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Dave’s Villa Blog

VILLA PAYING THE PRICE OF JANUARY GAMBLE

18-03-2008

Villa’s recent run of poor form has left them slouching behind Everton in the quest for a UEFA cup spot. Dave Woodhall reflects on manager Martin O’Neill’s January gamble which may now be backfiring.

One point from two matches last week made me wonder if the team aren’t running out of steam at just the wrong time. We were certainly poor against Middlesbrough, who according to the script should have been still getting over their FA Cup exit, yet in the end were the better side and unlucky not to beat us.

We needed a debatable penalty and some poor finishing from Gareth Southgate’s team to get a point. And when did George Boateng become a midfield dynamo?

Then on Saturday at Portsmouth we played a lot better but sadly for us, David James is in the best form of his career and Scott Carson, er, isn’t. To make matters worse Olof Melberg got sent off so we’ll be without him for a game soon.

By all accounts Fratton Park hasn’t changed much. It still rains every time we go there and facilities are still Victorian. Worst of all that twat with the bell hasn’t been sectioned yet. At least there’s a roof on the away end now.

Villa’s current problems are two-fold – we aren’t scoring enough goals and we’re letting too many in. I know it sounds simplistic, but that’s the truth. Gabby Agbonlahor’s off form and John Carew invariably looks less than fit. Our defence, with Scott Carson looking less sure of himself by the game, is incapable of keeping a clean sheet.

Just to balance things up, midfield hasn’t been too clever lately either, with Gareth Barry and Nigel Reo-Coker too similar types of player and our only creativity coming via the mercurial feet of Ashley Young. We’ve got too many players in the team who should be rested but there’s no-one to take their place.

Eight games to go and it’s time for another cliché to be wheeled out – they’re all cup finals. As things stand we’re seven points behind Everton and their goal difference is better. We’ve got to win our four home games (all of which are against relegation candidates), get at least a point at Goodison and hope for wins at Derby and West Ham.

We’ve also got Manchester United away, but anything there will be a bonus. It’s hard, but not impossible.

It says a lot about the managerial ability of Martin O’Neill that finishing seventh and only getting into the Intertoto Cup would be seen as a disappointment. However, that’s what it would be after a season that has shown just how much potential this Villa side have got.

Not strengthening the squad in January, whether it was because the right players weren’t available or Martin wouldn’t pay the prices asked and refusing to buy second choices, was a risky strategy that needed our luck with injuries to hold.

As the season reaches its climax, it looks as though the gamble might not have worked.

Check out Dave’s website Heroes and Villains http://www.heroesandvillains.net/ and the Villa fanzine of the same name.

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