Writer: Sheriff Kimbo
Date:Saturday February 21 2009
Friday, 13th February
Martin O`Neill is understandably critical of the decision to play Emile Heskey for England on Wednesday. I concur; a bizarre decision, given that he was not fully fit and that it was only a friendly.
Saturday, 14th February
As MO`N prepares the team for Everton, he confirms that Nathan Delfounso will not be going anywhere on loan. This is the right decision in my mind, with the squad we have at the moment. I would say though that if we sign another 'recognised first-team` striker in the summer then I think a loan move would be good for the lad.
There appears to be no fresh injury news, with Cuellar and NRC still out, along with Heskey, Laursen and Bouma, and Barry suspended.
Sunday, 15th February
Everton 3 - 1 Villa. Not our best showing of the season. I think Steve Sidwell has to take a large chunk of the blame for his non-existent performance in central midfield. On at least 4 occasions I forgot he was even playing; that is simply unacceptable from a central midfielder.
However the rest of the team weren`t great either, with the exception of Stilyian Petrov. We had a fair amount of the ball but were wasteful with creating chances and when we did create a great opportunity Gabby appeared to close his eyes as he headed the ball. We also defended in a manner that would be embarrassing at schoolboy level let alone a Premiership team for their 3rd. The defending for the other two goals was pretty darn poor, too.
So a bad day at the office means we`re out the FA Cup, and it`s best to just move on all round I reckon.
In other news, the Sunday papers link us and Barcelona with a summer move for Chelsea`s Michael Mancienne. Decent player from what I have seen. If there is any truth in it, well it`s a no-brainer between us & Barca aint it? ;-)
Monday, 16th February
The reserves drew 0-0 with Arsenal. Should have won though, hitting the woodwork on more than one occasion. For all the noise made about their youngsters, we have played them off the park twice this season, winning away and drawing at home - EXACTLY like the first team!
I really like Mark Albrighton, by the way. There is lots of (deserved) praise for Barry Bannan and I hope he becomes a star for us but I wouldn`t be surprised to see Albrighton make the grade too (or maybe even instead). Oh, and if anyone would like to see us start using a Rory Delap-style throw in our attacking options, then let us hope that young right-back Eric Lichaj makes the grade! Whoa!
Tuesday, 17th February
Lots of media reports suggest that Stilyian Petrov will only sign a new contract if Gareth Barry does. When you actually read the quotes though that`s not the case at all, he just states that is important for the club to keep Barry, and suggests it may even help attract new players to the club, which is fair comment. Of his own contract he explains it is not a priority for him at the moment, and I think he is very relaxed about it. Most important of all, I believe he wants to sign, and I think it would be a disaster if he didn`t.
The team news for the CKA Moscow game is as it was for the Everton game, which is pleasing as we thought Curtis Davies may miss out after suffering a nasty shoulder injury against Everton. It`s fair to say he did well to stay on the pitch I suppose.
Wednesday, 18th February
Villa 1 - 1 CSKA Moscow. We should have won, in my opinion. They looked relatively dangerous on the break at times and the class they have about them is clearly visible, but overall we were the better team, looked the more likely to score and I don`t think anyone could have begrudged us a winner.
It is delicately poised, but you always fancy us to get a goal, so hopefully we can cancel out their away goal and get through the tie. Given the choice, I would take a CL finish in the Prem, but I am feeling greedy and want both!
Thursday, 19th February
So attentions turn to Saturday. It will be 'Paul Birch Day`, and one can only hope we do him proud with a victory. It will not be easy, but I believe we can get a massive result on Saturday.
Injury news is positive but not confirmed that James Milner and Emile Heskey will be back. Although in all honesty, I am not sure I want us to play 4-4-2. Not only is it more fluid when we play 4-3-3, but there is the narrow way that Chelsea play, and it could be very difficult to beat them playing 4-4-2. We wait and see.
Date:Saturday February 21 2009
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