Thoughts and issues regarding the past and present of a great football club by "The Chronicler".

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

What a L-o-n-g Wait!

Having recently gone through a spate of not scoring (seven-plus hours' worth) we now seem to have to wait till late on before we see the Villa scoring at all. Shaun Long seemed to make the wait even longer! We at least found some great relief in this one as Albion could have been streets ahead before Villa made the subs and then found the net. We're still very much a work-in-progress but at least a bit more resilience is now on offer. 

I am bemused by Lambert. We've seen how Bacuna shows up more when he's further forward, yet he's slotted back at r-b in this match and virtually gifted their second goal. But it's the midfield that mainly needs attention i.m.o., and I'm thinking that this formation might be more successful:

Lowton Vlaar Baker Clark
Bacuna Sylla Westwood Delph 
Benteke Gabby

We need to acquire more points before Man U arrive in mid-December, but the matches against Sunderland, Swansea and Southampton are by no means walk-overs. If we gain five points out of those matches we'll be doing very well.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Zzzz ... what?! ... who scored?!

Seven hours of non-scoring from the Villa is enough to send any Villan to sleep, but what a way to be woken up when Bacuna's finely judged free kick hit the net with their keeper rooted to the spot! And it was then good to see a player other than Benteke score from open play to provide a decent scoreline. Not that I don't want Benteke to score, but hype has led to the expectation of goals coming purely from CB, a situation that would not be ideal.

But the recent lack of goals has led to questions. Is it that Gabby and Andy have been off-form is perhaps the first obvious question. And I would say that there is an element of truth there as both players have missed chances that at the end of last season would have been put away. But the major issue for me has been the lack of quality (other than Delph) in midfield.

Against Cardiff yesterday, at a crucial point in the game, Lowton was brought on and Bacuna was given chance to move forward. That simple change seemed to make a big difference; Villa hit two goals in the ensuing 10 minutes - and might have added more. When Delph returns, perhaps his partnership with Bacuna might be more productive, at the expense of one of the other two.

We have been thinking that the fixture list has become a bit easier now, but we have difficult upcoming away games between now and December at Albion and Southampton, with potential banana-skin matches against Sunderland and Fulham. How well Villa do in these four matches before the visit of Man U will, in my opinion, be a good indicator as to what level we have really reached.

We can - as always - continue to hope!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Wanted - a Captain Marvel!

Oh, were it possible to bring back Johnny Dixon (or Martin Laursen)!

Watching the Villa play as they are now (and over the last 3 years) is a little bit painful for me. My thoughts go back to the Fifties and Sixties when the play and results could sometimes be equally dispiriting, but the feeling then was that there was enough passion and pride on the field that would carry the club through. That super-confidence nearly had disastrous results, of course, and it took the revolution of 1968-69  to change the club's direction.

But in my early days as a Villan, the club was able to call on the influence of mature midfield players and captains like Johnny Dixon and Vic Crowe to drive the team, and their example was always capable of turning round a match. And Villa Park was a great fortress in those days; apart from the worst years in Villa's history, it was only the best teams that could be given a chance of gaining a win at Villa Park.

What a change to the recent record, which shows less than 25% wins and 50% defeats at Villa Park over the last 3 years.

During the club's best ever period (say from 1880 to 1930), Villa achieved what they did as a result of great captaincy on the field, as well as the playing method they utilised. I almost drool when I think of the affect of captains like Archie Hunter, John Devey, Joe Bache, Frank Barson, Frank Moss and Billy Walker. And without exception these players influenced the team from either midfield or attacking positions. Before anyone says "Ah, but Frank Barson was a centre-half", I must point out that Frank was of the 'old school' of centre-halves - they were defenders as well as midfielders until the 'stopper' centre-half came into being.

To my mind, captaincy should come from the midfield area of the team. Dennis Mortimer, Kevin Richardson and Andy Townsend were perhaps the best captains in the club's 25 year period to year 2000, and they were all midfielders. Later we had Martin Laursen, of course, but he was such a strong man that it mattered little where he skippered from. We miss him, in my opinion.

In last season's January purchasing 'window', I strongly felt that the club should have purchased a mature and capable midfielder to come in and guide the players. Methinks Villa's team has too much youth and not enough leadership, and a Gareth Barry was (and is) just what is needed in my view.

The team will gain the experience needed if they are given chance, but I sometimes feel that today's team managers overlook some of the well-learnt principles of what seems like eons ago ... when Aston Villa ruled the football world. (Sigh)