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Sunday, 2 January 2011

Cause to be optimistic?

Hard to say...

No doubt an improved performance on the previous few games and there were opportunities to score more goals.  However there are still a few basic things that need to improve.

Four centre backs looked very solid - Richard Dunne looked very sharp after his 'rest', and both Cuellar and Clark did a good job at full back, even venturing down the wings to support attacks.  Friedel was fantastic in goal - he didn't deserve to concede 3 but was rightly rewarded with the Man of Match award.  Emile Heskey was also a handful and Petrov and Reo-coker controlled midfield to a greater extent than any other central midfield pairing all season. 

Those that know me will wonder where this positive spin has come from, well here is concern:

Ball control.  Quite simply Villa cannot keep possession of the ball.  Too many times players were caught on the ball and on too many occasions the ball was given away by wayward passes.  Luckily, Chelsea were even more guilty of this and most of their second half possession was wasted.  Gabby on the wing was a good idea, and going forward he provided a bit more pace and direct running that has been seriously lacking.  However, he wasn't so good at tracking back and often left Clark (quickly becoming my favourite player) exposed at the back.  Ashley Young had a quiet game, but there wasn't too much of the diving and moaning that he's displayed at other points of the season.  Downing looked like he might have threatened, but a few shots straight at the keeper, followed by a couple of wayward shots seemed to knock his confidence.

That's all I have to complain about, and my overall assessment of the match is generally positive - a more solid defensive display (even with conceding 3!?!), a bit more constructiveness in going forward and excellent spirit.  A few players in this month a Villa can start looking up again.

Added to this the very positive article by Mat Kendrick (Birmingham Mail) about the overhaul to Villa's scouting system and we begin to see why Houllier was more than simply the 'best choice available'.

A busy Christmas/New Year has delayed my comments on the Queen's speech/World Cup decisions, but it should come soon.

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