Date:Tuesday December 29 2009
Think I've calmed down enough to write this but I'm not making any promises.
I can try and sugar coat it as much as I like but I just can`t hide how furious I am about tonight`s loss. Against Arsenal we witnessed a master-show from Fabregas that showed us the true meaning of a world-class player.
Tonight though was a completely different story.
Liverpool were there for the taking.
Both teams played some equally drab football and you might want to blame the conditions but correct me if I`m wrong but I`m pretty sure both teams had to compete under the same conditions?
We were at home and had, pre-Arsenal, been playing some good football. The suspension of Ashley Young seemed to send most of us pre-match into a frenzy, panicking that we would lose the shape of the team that has proved so successful.
And so it was to be.
James Milner was shifted back out to the right and Nigel Reo-Coker was installed to the centre to try and shackle the creative force of Gerrard and Aquilani.
Fair to say, it worked.
NRC did have a good game and did himself no disservice. But to play with two players like him and Stan Petrov we have absolutely zero creativity of our own in the middle resulting in the famous hoof ball football that we all know and love.
With Milner in the middle we have an attack minded player that can do a defensive shift and is always looking for that insightful ball into the strikers. With Heskey up front (Ok, he may spend most of the time on the floor) But at least he keeps possession.
I`m beginning to detest John Carew every time I see him play lately. His aimless flick-ons are everything that is wrong with Aston Villa.
How many times tonight did we hoof the ball past our non-creative centre midfield, for Carew to flick on and just lose possession?
I lost count!
There`s no need for it.
If we kept the ball better with players like Milner & Downing in the centre of midfield and slowly built up our possession would be much higher and would result in much, MUCH more chances than what the ridiculous long ball provides.
Carew could be world class but his inconsistency and fondness of the flick on are of absolutely no use to us. I struggle to remember any times that it`s paid off.
The only plus to take out of the match was the introduction of Marc Albrighton.
I was expecting a straight swap, NRC for Steve Sidwell, but instead O`Neill bought on Albrighton, taking up the right flank and allowing Milner to move back into the middle.
Good, some creativity in the middle.
Then he takes off Downing for Sidwell, slotting into the middle and moving Milner to the left.
Now we`ve no creativity again.
If Martin O`Neill is so adamant to play Carew then he should make it punishable by death to play the long ball to him.
If he was always going to play Albrighton then why not play him from the start? All this talk of him "not being ready is garbage." Him starting on the right would have allowed us to keep the shape that has served so well the last few weeks and if it didn`t work, then at least he can say he gave it a crack and went for the win.
You can`t tell me we went for the win tonight?
Tonight`s performance was based on a sturdy defence, a gritty centre midfield pairing and a long ball up front.
If we didn`t play that long ball then Carew wouldn`t have to be the one to get on the end of it and would be able to take up a better position where the likes of Milner & Downing can feed him the ball to actually do something with.
In the end that sturdy defence slipped up and it cost us at the very least a draw. A draw from tonight`s game would have been the last excuse for the performance. But you can`t defend and defend and expect to not slip up once. Ultimately we did and Torres was given room to angle a shot past Friedel.
I`m not interested in the philosophy that we were beaten by a world-class striker. If the shape of the team had been set up in a way that we had some creativity, then perhaps by this point we could already have turned some of those useless flick-ons into real chances and already been 2-0 up?
We always knew that we would have to score at least 2, as Torres was always good for a goal.
In the end because of hoof ball we didn`t get any. Again!
If I were the manager, I would have played Milner in the middle with Albrighton on the right. Or if he wasn`t sure of Albrighton, then Milner on the right, and Delph in the middle.
Either way could have given us something in the middle of the park with Stan Petrov to mop up.
The talk that the kids aren`t ready is utter garbage. Anything would have been better than the long ball football that we had to witness.
All old football clichés aside, defences do not win football games.
As long as O`Neill sets us up in this way I have no confidence that we will break the top four. I`d rather take the philosophy of Manchester City and Tottenham and concede a few goals, yes, but make sure we give a damn good go of scoring a few of our own.
As individuals our defenders are brilliant players anyway so they would surely do a better a job than our their four contender counterparts.
Which brings me to Gabby Agbonlahor.
He has the vision of a mole rat.
When he had that chance to put us 1-0 up he didn`t even look to see where the goal was and fired the ball straight at Reina. He`s a good player and shown he can score goals already this season, but a first choice striker he is not.
He needs to be playing off another striker where he can use his sharp instincts rather than his non-existent footballing brain.
I loathe him.
He provides nothing to the team and if anything is more of a hindrance by just merely taking the place of someone else who can be on the field.
I don`t expect to come up against the top four and expect wins in every game, but this was a very winnable game. Liverpool were far from their best and we failed to take advantage due to the loss of just one player meaning we had to change the complete shape of a simple 4-4-2.
That`s not depth at all.
We have defensive depth yes, but if you take any of Milner, Downing, Young, Gabby or Heskey out of the team then I`m just not confident.
For those of you that read anything I write (firstly you deserve a medal), secondly you`ll know I always end with optimism.
This isn`t the end of our challenge and it`s by no means a disaster.
But tonight we failed to take a chance and that is unfortunately the bottom line.
I would get rid of Carew & Sidwell in a heartbeat. They are good players but they do not help us with our set up in the slightest. They could have a much better career at another club.
Tottenham, Liverpool and Man City will all drop points in the next 18 games.
Of course they will.
To think they won`t is absurd.
We now need to put ourselves back in the position to capitalise on their mistakes. They will all be looking to strengthen in January so that`s exactly what we need to be doing.
I know O`Neill has said he isn`t actively looking, but we desperately need a striker (two if he sees the light and ships out Carew), and another creative mid.
We don`t need defenders.
They are brilliant and are a match for any team in the country.
The players we do need however are not available in English football at the moment. We missed a trick by not signing Bent. I would take Scott Parker now but for anything else Martin O`Neill is going to have to look abroad for us to improve the team without breaking the bank.
Doubt he will do it though.
Regardless, with the team that has been playing brilliantly lately, we will win the cup.
I`m sure of it.
The league though, you need a squad that handle the loss of one player and still maintain what has made them successful.
Tonight we didn`t.
Date:Tuesday December 29 2009
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|1.||Pride of Lions||968|
|Man City||3||-||2||Aston Villa|
|Man Utd||3||-||1||Aston Villa|
|12. Crystal Palace||33||11||9||13||-3||42|
|15. Aston Villa||34||8||8||18||-22||32|
|17. Hull City||32||6||10||16||-16||28|
|18. Leicester City||32||7||7||18||-17||28|
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