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Villa v Fulham Report - 3 Points Just The Job!

Aston Villa
2 - 0

Villa Park


Attendance: 32 917


Ok, well that wasn't pretty... to be fair it doesn't really need to be, I'd love to be entertained but I'd rather be bored to a 2-0 win than have pretty football and see us lose games.

If I was a Fulham fan I'd be a bit concerned, the team offered nothing fight, play or entertainment wise yesterday, in fact the game - a very standard Premiership offering - matched the weather, dull, grey and wet! Now if we'd lost that, our fans would have been up in arms but the early goal - Gabby pressure resulting in an own goal - settled the Villa boys down and although nothing flowed very regularly throughout the match, we certainly did play the better football. Then again, that is really damning with feint praise because Fulham set the bar very very low.

I'm surprised this is the same club that ran us ragged at the end of last season and came out 3-1 winners at Craven Cottage but hey, they aren't my worry, only Villa interest me and we've chalked up 3 more points, if the season proves to be a long hard one, (who knows just yet, the league is yet to settle and it is impossible to assess anyone's real form) then we need all the points we can get (queue football cliché) early doors.

The 4-5-1 seems to work, I'm sure MON scratches his head as to why, you would think with the players we have that they could settle to any formation but no, we seem more solid, a bit more attacking and certainly more capable of winning when we play one up front and to be fair, it doesn't have to be negative, with Ashley Young and James Milner bombing up the wings - and having the freedom is seems to change around when they want - it can be more a 4-3-3. Good grief, sorry folks, I'm starting to sound like I almost know what I'm on about! It does make you wonder why, after the arrival of Heskey and the attempts to fit him in with the more traditional 4-2-2 that MON stuck with it for so long.

Both Steve Sidwell and more especially Nigel Hokey-Cokey seem to fit this system well and the latter especially - I watched him closely yesterday, in a totally manly way obviously - was working hard at organising and cajoling the troops. He did look a bit disappointed to come off late on making way for John Carew but again, that is squad football for you. There is talk of us still being after Jermaine Jenas, personally I can't see that, we seem to have a relatively good midfield bunch to pick from?

So Villa commanded from the first goal onwards, without really having to step up a gear. The question marks will maybe (MAYBE) come when we have to step up a gear or two, as it is an open question just how good we can be. The Liverpool performance did hint that there is battle and bottle there in the team, the local derby v the Blues will no doubt test that further.

The second goal, this time definitely from Gabby Agbonlahor, was very well taken from outside the box, name the last time he scored from outside the box, I seriously can't remember. The only flipside to that is Aaron Hughes was stunningly poor backing off instead of closing down Gabby, there aren't many Premiership defenders who will give him that space through the course of this season but you can only play what you have in front of you and hopefully that - along with his performance yesterday - might just bring him out of what seems a fairly long slumber, he has to take confidence from that and look to push on now as he is obviously fancied by the manager as our front line striker. That is a lot to live up to, hopefully the local lad will be more than able.

For confidence in our squad this season we so obviously need another defender or two but I have to say Ciaran Clark did himself and us proud yesterday on his debut and said after in an interview (and this guy is a very level headed lad who can speak well ... such a refreshing change to the usual um and ah stuff!) that he was disappointed not to convert the header chance he had, he is right, it was a good chance and would have made his debut even better but although it is clear he won't be - if we get the new signings muted - a regular just yet, he does have a future and once again our youth academy set up should be very proud and have all of our thanks.

I would point to the fact - as Ian Taylor did on the radio phone in on the way home - that we still maybe should have pushed for an out and out goalscorer this summer, the arrival of someone like Darren Bent (or Defoe a couple of seasons ago) really could have made a massive difference to the outcome of the season but again, as I said earlier in this report, it is quite early to start assessing where all the clubs stand. Gut feeling at the moment is we are going to do well to finish just outside the top six UNLESS we have a nice surprise signing wise or we meet more Fulham's who turn up tired and incapable of making a match of it.

I guess we'll just have to watch this space.

As for the game and entertainment, I'd happily sit through as many boring games as required as long as we come out the winners!

Star Player

Star Man: Martin Laursen... no, he wasn't playing but he was there and saluted the crowd who so rightly reminded everyone, there is only one Martin Laursen. What a shame our rock is no longer able to play.

Player Ratings

Brad Friedel

can't mark him, he had nothing to do!

Nicky Shorey 7

works hard, not the most glorious in defending but gets forward and gets the ball over well.

Carlos Cueller 7.5

By Jove, I think he is finally starting to settle in and look a decent defender, maybe it is the beard!

Ciaran Clark 7.5

great debut, did the simple things well and looks to have a promising future ahead of him.

Habib Beye 6.5

ok... just ok, not much else to add, never sure of buying players from relegated teams but he might do a decent job for us

Steve Sidwell 7

not stunning anyone but not letting anyone down and hopefully will start to get amongst the goals at some stage

Nigel Hokey-Cokey 7.5

good enough performance, tried to organise, got about a fair bit, his distribution is the major weakness as James Milner reminded him a couple of times through the game!

Ashley Young 7

starting to get back into the swing, strangely one of the callers in the phone in on the way home said he was playing like someone who wanted out, can't see it myself.

James Milner 7

got forward, tireless running, what's not to like! Will hopefully get amongst the goals this season for us, think we need at least 5 each from all our midfielders to be in with a chance of improving on last season

Stiliyan Petrov 6.5

what a load of rubbish, booooo. Sorry, only joking, it does seem that the fans always like someone to have a go at, just thought I'd join in! Same as the other midfielders, played his part, nothing stunning but nothing out of order or wrong either

Gabby Agbonlahor 7

extra point purely for scoring, he did put in the effort, went on a few good runs, hopefully his confidence will be up and he'll really push on this season

John Carew - on for Hokey-Cokey on 71

Enjoyed the 'get your tits out for Carew' song when he was warming up, he was grinning from ear to ear!

Manager Rating

MON, 3 wins in a week, can't complain and did try to come out with some praise for the fans this time as well.

Ratings defined

Match ratings defined: 1) Totally awful, had a mare, should be taken out and shot, 2) Dire, but not usual standard, 3) Very poor. 4) Poor, below the standard expected, 5) Average, the least expected, 6) Better than average, but in patches only, 7) Good, generally decent performance, 8) Very good, above the standard, standing out at times, 9) Excellent, stood out all match, 10) Outstanding truly commanded the match.

Writer:J P Fear
Date:Monday August 31 2009
Time: 2:38PM


Great read, might be wrong but didn't Gabby score the goal away at Arsenal last season from outside the box, the one where Gallas looked like he was moving backwards as Gabby ran away from him from the half way line
31/08/2009 14:46:00
All we need to ensure now is we don't sell Clark to Bolton and buy back Knight...
31/08/2009 14:49:00
My my my. How on earth can viewers from other clubs say that many Villa fans are just whiny, fickle gloom-merchants? All they need to do is compare the vast overflowing praise, analysis and interest in the last home game as shown in this thread (a win against a team that is in Europe and were predicted before the season to consolidate their upper table position), with the restrained and thoughtful thread of the game on Thursday (which again we won against a good European team). It's obvious isn't it?
31/08/2009 15:16:00
Or maybe AllanW you could impart your wisdom for us and actually talk about the game?
The Fear
31/08/2009 15:28:00
Happy to, Fear, although I note that you don't actually address the point made. Is it that it hit too close to home? The result was important for a number of reasons; not just the three points (although they are plainly valuable) and not just that it came so close to our departure from European competition so clawes-back some confidence and respectability but also because it was a chance for the gathering discontent from the terraces to be lanced like a boil. This discontent was obvious from radio talk shows, newspaper articles and blog and forum postings and has been fuelled I think by MON's comments and obvious discomfort at the lack of support for many of his buying and tactical decisions lately; his last few interviews especially before the game yesterday, made much mention of this. Fulham were never at the races after the quick opening goal and while the result looked comfortable we all know that the Villa didn't play that well. They didn't need to. There were many plus points to be taken from this lacklustre game IMO; Clark's senior debut showed himm to be everything we had seen from the reserves games and the pre-season. Agbonlahor continues his return from the European Championships and his holiday with improving fitness, awareness and goals. The midfield partnership of Sidwell, Petrov and Reo-Coker will only continue to blossom the more they play together. Yound and Milner looked sharp, lively and inventive. Continuing worries? Beye; he may indeed be Mister Willing 2009 but you cannot give the ball away that often and not expect to be punished in the premiership. Cuellar looked to be a little more sure of himself but remains without a stable partner. Davis is having his shoulder examinied and if you can read body-language, MON is worried that he may not get regular service from Curtis (who I rate enormously) and that worries him. But most of all, no-one is convinced that MON has settled on a tactical formation and while he vacillates and appears to dither, he is open to criticism. I think some of it is unfair but cannot ignore that the results point to using 4:3:3 or 4:5:1 as the most effective team we can put out right now. Is that ok Fear? I've kept it brief because I don't want to be accused of being boring but quite frankly there are many of us here who don't get the chance to post more frequently (I've only got the time to do this because it's a Bank Holiday and *****ing down) but do get saddened that a whole host of bithcy, neurotic and small-minded posts get created after the Thursday game and yet two posts were on here up until mine. What kind of impression does this give about Villa fans? Not good enough IMO and I want to correct that impression if at all possible.
31/08/2009 15:47:00
not really too close to home Allan, to be fair as I'm not that bright, it was lost on me. I think the match report is fairly balanced, decent marks to players, no boo boy comments, the game was average fodder but you can only play what is in front of you, not really much different to what the commentators said when I watched the highlights, saw the end summary of sky coverage when I got home + the phone in comments + summary from Tom Ross and Ian Taylor. It wasn't pretty but pretty doesn't show up in the table, only thing that does is the 3 points and we got them against a team who played us off the park in one of the last games of the season.

Must admit reading your excellent post, I can't see that we disagree on much... If the first post was aimed at the lack of others posting because it was a win, to be fair I only posted the article at 2:38pm on a bank holiday monday and many people are off work (where a good % access this site) or doing family things. I posted late because someone else was doing the report today. I do think more comment (not just Villa by the way, as I've said a good few times, I run the network and other fans are just as up and down depending on results, it is a myth that we are any different) when something 'major' happens and that is often after a doom ladened game OR if we win big... but there will be more comments on this article as more read it + the forum was full of Fulham talk. As said, part of the lack of comments was/is down to the fact it wasn't published until an hour and a half ago. Great second post though, shame you don't have more time, bloody work does tend to get in the way of life doesn't it... then again, anyone with any sense knows life isn't on an internet site, some take these things way way too seriously, despite the network being my living, I'm not amongst them, it is just a laugh... football on the other hand!
The Fear
31/08/2009 16:04:00
Fear; thanks for not getting angry at my snarky first post; much appreciated. I don't htink most Villa fans are too far apart on where they think the team and club is at the moment but occasionally the nay-sayers are quite loud. MON has not got everything working as well as he or we would like but recognising that he wants what we want and that HE is in the position to affect the future far more than we can should really prompt a few people to back-off the constant criticism IMO. You're right, mate, football isn't real life ... it's sometimes more important thatn that! And if you are a FAN of the club and want improvement sometimes you have to sit there and just think 'Is constant carping actually helping me, the club and the players?' Beceause sometimes it doesn't and I think you can see that this week from MON's interviews; he feels humslef to be under too much pressure this early in the season. I think he feels some of the criticism is unwarranted (hence my point that we WON the game on Thursday and WON the game yesterday) so I just want to support them. Just that; support them, give them confidence, let them know that I appreciate what effort and skill they are putting in.
31/08/2009 16:27:00
AllanW, Very good points well made, we should all be behind the team on match day, but pointing out areas that frustrate me on here let me vent a little, as I worry we will revert back to 4-4-2, is it coincidence the carping about 4-4-2 and the reverting back to 4-5-1 have happened together and is it coincidence the carping about Heskey has resulted in him being dropped, I don't know, probably MON worked it out on his own (but it took a while). The transfer policy drives me nuts so being a bit sarcastic on here helps, but then again the youth policy is second to none IMO, Learner is an excellent owner, the envy of many other fans, some of MONs signings have been great, some not so. You are probably correct, maybe louder when moaning but I find it helps with the frustration, as what we all want is success and we seem to be so close sometimes and then we never take the final step.
31/08/2009 16:52:00
Agreed Allan, trouble is after years of being 'nearly' frustrations do get high. Was listening to Ian Taylor on the Tom Ross phone in and he was saying the same and can understand the fans point as we've always been nearly there but never pushed on. I think things like Man City coming in just makes things worse. I do think that although fans moan on the forums/phone ins/pubs/ work we do at least get down to Villa Park in relatively ok numbers (not brilliant so far this season but then it is holiday season AND there is a massive recession on as well obviously, few of the lads on this site have lost their jobs, they aren't alone. It does get you down the doom at times but then, I think we are all similar at different times, at the moment I'm just flat about football as a whole, the agents, CL, stupid money being spent has sort of taken away the point as only a very few are truly able to compete for the top four and lets face it, in years gone by there was no talk of wanting to finish 4th, it was wanting to be 1st... as said, that is the CL to thank, not Villa's or MON's fault really! Ho hum!
The Fear
31/08/2009 17:54:00
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