Overall I thought last season’s drubbing at St James was a better performance by Villa. Having said that it was a competitive game and Newcastle narrowly deserved it. Here are some thoughts from the match.
Early on Villa was playing decent balls up to Bent. Once he got the ball, and was winning a lot of them, he was getting the ball to Keane or the mids and was being supplied back with great through balls. He had 3 chances to score, but did not take them. Once Newcastle figured it out it was relatively easy. Don’t worry about Keane, just stop the supply to Bent. It worked. Not only that, but the passes up to him were becoming more and more like hoofs and getting more and more wayward anyway.
Laurel and Hardy: Certainly, Laurel was there in full force today. Warnock was wretched. Getting caught in possession on the half way line when you are the last player back. What was that? Crossing was awful. Just cannot wait for Enda Stevens to get Premiership ready. Not so much criticism for Hardy. But, trying to surge into the Newcastle box by kicking the ball 10ft ahead of you, like you are the Scottish Cafu? Not smart.
How many times did the Newcastle defenders win the ball out in the channels and kept it from going for a corner or throw? Then play it out of defence? That was not very smart work by the advanced players, who should have been putting pressure on them, not letting them just turn.
Ciaran Clarke. A lot of people on VillaMad’s website (http://boards.footymad.net/forum.php?tno=31&fid=37&sty=2) have been saying lately he looks lost like a headless chicken in midfield. I like him there to be honest. But, I saw yesterday what they meant. The kids got bundles of talent. He tackles well. Villa need to decide what they want the future of this lad to be and give him the tools to achieve it.
Talking of the coaching, who is that Peter Grant character? I know nothing about him. Does he have decent credentials? All I see when I watch him is that he reminds me of George W Bush and that instills less confidence from me unfortunately. What is he telling Alex McLeish throughout the game? Is he telling him we need to go over to the opponents half and carpet bomb their airport?
McLeish, meanwhile. We are the fans, you are the manager. Fans watch the keeper take the goal kick and watch the ball through the air until it lands on someone’s head. The manager is supposed to watch how the opponents are lined up, what runs their midfielder making, or not making, to support their striker and what our midfielder is doing about it. Is our centre half getting into the right positions to win the ball? Twice the camera showed McLeish just watching the ball sail over his head.
Having said that, I am starting to see the team developing under him. It is just too damn slow. We are just a few points above the drop zone and teams below us are picking up points. Who is going to replace Keane as he seems to knit the side together and knows the way to goal. Keane was instrumental in getting the defenders to stop lumping the ball down the field and to play it.
Carlos. Welcome back to the team. Apart from the odd rash challenge and the fact that you still haven’t learned how to pass, it was good to have you back. Dunne, meanwhile baffles me. I have become used to him making 1 or 2 costly mistakes every couple of games. I like that he is the only centre half that can get the ball down and play and sometimes he makes intelligent passes. Yesterday, he surged through and played a pass to Bent that Lampard, Gerrard and even Cruyff would have been pleased with. But, it must have gone to his head as he kept trying to surge, ending up with a booking for a tackle from behind after losing control and he kept trying the spray passing, ending up with about 5 wasted passes into touch.
Bannan and Gardner both looked good. Gary is having the same bad luck, Craig had when he first got into the team. Eventually, they’ll go in for him and watch out. Bannan needs to realize not every pass has to be brilliant. Just good. But, he was hard for their midfield to handle and he has very good vision.
Dodgy keeper? I don’t think any keeper was keeping those two goals out. Although if Dunne had stayed on the line instead of joining Given and Cuellar in rushing at Demba Ba he might have got and outstretched boot to it. But, he had a split second to decide what to do. Back to Given. I am not happy with his distribution. He is not skilled on the ball. I actually liked the way Guzan tried to keep the ball at the back and let the defenders work the ball downfield. Given tries to pick out players with soft lobs, that just aren’t accurate. Plus, I prefer Guzan’s chances of saving the penalties we always look like we about to give away.
N’Zogbia. Where have you been hiding? I saw a lot more of the stuff I saw at Wigan. Drive into the box, use cuts and watch the penalties start to come. You’ve always had the talent, son. Use it.
Benty, Benty Benty! What is with the chasing back and tackling from behind? I love the hustle. But, it got us knocked out of the cup last week and got you booked this one.
Somebody please visit the VillaMad site and tell me why I should have more faith in Peter Grant..