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

Aston Villa
1 - 1

Villa Park


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

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


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.

Writer:J P Fear
Date:Sunday November 26 2006
Time: 12:06PM


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.
26/11/2006 13:22:00
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
26/11/2006 13:55:00
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.
26/11/2006 14:06:00
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
26/11/2006 18:13:00
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
26/11/2006 19:26:00
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.
26/11/2006 20:13:00
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.
26/11/2006 21:46:00
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.
26/11/2006 22:34:00
Absolutely agree about the ref (P, 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!!
27/11/2006 08:14:00
Man City on Wednesday really is a must win game now.
27/11/2006 08:26:00
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