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Aston Villa 1 - Middlesbrough 1

Villa Park

25/11/2006

Attendance: 33 162

4-5-1 At Villa? 1-1 v Boro

That was a funny old game!

Things didn't start very promisingly when it became obvious we were playing 4-5-1. I must admit I don't care who the manager is, I don't think we should ever play with a lone striker at Villa Park, especially not against a poor team who are struggling in the league. I can't help but feel if we'd really gone for the jugular and pressed from the get-go, Boro would have capitulated.

Fair enough there aren't that many options and none of our 'hit men' are exactly firing on all cylinders, but when I first saw the team sheet I thought Gabby had been put up front to partner Juan Pablo Angel and was excited at the prospect, although I'm sure Milan Baros, who despite the absence of Chris Sutton was still sitting on the bench, wouldn't have agreed. It really does show how low down he is now in the pecking order.

Our last poll asked what Villans thought the result would be, 83% thought we'd win and to be fair, we should have. 4% thought we'd lose and 13% got it right saying a draw.

This was definitely a game for the taking and Villa were pretty much in control throughout the game without ever being totally convincing. The first half we did have a good few chances despite the fact our midfield wasn't really fully at the races. Isaiah Osbourne is definitely one for the future but he isn't quite ready yet and the midfield was far more energised when Steven Davis replaced him in the second half. I'd plump for Davis now, give him the chance to re-establish himself, he has had his rest and by being benched a little kick up the proverbial, let him prove the point, either that or re-call Hendrie.

Petrov worries me, he did have a good chance well saved, but apart from that, he seems to be being totally out battled, maybe it will just take him longer to get used to the Premiership than I thought, not too much longer though I hope, he is meant to be our playmaker. Either that, or I'm missing something, maybe you'll enlighten me in the article comments? His debut v West Ham was a 10 out of 10 affair, more of that and we'll be laughing.

Anyway, the first half Villa dominated but started to get complacent. Martin O'Neill is no idiot, he knows what needs to be done in January and the summer, we lack a certain amount of quality and depth and I'm sure he'll get that sorted. We also missed the strength of Chris Sutton. In Boro's first real chance they scored and the 25 Boro fans got off their seats and danced a little dance. Malcolm Christie back from injury standing clearly offside (not seen the replay, so I could be wrong) and slotted the ball home. A few minutes later Stiliyan Petrov was cough cough, 'brought down' in the box and Gareth Barry tucked away yet another penalty and the 25 Boro fans sat back down and had their pic nic or whatever they were doing, nothing else was to be heard from them all game, I presume they had a little kip after their food.

So a draw of non goals in the first half and Villa by far the best team. The second half Martin O'Neill changed the formation to 4-4-2 but Villa, despite more chances, failed to push home their advantage. We did get the ball in the net but the goal was disallowed for off-side, how ironic eh linesman?

A special mention has to go to the hapless and hopeless referee. He was so very poor I can't even be bothered to look up his name, I just hope he never sets foot in Villa Park again. He had a match long love affair with his whistle and gave most decisions to Boro, he seemed determined they'd have the chance to win the game but luckily Villa's defence stood firm and if not for our lack of the killer ball or killer striker, we'd have won the game at a canter.

So, we lie 5th, have a squad woefully short, a manager who knows exactly what is needed and we are no longer leaking goals or capitulating. Lets face it, things could be very much worse. We've the foundations and they will soon be built on, the Lions are indeed soon to be back with a roar.

Oh, and Yakubu, has he modelled his career on A-mule Heskey? Same big physical build and same diving approach, spent half his time on the floor being knocked over by the 'giants' in our team!

Match Stats: Click Here
Martin O'Neill's reaction: Click Here

Star Player

Olof Mellberg who got forward well and had more shots than our strikers. Beard was also in top form.

Player Ratings


Thomas Sorensen 7

all went well until he was 'taken out' of the game by a totally out of order challenge.

Wilfred Bouma 6

seems to be getting back to fitness.

Olof Mellberg 8

as right back he was outstanding, got forward loads and had several shots.

Gary Cahill 7

some very good and necessary interceptions, a very bright future.

Liam Ridgewell 7

solid.

Gareth Barry 7

well taken penalty, great all round contribution.

Gavin McCann 6

could have got more stuck in, no tackles seem to be flying around.

Isaiah Osbourne 5.5

not really at the races but a great prospect non-the-less.

Stiliyan Petrov 5.5

not quite there yet, hopefully he'll 'click' soon.

Gabriel Agbonlahor 8

speed, skill, lovely touches, this lad could be a star. Scrub that, he is a star, although he still needs to work on his final ball....!

Juan Pablo Angel 6.5

couldn't really see why he was taken off, the supply is awful to him but he put in the effort.

Milan Baros (on for Angel 61)

Looked far more up for it, but the doubts are still there, had a few times when an instinctive striker would have shot, not passed. A goal might just ignite him, confidence seems low.

Steven Davis (on for Osbourne 61)

That was more like it, looked like he'd got a point to prove.

Stuart Taylor (on for Sorensen 70)

More than capable of what was thrown at him, which in truth wasn't a lot!

Manager Rating

Martin O'Neill. Wasn't convinced by the 4-5-1, then again, he is a manager at a top club on over a million a year and I'm, errrm, not. But he did change the formation at half time AND made two substitutions in plenty of time to try to get the win, far better than last season when subs only came on for a couple of minutes under old what was his name?

Opponent Rating

Gareth Southgate. Got a great reception as he walked passed the fans in the Trinity but had the Holte End sing what a w*nker. Shame our past players don't get better treatment on their return. Boro looked very average, he has a lot of work to do.




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The Journalist

Writer: J P Fear Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday November 26 2006

Time: 12:06PM

Your Comments

Totally agree with Petrov and 4-5-1 comments. Surprised not more praise given to Cahill who I think looks superb. Interesting that you give Mellberg 8. Yes he played well but he is not a modern fullback and is very limited once he crosses the half way line. Put this together with the negative formation and Villa were very short in the final third.
Gordonsleftboot
Thought Petrov was better than you rate. Impressed by Bouma and agree with GLBoot regarding Mellberg who defensively didn't put a foot wrong. McCann was woeful and caused the goal by giving the ball away. I watched Osborne who didn't seem tactically aware all game. Very poor contribution by both defensive midfielders and I thought Boro had too much possession there. Just can't understand 451 at home. Originally thought Petrov would play in the hole behing Angel but he didn't. Ah well. Perhaps he won't try it again. UTV
Gazvilla
Blimey Fear did I write that ?? 451 at home was a disgrace, even if they still managed more chances than they have recently at home. Thought Boateng was superb, he saw off both Osborne and McCann pity he left. One of my worries with O'Neill is his seeming lack of flexibility tactically, even allowing for the squad limitations. He does tend to fit players to his system rather than fit the system around the players. Still with a little more luck we would still have won.
avfc48
I do pinch myself seeing us 5th and think we are at present punching above our weight, and then i think if these draws could turn to wins were laughing.
silkie villain
Agree should really be be playing 4-4-2 at home. The 4-5-1- at the start of the season worked better because of luke's speed it was more like a 4-3-3 and we looked very dangerous on the break.
chris the villan
Three points on Wednesday night should see us right back on track, but to get the win we have to start getting more men forward and putting away the few chances we are creating. I am hoping that Sutton is fit to start, we definitely missed his presence, while I'd give a starting place to Milan Baros. Steve Davis should also start. We desperately need the three points on offer Wednesday evening, particularly with a tricky trip to Pompey ahead of us this weekend.
glensider
Cant believe we are questioning the managers formation, the guy is a genius and no matter what we think, we do not know better. The guy has pulled off results this season that were beyond our wildest dreams, just chill, enjoy the ride and enjoy the fact we have a manager that knows better than everyone.
mackaavfc
Mack - MON is a genius I agree but it doesn't mean he gets it right all the time. Contrary to popular opinion he's not God (some say Mr McGrath is) but human and so prone to the odd mistake. He hasn't qualified his decision to field 451 at home and some would say why should he. Everyone is accountable though, even Mr O'Neill. Makes interesting talking points and as long as it's constructive and supportive all is well. Looking forward to Wednesday night.
Gazvilla
Absolutely agree about the ref (P Walton...no, I've never heard of him either). I couldn't believe the 4-5-1 either, my son wouldn't shut up about it all weekend. And if there isn't a place for Hendrie in that team at the moment, well, I'll go to foot of our stairs!!
jonah
Man City on Wednesday really is a must win game now.
DeanoVilla
Referee and linesman were a joke. Boro goal was blatantly offside. I was sitting in the North Stand (unfortunately, because the atmosphere was poor) and it was obvious to everyone he was off. I was disappointed with our midfield in general on Saturday but Petrov looked to be struggling IMO. When he picked the ball up, I was expecting him to burst forward but it never happened and he always seemed to be looking for the easy pass. McCann had an afternoon to forget and we looked so much better when Davis came on. Boro were poor and their supporters were pathetic- they could have got the players and supporters on one coach!
Geordie_Villa
2 points lost, but as macka points out we are fifth in the league, and hands up all those who would have been ecstatic with that at the start of the season, UTV
steff_the_villan
Macca I think your point is spot on. M'ON should know better than anyone about what he wants to do, and he is the one who sees the players every day in training. When the crowd start dictating what formation we should be playing then we are in trouble. However I prefer to look on the bright side. Our last three games have yielded 5 points. Although only scoring twice we have only conceded once. Those three fixtures last season gave us a return of ........ let me think ....... eerrrmmmm ...... zilch. Ok so we scored 5 goals (1 against Everton, 2 against Wigan and 'Boro). Unfortunately we conceded 10. So to those of you saying we played the wrong formation ..... get a grip! The reason we all work in factories, offices or wherever, is because we haven't got a scooby doo about how to manage a football club. We have a manager with who we can have faith. That is not to say we can not debate his decisions, but lets keep it in perspective. Not forgetting debate should be a two way street. How would we feel if M'ON was to come out and explain his decisions and then start a debate of his own. If I was him I, the first question I would ask is 'why was there 9000 empty seats at the home of a team who have only lost once this season'? UTV
voiceoftheholte
Voiceoftheholte- spot on- There must have been some busy golf courses on Saturday afternoon
Geordie_Villa
I share concerns about Petrov, in a 4-5-1 he should have been right up there creating behind Angel. I hope he is not a good in only Scotland player. Not knocking him but time for honesty he is not making the playmaker impact we were hoping for the amount paid, we need to show him some videos of merse.
tylervilla
You trinity road lads are too soft. We do show a lot of ex players respect when they return, and not just the heroes. Players like Crouchy etc are recognized and given a good reception but Southgate asked for a transfer cos he wanted to go to a "big club" (haha) and get more dosh so he got called a *****er. Also we arent big crowd for any games but for *****'s sake lads lets create a bit of atmosphere next time, it was like a morgue. I had a ***** sitting next to me on the phone during the second half talking about Im a celebrity get me out of here and when the person on the phone asked him the score he said it was 1-0 to the Villa! God Almighty! We are going to rape Man City on Wednesday by the way. 4-0.
MACCA UTV
Totally agree Macca. It was the way Southgate left, not the fact that he left, that leads to the stick he gets. The same goes for Boateng who wanted to play for a big club. Big clubs sell more than 100 seats
Steve W
Disagree with you both Steve and Macca. Applauding ex players is not soft. Quite the opposite in fact. It shows a level of intelligence and decency that inbreds will not understand. Southgate did not say he wanted to leave for a big club. He did say he wanted to leave for a club that was showing ambition because he had realised, as all the fans had years ago, that Villa were going nowhere apart from backwards under Ellis. He came for 2.5 million and left for 6.5. He did nothing apart from critisise Ellis and make Villa 4 million. Since leaving he has never once critisised the club or the fans. He has only questiones the abilities of the former Chairman. In my eyes that makes him a pretty decent bloke. You will also find that Villa players who were here with Southgate have nothing but praise for him, along with nearly everybody else in the game. It is only the small minded who think otherwise. Some players do deserve a bit of stick for the way they go about orchestrating their transfers. Solano spings to mind. But the likes of Southgate, David James, Crouchy, ULDC amongst others do not. It would be great if we became known as fair, sporting , knowledgeable fans. Unfortunately that will not happen whilst we have children at the back of the Holte shouting abuse at former players and brain dead sheep joining in. No doubt on Wednesday the brain dead will start abusing Vassell. Not only a local lad but a Villa fan. He never asked for a transfer, and was sold for a pittance by the former manager (can't remember his name). Vassell was misquoted as saying he was glad of a transfer to a big club, but that is all it was, a press lie! Lets grow up. Unless you are a teenager or a moron, surely people must realise that by shouting filth at former players makes you look stupid.
voiceoftheholte
yet again voth spot on, but as you said it is just immature little kiddie winkies who think they are big because they have joined in with the holte faithfull, news flash you little gitoids we have put up with you so far, but dont push it. UTV
steff_the_villan
still prefer a more attacking option at home than a 4-5-1.
chris the villan
Way too negative an approach for my liking. Boro were there for the taking. Very disappointing.
glensider
 

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