Writer: J P Fear
Date:Saturday November 5 2005
Attendance: 42 551
Ok. I'm a bit confused now! This is our worst start for 35 years and today we didn't pull a single 'real' save from the Liverpool keeper. We've now lost three on the trot at home, which is the first time for five years. Make no mistake, we are bang in trouble.
BUT we also, individually, weren't that bad. The scoreline certainly flatters Liverpool, who were for most parts, tame. They seem to have the measure of Europe, but today they looked a pale shadow of the free flowing and passing Liverpool sides of the past. In fact, they spent a good percentage of the game doing what Villa do, hoofing the ball forward to no one.
The possession stats once again tell a tale. Liverpool had 58% of the ball. Think about it for a minute - 58%. Villa haven't had the majority of possession at what used to be 'Fortress Villa Park' once this season. The reason? Well, if I knew that I'd be writing my application for the inevitable situations vacant post at Villa - blimey, even one of the adverts on the main screen is about job hunting, do you think they are dropping a hint to the manager? It has to be said that our players work hard to try and get the ball, but once they get it, they fail to keep it. The midfield hoof it forward towards our small strikers, the opponents defences gobble those tactics up all day and send their team back towards our defence to put yet more pressure on them and the keeper.
As I say, as individuals, there weren't really any really bad performances. But as a team, they just don't have it. The awful thing is that was the most organised and composed our defence has looked all season, and for much of last season in truth. Mellberg and Ridgewell were first to most of the headers, Delaney was getting stuck in and Barry looked far more composed at left back than Jlloyd has of late. I'd keep Barry there for a while, see how he develops, it certainly looks to be his best position.
What our team didn't do today, was set up any real chances and therefore Baros - who worked like a trooper, Phillips - who had a quiet day at the office, and Angel - who couldn't even buy a slice of luck at the moment, were all left isolated and were unable to get any decent shots off. That is the most worrying thing and that is the reason we could be in a relegation fight for the rest of the season. No matter how hard you work in game, if you don't create and convert chances, you don't win.
In fairness the score to Liverpool - who look a million miles away from challenging in the league, could have been better. Cisse made a brilliant run in the first half to beat our off side trap, only to have too much time to think in a one on one with Sorenson. The keeper stood tall and saved what looked a certain goal. Sorenson also pulled off a couple of stunning saves in the second half, one just parrying a fiercely hit ball round his post and Crouch failed to score from a free header.
I have said in previous match reports that Ridgewell, if he keeps pulling and pushing players, will give away penalties and so it proved today. I said penalty as soon as Crouch crumpled onto the floor. I've seen the replays and maybe it was 50/50 but if you pull a striker down in the box, most referee's will give a penalty. Gerrard, who'd had a quiet game broke the deadlock with a well taken penalty and that was that. 1-0 may just have been fair in their favour. Just. But I'm not sure Villa deserved to lose 2-0. Mellberg pulled off a fantastic block from a Crouch save, only for the ball to fall to Alonso. Sorenson was blind sided and although he might have done better, it was hit hard and low.
For the fact Villa showed some - not enough yet - but some fighting spirit and shape today, they will feel hard done by. O'Leary is already blaming the ref, takeover, pitch, and whatever else he can think of. Maybe the penalty was harsh, maybe it wasn't. We didn't create any chances ourselves and without goals, you don't win games. We are deep in the mire and we have to hope - with the confidence of the players already on the floor, that this doesn't break them.
As for Crouch, he caused problems, got stuck in, earnt his team a penalty and should have scored from a free header. The Holte gave him a rousing reception of 'One Rodney Trotter, There's only one Rodney Trotter'. Would have been - for the paltry £2million gained - a good player to keep in our squad.
A new manager by Christmas? Who knows. Doug of old would have pulled the trigger and the cycle would have started again, but we now have an old Doug now with promises of new owners. It's a mess. It needs to be sorted one way or the other. If not, this will be the season we fall. We've flirted with danger, now we are on the edge. Not nice is it? The next five games (Sunderland away, Charlton home, Newcastle away, Bolton away and Man Utd at home) will shape our season. Not sure where the points are going to come from, but football is a funny old game.
Date:Saturday November 5 2005
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