Something For The Weekend (214)
The curse of the unforced error.
I suppose if Siddhartha Gautama went to so much trouble, on his way to Buddhahood, and spent so much time sitting under that Bodhi Tree, to overcome the human tendency to be the cause of our own suffering, then we should accept that the self-destructive urge is part of Man's nature.
How many times have we all blown that special moment - the interview, the chat-up line, even the simple hello? Personally, I am haunted by a lifetime of clangers - some trivial, some bizarre and some seriously karma-damaging.
So Sidwell's bloomer, last Sunday, was understandable, even if forgiveness was not the first emotion most Villa fans experienced - even the weather went from merely funereal to drenchingly disapproving, as if in response. Nicky Shorey's earlier bloomer had been a bad fluff at speed and under pressure, and though it was a bit of el-crapo play, it was slightly more forgivable than Sidwell's perfect pass, which proved fatal. Gareth Southgate was so embarrassed by his double-stroke of luck, that he had to pretend his side deserved all the points. He is learning his trade well.
Sidwell's momentary lapse, so near the end of the game, probably proves that he is not quite up to full fitness, just yet, and possibly fatigue was the main factor, in his momentary loss of concentration. I just hope he doesn't turn into Derek Mountfield, who seemed to score an own-goal every other game, in one bad season, I do my utmost to forget.
Judging by the look of Martin O'Neill during the post-match interview, who seemed to have been aged ten years by the disappointment, the fans weren't the only ones who saw the true meaning of Villa's second Premiership defeat in a week.
Two or three points from those games, would have given Villa a comfortable platform, from which to mount their real challenge, which comes in the next fortnight, as they take on Arsenal and Manchester United. A few extra points and a couple of decent performances would have achieved two things - increased their confidence slightly and increased the media-pressure substantially. We can only assume, that their disappointments, associated with the last time they were presented as likely to upset the odds, against Chelsea, were still uncomfortably fresh in their minds. Fatigue, and a few significant injuries seem to have done the rest.
The news of big John Carew's injury problems explains why he looked a little pedestrian against Slavia Prague, which the commentators were gracious enough to point out. Had he been available and on the end of the cross Sidwell did not score from, against Middlesbrough, then it's likely that the outcome would have been rather different.
Getting a point or maybe more at the Emirates looks more likely than Villa reversing the hoodoo Man United seem to have over them at Villa Park. Optimistic gamblers are often heard to say that Villa must beat them some time but I tend to think its always going to be next time, with the way things have had the habit of panning out.
Villa's luck at the Emirates has been rather different and what with Arsenal's preference for only scoring perfect goals, any team willing to scrap might reasonable be expected to get something from the game. With Arsenal's notorious lack of clog in the middle of the park, I think it is safe to assume that Reo-Coker will return, to tread on the Gunner's terpsichorean toes. I would like to see Guzan given a chance, just to see if he's as good as I think he is.
Of course the one good thing about Villa's problems, with a lack of a stand-in for Carew, is that it adds extra vigour to the fans' favourite pastime - speculating on who the club should buy to sustain the challenge in the new year.
There was even talk this week of Michael Owen, who, despite the eye-watering prospect of his wages, might actually work, especially if Villa retain the services of Gareth Barry, whose short-passing game, around the box, might provide the type of service, the ex-England hot-shot, might thrive on. He seems to have hardly played for Newcastle (50 odd) but when he did play, he has scored at a rate of very nearly one every other game.
Add another fifteen goals to Villa's tally and its tempting to believe that it would be enough to get Villa over the line, into that fourth spot.
The orthodoxy has it that when Martin O'Neill is looking for a striker, it's a case of the bigger the better, and remembering Hartson, Sutton, Heskey and Carew, it is a well founded prejudice but the name which tends to get overlooked is Tony Cottee, who was actually shorter than Owen.
But Owen, assuming he would be willing to come, would be an expensive gamble. This might prove a huge error, as regards, diverting resources away from more long-term solutions. And as every fan knows, the unforced errors of managers, are often more damaging to a football club, than any number fluffs, bloomers and cock-ups, by players.
Lets hope Martin does not have to under Bodhi tree to get that decision right.
Rather him than me.