4-5-1 At Villa? 1-1 v Boro
Attendance: 33 162
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
Thomas Sorensen 7
Wilfred Bouma 6
Olof Mellberg 8
Gary Cahill 7
Liam Ridgewell 7
Gareth Barry 7
Gavin McCann 6
Isaiah Osbourne 5.5
Stiliyan Petrov 5.5
Gabriel Agbonlahor 8
Juan Pablo Angel 6.5
Milan Baros (on for Angel 61)
Steven Davis (on for Osbourne 61)
Stuart Taylor (on for Sorensen 70)