Martin O'Neill - Where It All Went Wrong
MON - Where it all went wrong - Official
Much has been written recently but this is where it all went wrong imho.
His decision to quit was the result of a plan that started to go wrong 18 months ago. Let me explain. In his first season he was a breath of fresh air, superbly galvanising the momentum started by the end of the Ellis years (cheers Fear and VFC).
11th was a great first season return for comparatively modest spend (mainly Petrov) and the swap of Baros for Carew midseason. Happy Days!
Season 2 some more improvement including 6 goals at Derby and a 5-1 bashing of the B-lose. We thought the Messiah had arrived! Season 3 had a steady start with Milner becoming the most notable addition. Then he found a system that worked for the club. 451 (433) call it what you will. But it consisted mainly of Sidwell, Petrov and Barry in Midfield, Ashley Young and Milner working up and down and Gabi being the speed demon that stopped teams pressing up too far against us. We were unplayable. We went a record run of away victories and Middlesbro were the only team that actually beat us when we played that formation (2-1 at home due to a last minute Sidwell mistake). We turned the year, not just chasing top 4 but the title.
That was 'our time'.
That was the moment when we could have kicked on. Unfortunately it was the time when it fell apart for MON, for 4 reasons.
We lost Laursen. We bought Heskey (I think Heskey is a fabulous team player, but not a goalscorer and was just wrong for Villa at the time) and inexplicably he changed formation to 442. He used Milner and Young as out and out wingers, dropped Sidwell and put Heskey alongside Gabi. The result of this meant we lost control of the middle of the pitch. Petrov who was brilliant as the holding midfielder, suddenly had too much ground to cover, meaning he was knackered after an hour of every game. And the removal of the holding midfielder in front of the back line meant a defence without the brilliant Laursen were exposed time and again.
The draw against Stoke, defeats against Chelsea and Everton (FA Cup) and the giving up in Europe and it was the beginning of the end.We eventually went from title challengers to just 3 victories in the last 18 games. Last season was strange but was viewed as a success by many, but it simply masked the problems. With the squad at his disposal we should have been title challengers, not just challenging for top 4. But players were played out of position and the squad was never rotated. He wouldn't go back to the successful 451 formation that had served us so well. We were stuffed by Wigan on the opening day playing 442. Sense prevailed and he reverted to 451 at Liverpool and we won 3-1.
Only to change it straight back the game after. That was it, there was no way back after that for the players. Unrest set in. People point to the trips to Wembley because they were great days out. But in truth we never faced anybody more difficult than Sunderland in the League Cup and never faced anybody of note in the FA Cup until Chelsea who comfortably beat us. We struggled against Palace and Reading en route to the semi final. I think we actually finished 6th because of the quality of players that MON re! cruited, but we should have done so much better had he have utilised the quality at his disposal.
I have two hopes for the start of the season.
One, Kevin Mac uses the formation that has served us so well.
Two, Bob Bradley gets nowhere near Villa Park. Randy has invested £80m+ net on players and tens of millions more on infrastructure (£14M alone on Bodymoor Heath).
So MON throwing his toys out of the pram because he wasn't going to get all the money from the Milner transfer is laughable. He had more than enough money in his time.
Randy is shaping up to be our best ever Chairman, but the decision he makes now has the potential to undo all of the good work he has done to date. UTV