having looked at our side throughout pre-season and studying them hard today, I would say a striker has to be our priority.If Bent were to get injured we would be in trouble and at home I would like to see us play 2 up top with Gabby out wide.

A central midfielder would be next on the list. I like Delph and Bannan, both played well today, but neither are quite there yet. But not that far off!

Overall, I have hope. I left the stadium a little more happy than I thought after meeting Ray Houghton, Ian Taylor and Marc Albrighton in the press box, all three were happy to pose for pictures and have a quick chat. Albrighton also confirmed he is not on twitter, so that cleared a few things up there too!

I predict a solid if unspectacular mid table finish, which after last season, I would be very happy with, but I do think we are only a few players away from a very good team, so who knows what could happen if we get onto a good run and the confidence starts to flow.

Given - 7 - Made a few good saves, was solid on crosses and distributed the ball as well as I have ever seen

Lowton - 7 - Looked promising going forward and solid enough at the back. A very hard worker with a lot in his engine.

Vlaar - 6 - A nervous 15 minutes before the half did concern me, he was out jumped a few time by Cole and looked visibly ruffled, but he came back strongly in the sec on half and will be a great edition to our defence.

Clark - Made some good interceptions, passed the ball well out o defence but was caught out once or twice. Needs more games in the hear of our defence.

Baker - 6 - Good in the air, covered well in the middle, but he is not a full back sadly.

N'Zogbia - 5 - A few exciting moments, but he is too easily push off the ball and his work rate is not good enough away from home. Better, but not there yet.

Delph - 7 - Passed well, looked composed and offered support to Ireland, but he still dives in too much on the tackle, and just doesn't offer the presence I want to see in the middle of our midfield. Needs more stature.

El Ahmadi - 7 - MOTM for me, passed very well, always offered support, always wanted the ball, very rarely gave it away and stayed strong to the end. A lot more to come I think, but a solid start from the new heart of our team.

Holeman - Taken off after the hour, I presume because of the knock he got in midweek, but played well, worked hard and linked play up nicely. Did try a few too many ambitious passes and shots, but this guy will be a star for us. I like the look of him a lot.

Ireland - 7 - Passed well, tackled back, worked hard and nearly put in a few killer passes. He is getting his groove back and I think with more games and the confidence to play the way he wants, we will see the best of Ireland this season

Bent - 5 - Didn't do much wrong but he didn't see much of the ball either.

UTV

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Nice to read something positive. I agree with a lot of what you say, I definitely think that we need a link up striker. If we're going to play a possession game through the middle (which I love!) we're going to need a way of linking the play all the way to the top.

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Jim, sorry mate but you haven't given anyone below a 5 and some a 7, imo that's a crock. We didn't have a player at 5 let alone a 7.

Ahmadi wasn't MOM for me as he had no penetration, was one paced and played nothing but tippy tappy football he really has to improve.

Our passing game gave us a better possession stat than West Ham a whole 51% against a hoof ball team, big deal.

Oz, I can only see it coming if we sign better players or revert to hoofing the ball again, sigh.

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Great write up as usual. It’s lovely to get a positive perspective after a loss where it’s easy to look for the opposite.

I too love the idea our new manager is trying to install, although I have to disagree to the extents to which it showed yesterday.

Holman simply had a poor game. Wanted too much time on the ball and lacked any awareness of his teammates. However a debut away at Big Sam team is not the best place to shine and I’m sure he will get better.

Nzog started well but completely disappeared later in the game. Again I think he will thrive given time with the new regime.

Finally the defence looked a bit jumpy when it came to passing the ball. We suffered the same thing under Houllier in that the defenders tended to get hemmed back when under any pressure, preferring the simple ball to a defensive team mate or back to keeper rather than looking for a midfielder, which would progress to an attacking move and get the ball out of the danger area safely.

These points are to be expected with a shift in emphasis and will obviously be addressed as the season beds itself in.

Overall though I agree, far more positives than negatives!

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Jim, sorry mate but you haven't given anyone below a 5 and some a 7, imo that's a crock. We didn't have a player at 5 let alone a 7.

Ahmadi wasn't MOM for me as he had no penetration, was one paced and played nothing but tippy tappy football he really has to improve.

Our passing game gave us a better possession stat than West Ham a whole 51% against a hoof ball team, big deal.

Oz, I can only see it coming if we sign better players or revert to hoofing the ball again, sigh.

Fair enough, what I saw though encouraged me and I think there was a lot to take out of the game after last season. The stats show the KEA passed the ball more than anyone in the prem yesterday bar Arteta and I thought a lot of his balls developed play well and brought others into the game.

I saw BBC say 51% possession but SKy said 65%. From being at the game I would say the later was true

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A bizarre write up here.

A fluid 4-4-1-1? I thought we were all the place. It didnt look fluid it looked disjointed. The players seemed confused especially when we went over the half way line. there was no link to darren bent and the midfield was too deep. we spent most of the time playing little passing triangles in our own half and there was no cut and thrust or urgency at all.

the player ratings are rather bizzare also. how on earthe people got 7's i will never know. there was only one player worthy of a 6 and that was vlaar after his shaky start. Lowton was no more than a 4. Poor distribution and failed to get forward at all in first half and in the second he managed to put every ball in the stand.

I thought it was a very very inept display all round. I was extremley annoyed and disturbed by what i saw. after all of the optimism about lambert and after hearing what he had to say before the game that performance was disgracful. I think Lambert has to take alot of the blame for Saturday. The tactics,formation and squad selection were all wrong

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Nice post disagree with KEA as MOM as he did very little on the ball, and in defense. This team will surely find its offensive threat through Ireland. The man is pure class everytime he steps onto the field. Getting Albrighton, Agbonlahor back will be very crucial for the season, as n'zogbia appeared to be the only person with pace yesterday.

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Nice write up. I recorded the game and saw it after reading the storm on negativity here! I agree with a lot of what you said. But I'd say Nzog and Holman were poor and, as a result, there was just no service to Bent. That said, Ireland really looked sharp and is capable of passing accurately forwards (wow, a Villa midfielder who doesn't just pass sideways) and the passing was impressive. There's absolutely no way it was 51% possession to Villa over the whole game, no chance!

If we can just work on the final third, and if the astonishing impatience of some fans doesn't become overwhelming, then we could have something special happening. But, it won't happen overnight.

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Good stuff

People dont like tippy tappy in this country, but its the way to go. Will take some time to get our players used to it. We need to add pace and urgency to our passing, and more mobility from our front players. It will come, patience needed.

Hope lambert sticks to these principles and doesnt get sidetrscked by the short term need to win. Im hoping the Holte end will give him the time he needs. Im not all that confident of that tbh.

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Lets not get into the tippy tappy debate.

Tippy tappy with no end product is as ineffective as the hoof ball, if not more so. It's about using possesion to create chances, now I admit I didn't see the game at the weekend but seems like chances were few and far between, but it was the first game of the season against a team who will give few teams the ability to play the ball around.

Things wil click but it wil take a bit of time, we played with effectively a brand new back 4, and almost a brand new midfield with the amount of games Delph has had recently. Only Given, N'Zog, Ireland and Bent were regulars last season so I think a little patience is called for before we start judging the playing style.

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My private chant went something like "We're Aston Villa, we're passing the ball, and after we pass it we're doing **** all".

Lambert has all the time in the world to get the team and the tactics right as far as I'm concerned because after the disasters of the last two seasons both are in a rather chaotic state. But it is of no benefit to anyone to pretend that the display we saw on Saturday was heading in the right direction.

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Lambert has all the time in the world to get the team and the tactics right as far as I'm concerned because after the disasters of the last two seasons both are in a rather chaotic state. But it is of no benefit to anyone to pretend that the display we saw on Saturday was heading in the right direction.

I have to disagree with this, albeit based on reports from other people, if we pased the ball around as much as people claimed even with no end product that is still a move in the right direction, compared with belting it into the channels and watching it bounce straight back.

You cant expect very pass to be a killer through ball to Bent, we need to get used to keeping possesion and bringing onto to us to create the space to penetrate an organised defence. The first stage is getting used to passing in and around the middel third of the pitch, once that becomes second nature the confidence to apply that style in the final third will come.

For me the selection policy and the commitment to a playing style is a step in the right direction even if the overall performance was short of the required level.

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