Sixer’s Soapbox: Aston Villa good value for the win

Malcolm Dawson writes: With £10 tickets available via season card holders, a healthy crowd of over 41,515 turned up for this one. The majority, Pete Sixsmith included, were hopeful of a turnaround in fortunes and took their seats looking forward to an opportunity for the Lads to finally stamp their authority on a game there for the taking. Certainly the Villa fans I spoke to before the match expected to lose and had travelled up more in hope than expectation. An early goal ruled out for offside provided false optimism and it wasn’t long before normal service was resumed. Sixer takes up the story………….

Well, there’s another opportunity to kick start the season gone. Continuing the motor cycling analogies, the cylinders are all furred up, the steering is shot and the wheels are about to fall off.

Harsh? I don’t think so.

This was a game that we needed to win or at least not lose. As Gabriel Agbonlahor bundled the ball over the line 40,000 supporters realised that was that; a win was about as likely as Chelsea doing anything with dignity and grace.

The goal came from a full back putting in a deep cross which eluded Bardsley at the far post. Standing there, unmarked, was the very impressive Christian Benteke, whose header back across the goal was met by the onrushing Agbonlahor. That was it, 0-1 and game over.

Look at how they scored. A deep cross from the full back – something we rarely do. Our crossing was atrocious all afternoon, with Johnson and Bardsley the chief culprits.

A centre forward unmarked at the far post. Fletcher is rarely in this position because the approach work is so one paced that when a ball is knocked in, he is tightly marked. Vlaar and Clark defended as well as they needed to and were never once put under any real pressure.

The header back across goal, met by the onrushing Agbonlahor. Our second forward, be it the ever so disappointing Sessegnon or Saha, are rarely in position to pick up any knock downs because they play so deep. Plus we never get the ball into the box quickly enough.

We were playing a team short on confidence but who had what we do not – pace and the ability to carry the ball into space and then spread it. When Villa broke with the impressive Stephen Ireland (not words that go naturally together) there was support from the full backs and his midfield colleagues, Westwood and Bannan.

They were willing to support and move the ball on, and as we desperately pushed for an equaliser, that never looked likely to come, they were able to take advantage of the gaps that began to appear.

By the end of the game we were “playing” something that looked like 2-6-2 which is a good combination for steam engine wheel arrangements, but football wise one that shows how desperate we had become. And desperation rarely gives goals in the super charged atmosphere of the Premier League.

Once again, players were found lacking when they needed to perform. Once again, our tactical plan was limited and easy to counter. Two sides below us in the rankings have taken advantage of our ponderous style in successive home games and home games have to be won if interest is to be maintained. How many of those with £10 tickets yesterday, would be tempted to buy an 11 game season card or even come back for another tenner a game deal?

Click here for the Martin O’Neill ‘Team of all Talents’ mug: £9.50, post-free for UK buyers, from the Salut! Sunderland Shop

Eleven months ago, we appointed the manager that the vast majority of Sunderland fans wanted. For three months, we were a breath of fresh air, playing controlled football and skipping up the league.

Last season faded away as players became mentally and physically tired, but the addition of Fletcher and Johnson was supposed to freshen it up. At the moment, Johnson is rivalling Torre Andre Flo as the most expensive flop in the club’s history and questions are being asked about whether he really wants to be at Sunderland or were we the only option he had when Manchester City decided that they could get along nicely without him.

The real worry though is the chronic lack of movement and pace in the side. Cattermole had an excellent game yesterday and showed that he is an effective player and captain. But he is not a player who makes things happen and we have nobody who can do that.

He had Craig Gardner alongside him yesterday, a move that was greeted with approval by people much more knowledgeable about the game than me. He failed dismally to make any impression on the game and is now in the same box as Vaughan and Saha as players who have not taken opportunities when presented with them and who should be thinking about where their future lies.

Eventually Jack Colback joined Cattermole in midfield, moving from the left back position he had taken from Danny Rose, dropped for “tactical reasons” according to Nick Barnes. The snort of derision from Gary Bennett when his colleague revealed that says more than a thousand words and probably marks a turning point in the excellent Bennett’s attitude towards O’Neill.

Jake knows it will be a long winter

We now have two away games at Everton and Fulham. These two are standing in the upper reaches of the league table, with excellent home records and with players who can create opportunities and score goals. They fought out an exhilarating and exciting 2-2 draw at Craven Cottage yesterday. Moyes and Jol must be quietly optimistic about their chances of picking up three points as they mount a mid season push for Europe .

On the other hand, Martin O’Neill must be wondering whether he made the right decision to come back to work. What he does to arrest this worrying and potentially catastrophic slide is beyond me.



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15 thoughts on “Sixer’s Soapbox: Aston Villa good value for the win”

  1. I agree Alan we have been woeful for most of this season but let’s not forget after the Man City game at the end of March last season were very absolutely rotten as well.

  2. I think Sixer sums it up perfectly. I agree with all his observations and that is exacttly as I saw the game as well.

    Whether that is a ‘great minds think alike’ or ‘fools seldom differ’ moment is up for debate.

    My main concern is the complete lack of urgency or tempo when in posession. Any time we broke with any kind of purpose and looked to counter attack we seemed to stop at about the halfway line and end up passing back to the keeper.

    I still have faith that MON can turn this around and at least get us safe for this season which sadly now has to be number 1 priority .

    However I have to say I was rather shocked at MON’s after match comments in which he claimed we had plenty of chances and didn’t deserve to lose. From where I was sitting we had maybe 3 decent chances and could probably still be playing now and not have scored. We generally looked clueless for most of the game.

    And now on to Everton…deep joy ..we know what happens every time we go to Goodison.More abject misery…

    • I tottaly agree with you John but it is not one game we are playing like this it is every game I can honestly say we have not played well any game this season if ime wrong people have been watching a different team to me.

  3. If he’s not gonna use Ji or Whickham, just as SB bought them and wouldn’t use them, then he should put them on sale in January and try to do better for whatever money they bring. They seldom if ever even get on the bench these days.

  4. The trouble is as I have said it on many occasion we have pedestrian back four that take an hour to push up to the half way line and are content to sit around on the 18 yard line and a midfield with no creativity in it you would think they get a nose blead if they reach the opponents 18 yard area I lost count how many times fletcher had to go out wide to get involved in the game like I say Gardner colback Cuerlar Larson are not good enough I can’t see why Ji and Whickam are not given a chance when you look at the bench ie cambell has not got a clue if the players played with as much passion as there manager we we would be in the top six I watched MON on sat and he was going crazy with them to the players I say get your fingers out or get out you do not deserve to ware the shirt .

    • Alan,
      I cannot see Ji or Whickam as any sort of answer,in fact Id lay bets itd be far worse.MON has just got to get these players going somehow though as each week passes I see that option fading.

      • I’d prefer Wickham to Campbell. Wickham can be a handful and is more likely to score than Campbell I think Ji needs to build himself up physically & mentally, but has good potential.

      • Vince so you think the likes of Gardiner head down 10 steps fire and shoots is or Larson can’t beat the first man when taking corners or free kicks is or even colback who runs side wards 10 yards then back to the goal keeper is I don’t think so a new face in the side might help we did it last year with McLean and whicham has been nocking the goals in for the reserves and under 21 we need to change the way or it will be doom and gloom believe me.

  5. We are missing a bit of zip in midfield…just watched Liverpool vs Mags and you have to say our play looks positively pedestrian by comparison and they are not even top table teams.

    On paper it looks good but on grass it’s not working.Passing is poor movement is poor and crosses into the box poor, as stated.Bardsley is quite adept at hitting crosses BEHIND our strikers…no use at all…..Corners are just as bad.Why was Johnson taking free kicks when Larssons’s are sublime,at one point first half Johnson treked the width of the pitch left to right to take a free kick while Larsson stood beside him,only for it to cannon off the first Villa defender…infuriating.

    Johnson is also far too slow to release the ball and seems to want to take his time to get the killer ball in, which defenders are naturally unwilling to give him.I hope it just a fitness issue or else we have just blown £10 million.

  6. Peter
    A well written account as always.
    I honestly fear the worst for our club under the current regime of MON and Short with relegation a certainty on current form.
    I would love to know who is advising Short footballing wise. (Have a look at the current board on SAFC .com). It is very coincidental that since Sir Niall left our club on 20/02/2012 that results have dropped alarmingly. Our current Chief Executive Margaret Byrne is conspicuous by her silence

  7. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said we are playing “too deep”. This is exactly it. MON is primarily defensive minded and like to get players behind the ball. Thats the priority. This logically leads to us not conceding much.
    But, what we need is people around and in the box so we can score. I don’t think a MON team is going to give anyone a “hiding” in terms of goals.

    I am not a huge Gardner fan and would like to see someone like Vaughn come in. Trouble is, Vaughn is not consistent at all. On his day, he can dictate play etc, but often its not his day (like it was rarely Kenywn Jones’s day”.

    Where we might disagree is Cattermole. His game is not to be a flashy creative midfield player, but a guy who brings steel into defence and can break up other team’s attacks. That’s his bag. And we miss him when he’s out. We could have done with him in the N’cle game.

    I also disagree about the Flo – JOhnson comparison. Johnson has real quality and his time will come. And he’ll get us goals too.

  8. Reading this as a Villa fan, I think that the biggest difference between us under O’Neill and you guys is that whilst our play was one dimensional, we could rely on the pace of Gabby and Ashley Young with Carew being the outlet. Fletcher is a good outlet, but the lack of real pace seems to be your downfall in O’Neill’s standard way of playing.

    Please also bear in mind that in four years at Villa, we only won more than half of our home games on one occasion and so you need to be picking up points away as hi methods do not lend themselves naturally to breaking down teams that sit a little deeper.

  9. Hi Villa fan in peace.
    Interesting article.I do think you put in some decent crosses yesterday and that at times your forwards were able to hold the ball up and try and make things happen , the trouble is, under O Neill Villa were very one dimensional going forward at Villa Park. Lots of what you said i remember thinking about us too.No full backs overlapping, no threaded balls from midfield, crosses coming in too late and being predictable to deal with. Away it was different, we hit teams on the counter Do you at least have that? You seemed to last season with Sessegnon Oneill gave us 3 6th place finishes in a row, true, great, but we are still paying for that now financially.Guzan was then our no. 2 He was on 40K p.w.he now happily plays as our first choice for 15k.Need we say any more?Randy trusted him too much , with wages and signings.We will both stay up. How grateful we should be is the question.
    Regards
    Frank

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