Writer: Villan Of The North
Date:Sunday June 21 2009
It seems to me that football fans like things to be very black and white (no, nothing to do with Newcastle), almost the archetypal good vs evil depicted by religions throughout history. By the very nature of our status as football fans we are tribal and the acts of labeling, stereo-typing and prejudice are mechanisms that help us to function and even survive.
There are some that are not able, apparently, to disconnect these mechanisms. I'm tired of being labeled anti-MON or an MON hater. Personally I think he seems like a nice guy but this has absolutely no relevance to his status as the manager of Aston Villa Football Club.
I am a fan of Aston Villa not of any one individual, as Fear likes to point out, players, managers and even owners/chairmen come and go, we remain!
I was delighted when we got MON as manager of our great club and very pleased that he was able to stabilize the club so quickly and even impressed with his consolidation leading to our 6th place finish last year. This last season was his opportunity to push on and show that he was more than a man capable of creating a team that was hard to beat (remember Villa never beat an MON lead Leicester City).
He had built a strong foundation and set the scene to bring in the right players and push on. Not too many of us expected to break the top 4 but many were hopeful of displacing Everton, what we all expected was a consolidation of our top 6 status and progression in terms of the squad and playing style. Most are realistic enough to know that to displace any of the top 4 (or even 5) would take more than just a flash in the pan but in fact a club looking like it's going places in order to attract even more top players, those on the fringes of playing in the CL but perhaps looking to get more 1st team football early in their career.
Instead we got mainly older players and/or from teams below us. Players who can do a job for us but will not help us to move on in anyway other than by grimly hanging on to our top 6 status. Credit where credit is due, MON created a buzz about the club which drove us from season's opening to overachieve until just after new year. I say overachieve because, if you look at our playing style and the playing staff used, most of our success was down to us outworking our opponents rather than outplaying them. Our work ethic and speedy players made up for any lack of craft, guile and tactics but sadly, as history confirms, this could not last. Players tired, became injured and received inevitable bans which halted our momentum and made many, including the players (I believe) start to lose faith.
Then came Moscow, the ultimate destroyer of any momentum and faith for many. Later in the season it looked like MON became desperate, trying questionable substitutions and even more questionable, bizarre even, tactical positioning which at one point left Milner as right back and Nigel Reo Coker as left back, apparently hoping to stumble upon some magic formula that would result in him being hailed as some sort of misunderstood genius, the mad professor type. I believe he was becoming weary of tarnishing his reputation as a tactical genius and imho he only made things worse but that is the risk when accused of having no plan B, especially as the accusations appear to be correct.
I would argue that Aston Villa's limited success, this last season, was due to MON's ability to build up the player's belief and use this fact to motivate them to achieve at a level that they could not maintain for an entire season. As I said earlier, credit where it is due, MON got the players playing at a level beyond themselves for over half a season but I doubt he will be able to do this again as the players have seen what he can do and will see his limitations, limiting their faith in him and thus themselves, as a team if not as individuals.
My point? I too can see what MON has achieved and I do believe that he was the right man for the club when he came in. His downfall has been his success, in that he has achieved his limitations, imho, in a much shorter period of time than anyone could have expected or even hoped for.
I'm not anti-MON, I'm pro Villa and I believe that it's time for both Aston Villa and MON to move on. Aston Villa are ready to move on to the next stage of development thanks to MON. MON needs to move on while his reputation is still relatively in tact.
Date:Sunday June 21 2009
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