Friday, 20th February
No further team news prior to Chelsea. John Carew suggests we are 'better` than Chelsea, which possibly sorts Guus Hiddink`s first team talk for him!
Saturday, 21st February
Villa 0 - 1 Chelsea. I take absolutely no pleasure in saying I told you so, but we should not have played 4-4-2. Now, it`s true, overall we had enough chances to win the game let alone get a draw, and I don`t think even the most ardent Chelsea fan could have moaned had we got an equaliser.
However, sitting from my view in the Trinity Road, I was pulling my hair out. They constantly had an extra man in midfield, which left Barry and Petrov fighting a battle they could not win. It is not even that I felt the first XI were necessarily wrong, but in my opinion James Milner should have been in the middle with Gabby on the right.
I also have a problem with the way we chased the game. We had a straight line of five men for the last few minutes, as Barry pushed up alongside Young, Carew, Heskey and Agbonlahor. So no-one was coming short, all the balls we hit were relatively easy to defend and every time they cleared it, they had acres of space in the middle of the park.
Sorry, but that is just not good enough. I love MON & I would not wish to swap him but at times I find him to be tactically blind. Some people really slag off his transfer policy, but for me, I don`t think he is anywhere near as bad in that area as some will have you believe. Some people say we`re one dimensional but again, I think that is rubbish. However, sometimes there are games where I wonder how between him, Robertson & Walford can not see what is wrong.
Still, I do not wish to slag him off as I love the man and after all, there is a very good reason why he is doing what he is doing and I am doing what I am doing!
Sunday, 22nd February
You know, when the transfer window is open or at least near, you forget how much drivel gets recycled the rest of the season! Today`s papers are full of Gareth Barry will stay if we get in the CL but will be off if we don`t. Now that is potentially not drivel but the point is that it is a very recycled story!
Monday, 23rd February
Excellent news comes in the form that Wilfred Bouma is scheduled to play against Chelsea reserves next week. I don`t suppose we`ll see the best of him this season but hopefully, if he is back to his normal self then next season it really will be like having a new player. I know it`s a cliché but it is true!
Tuesday, 24th February
The squad for the trip to Moscow is announced, and it is minus Friedel, Cuellar, Barry, Petrov, Milner, Young, Agbonlahor and Heskey (not to mention Laursen and Bouma). I have mixed feelings about this. I am disappointed, but I understand the logic and I suppose MON gets paid to make these decisions. After all, if we finish in the top 4 - especially if we got 2nd or 3rd - then this will be forgotten.
On the other hand, I thought we`d give it a go as we`re out the FA Cup, it was poised nicely after the first leg, and after all, a strong team was selected for the first game. I`d also be very annoyed if I was going, I must say.
Onto the game itself, and MON defends us over Zico`s comment that we`re predictable, getting the ball to Ashley Young as much as possible. Er… surely that`s what teams do when going forward, try to get it to their best attacking players? MON basically says the same thing and quite frankly he is spot on as far as I`m concerned.
Wednesday, 25th February
Ironically, Zico compliments us today, saying he still sees a threat in our reserves. In all honesty, from what I have seen of Delfounso, Bannan and Albrighton, there is enough about them to be a surprise package. The midfield is my biggest concern, and again, I worry about us playing 4-4-2.
Thursday, 26th February
CSKA Moscow 2 - 0 Villa. Thankfully, we didn`t play 4-4-2 in the first half and we gave it a good go. We did play it in the second half, as Salifou picked up a knock. As we needed to score, I believe that is the reason MON decided to bring on Marlon instead of Ozzy and staying with the formation.
Marlon came on as John Carew had a back problem. I can`t help but feel we`d have had more of a chance if Carew had played. Delfounso did ok but the ball came back a lot, and you just feel it may have stuck a bit more had we had Carew up top. I thought Bannan and Albrighton both did really well, and I thought Craig Gardner was fantastic.
Unfortunately, Steve Sidwell and Nicky Shorey managed to play us into trouble, which lead to their free-kick; although in defence of Sidwell, it wasn`t a foul.
For the second goal, Craig Gardner had a throw-in where Nicky Shorey ended up with the ball in acres of space and an opportunity to get the ball in. Instead he hit a pathetic pass which was cleared and put us under a bit of pressure, then Ozzy decided to play a stupid ball and they went up the other end and scored.
Now some people may question why I am moaning when many will think 'we couldn`t do much better with the side we had out there` but the point is, we conceded goals from our own mistakes, and quite frankly it`s not the kids that can be blamed for it. It was very frustrating, and I genuinely believe if we`d just took at least one (or both) of Barry or Petrov and we`d had one of Agbonlahor, Carew or Heskey out there, that we may well have won the game. Even more annoying is that, had we not made the stupid mistakes we did, we may have won the game anyway.
But I do like to end on a positive and I have to say that, I have complimented both Bannan and Albrighton on here before, and hopefully they can add to the first team options.
So Stoke on Sunday, let`s get back to winning ways. We have nothing to play for but the CL place from now on. Every game is a cup final, and we absolutely need to win this one.
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