At this point, you have to wonder where it is that Villa can go?

Aston Villa v Cardiff City Preview, written by Chris Austin

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I didn’t watch much of the West Ham game due to other commitments on the day but what I was able to catch was, quite frankly, awful. All the encouraging signs from the game against Everton swept away over the course of a very dull match in which Villa just didn’t seem to ever get out of first gear.

The match stats tell the damning story, as Villa mustered a mere two attempts on target (albeit one against the bar). Fortunately, on the day, West Ham were largely just as dire and I’m sure anyone who bought a ticket for that match is still bemoaning the other things they could have done instead like paint the bedroom, sort through their old collection of Fangoria or watch that Kasparov vs Short chess match from 1988.

As we have to say though, onwards and upwards. We’re at home this weekend to newly promoted Cardiff City – a team that arguably should have been promoted years ago but kept underperforming when it mattered (sounds familiar) – who are coming off the back of a massive victory over Swansea City in the first ever Premier League confrontation between two Welsh clubs; suffice to say, confidence and spirits will be high in the Bluebirds camp (even though they wear red now… yeah, I dunno either…).

In the Villa camp, probably not so much; not after our performance against West Ham and our previous home match ending in a 2-0 defeat despite us actually dominating a decent amount of the game. At this point, you have to wonder where it is that Villa can go?

I’m sure we all have our own opinions about why Villa are currently so inconsistent whether it be Lambert’s tactics, too many youngsters and not enough experience, the players simply not being up to the task or a combination of all of the above plus other things like interference caused by the Lunar pull on the Earth. The truth of the matter is that we have shown that we are better than this. We’re not the best club in the league, that much is obvious, but we have shown that we can compete with them; so why are we so damn frustratingly confusing?

What we can be certain of is that we need to start scoring goals. It has been over six hours since Villa last scored in the Premier League. We also need to start winning games and with our dire record at home a win over Cardiff could be just the tonic but I don’t foresee this being an easy task.

Cardiff will be on a high and have a decent squad whereas with Villa it seems to depend which team turns up on the day; let’s hope it is the good one because we cannot afford to drop points. The run through to Christmas is vital for us not to be heading into the new year casting a wary glance at the price of pies at the Riverside Stadium.

We need more, AVFC; please give it to us.

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Posted by upthevilla - 08/11/2013 at 5:05 pm

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‘We can create chances; The key is to take those chances’

Here is the latest piece by new Up the Villa contributor Chris Austin, where he looks at the West Ham game, and believes we can claim all three points.

After last weekend’s home defeat to Everton leaving Villa with only one point and no goals scored from their last three matches, the Villans are entering a crucial part of the season. The good news is that we have already played six of last season’s top seven, accumulating ten points. Wins against Arsenal and Manchester City have proven that despite our frailties we do have the capabilities to threaten.

The bad news is that those frailties still exist. After all this time when it has been obvious to all, our defence are still disorganised at times and lack concentration, our passing is still often ineffectual giving opposition sides opportunities that they shouldn’t have and too often we don’t have a lot to show for the chances we create.

So we head to West Ham, an injury riddled West Ham side. Now, I’m going to be honest, I really don’t like West Ham so I’m almost as satisfied with a win over West Ham as I am a win over Birmingham or West Brom. Without Matthew Taylor, Andy Carroll, Ricardo Vaz Te and Mladen Petric it has to be said West Ham are there for the taking but the midfield duo of Mark Noble and Kevin Nolan have the ability to control the midfield where we have been struggling so often as of late so this is still going to be a tricky encounter.

What the Everton game showed is that we can control a game for a period, that we can retain possession despite our poor possession-related stats and that we can create chances; the key is to take those chances.

For Villa, Agbonlahor , Antonio Luna and Joe Bennett are all likely not to feature due to injury which will likely mean Clark will start. It is also likely to mean that either Helenius or Kozak will feature instead of Agbonlahor if he isn’t fit.

Villa have a better away record than home record under Paul Lambert and conveniently West Ham have lost their last three home matches; on the flip side they haven’t suffered four consecutive home defeats since the 2005-06 season. Villa on the other hand of won five and drawn two of their last nine away league games.

These are the games we need to be taking points from in order to prevent the worrying situations we have faced at the end of the past couple of seasons. If we can match Everton for 60 or so minutes, we can beat West Ham but at the risk of repeating myself it is all about not repeating the same mistakes yet again – stay organised at the back, keep the pressure on and take the chances that we create.

And for all the more incentive to get a result, the oh-so-grateful Stewart Downing will be turning out for the Hammers.

UTV.

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Posted by upthevilla - 02/11/2013 at 10:00 am

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“All too often our passes seem lazy, uncoordinated and nervous”

Here is the latest piece by new Up the Villa contributor Chris Austin, where he analyses the Everton defeat. Where did it all go wrong?

Well I can admit when I’m wrong; in the end Aston Villa succumbed to a more clinical Everton side but it could have been so different. It is perhaps ironic that after bemoaning Villa’s inability to keep possession, when we finally do manage a period of dominant possession we find ourselves behind soon after.

We could and perhaps should have gone in to half-time ahead against Everton. Christian Benteke had a penalty impressively saved by Tim Howard. A wonderful, flowing and fast-paced move reminiscent of the Aston Villa side of the mid-noughties resulted in another impressive save from Howard to deny Benteke. Andi Weimann had a chance to himself to put the Villans one to the good but failed to capitalise on it, having done all the work he just seemed lost and confused. Did he think he was offside? He should have played to the whistle but it’s easy in hindsight to say what people should do.

Our major first half failing was down the left. Antonio Luna was regularly pulled out of position, allowing Kevin Mirallas chance after chance to exploit this area, while Romelu Lukaku was allowed all too often to terrorise our defenders. Guzan stopping a point-blank header and then denying Lukaku again after he already outwitted three defenders. Everton ruthlessly attacked the left, allowing them opportunities to attack Villa’s goal.

In the second half though Villa appeared to be slipping comfortably into control of the game. A more organised, direct Villa took to the pitch and started to dominate both possession and attempts on goal. Jagielka became Everton’s talisman, popping up on several occasions to deny Villa, and in particular a tiring Benteke, from taking advantage of this control. By the 61st minute, Villa had held 64% of the possession, keeping Everton’s offensive threats completely nullified while Delph, Benteke, Agbonlahor and at times Tonev looked set to make the breakthrough.

But it wasn’t too be. An all too familiar sight of a complete defensive concentration lapse saw our left flank exploited again, Ciaran Clark (brought on for the injured Antonio Luna) was pulled far out of position and Romelu Lukaku was left unmarked to punish Villa with devastating power. Guzan, arguably Villa’s man of the match in the first half, was left completely helpless and exposed.

A good response to going behind followed, with Agbonlahor having the best opportunity to equalise, however, his shot was straight at Howard. Everton would seal the victory with a demoralising second goal from a set-piece, again exposing Villa’s defensive frailties with a clever move by former Villan, Gareth Barry to tee up Leon Osman to make it 2-0.

After that, Villa were creatively bankrupt and posed no further threat. Everton’s experienced side were happy to knock it around and create a few chances while Villa were phased out of the game. Everton secured only their third Premier League victory at Villa Park at a canter but in reality a more clinical Villa could have taken this game.

It’s easy to look at the negatives after a result like this and I have highlighted many already. We are far too wasteful, both with chances and with possession. All too often our passes seem lazy, uncoordinated and nervous, leading to turning over possession easily. Our defence still seems as sturdy as a rickety bridge over a chasm and we quite desperately need to stop advertising how weak we are down the left. I believe that we need more ideas from set-pieces; all of our corners followed the same pattern that Lukaku and later Jagielka easily dealt with and yet the moment Everton changed something up from a corner, they scored. I would also say that Weimann’s awareness and ball control was sorely lacking at times today.

On the positive side, Delph again looked solid, a much needed creative spark in an otherwise vapid midfield while Benteke seems to add a much needed fire to Villa’s play. Tonev has potential but needs to look at his decision making and I am pleased that despite conceding two goals, Brad Guzan was largely a solid presence between the posts.

Despite all the encouraging signs and periods where we looked genuinely threatening, it’s still a defeat and we can only hope that the team will endeavour to learn from their errors.

Onward to West Ham.

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Posted by upthevilla - 26/10/2013 at 10:23 pm

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“We have the lowest average possession in the Premier League”

Aston Villa vs Everton, facts and thoughts ahead of Saturday:

With the media already drooling at the prospect of a ‘Battle of Belgium’ between the two young hotshots Christian Benteke and Romelu Lukaku, as well as Paul Lambert’s recent comments about how he attempted to bring Lukaku to the club last season, I thought I’d take a look at some of the history between Aston Villa and Saturday’s opponents, Everton.

Most of you are probably aware that Aston Villa and Everton have spent longer in the English top-flight than any other teams in the country. This also means that Aston Villa vs Everton is the most often contested league fixture. While the Football League celebrates its 150th anniversary this weekend these two storied clubs will play each other for the 197th time.

History favours Villa, with 72 victories compared to 71 and it seems fitting that heading into this fixture Villa and Everton are not that far apart in the league, albeit with a Merseyside edge at this early stage.

Everton travel to Villa Park five points clear of Aston Villa but the Villans have already played five of the sides that finished in the top seven last season, with Everton to become the sixth. It’s been a tough season thus far for our Villans and we should expect a tough game this weekend. Paul Lambert’s young lions haven’t favoured particularly well at home having only won six games since Lambert took the reins and possessing the dubious distinction of not keeping a home clean sheet in 15 Premier League home games whilst conceding a worrying 27 goals.

There are some positives though; Everton have only won one of their last twelve away games in the Premier League (a 3-2 victory over West Ham United) and have not kept a clean sheet themselves against Aston Villa in 18 league games. Before the meeting last season at Villa Park they hadn’t beaten Aston Villa in 13 games either. Seven of the past nine league meetings have resulted in a draw.

Villa have proven tough for Everton to beat and despite our losses to Tottenham in the Capital One Cup and the Premier League this season have thus far proven tougher to beat for our opponents than we were last season. We have also taken six points from two of this season’s Champions League entrants which is an encouraging turn of events.
Our Belgian beast Christian Benteke is slated to return for Villa this weekend and Ciaran Clark is also in contention after a period of illness leaving Paul Lambert with an almost full squad to choose from with Jores Okore, Gary Gardner and Charles N’Zogbia all sadly on the long-term injury list. We wish them all a full recovery.

While most pundits are predicting a draw or a narrow Everton victory, largely due to Villa’s (lack of) home form, if Benteke returns and Delph (who incidentally is the most fouled player in the league at the moment) continues his exceptional form that has earned him the plaudits of contemporaries Joleon Lescott and Micah Richards as of late, I can see Villa taking all three points.

In order to do that, however, we must hope that Villa have been working on keeping possession as currently we have the lowest average possession in the Premier League. While our counter-attacking style suits our players and has proven lethal already, we do need to be wary of letting teams come at our all too leaky defence.

A little more organisation and commitment in the centre of the park and I could see us winning on Saturday and a good result will be a nice confidence boost for the lads ahead of our trip to Upton Park next weekend.

As a side note, former Villa captain Gareth Barry is a likely starter for Everton.

This was the first post from new Up the Villa contributor Chris Austin (@TheVacantPage) and I’m absolutely delighted he’s agreed to come on board. Regular visitors to our Facebook page will be familiar with him, and he always has something worthwhile to say on the Villa. Look out for more posts from him in the future.

UTV!

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Posted by upthevilla - 25/10/2013 at 7:29 pm

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Villa youngster Jordan Graham the latest to receive high praise

It seems footballers are quite keen at the moment to praise our players via the medium of twitter. It was Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott the other day showing love for Fabian Delph, and this time around it’s former Villa man Darren Byfield, who after playing the Villa youth team, had high praise for Jordan Graham.

It appears Tamworth edged out the young lions 4-3, but the man of 1742 clubs had some good things to say about Graham. Here they are for those who haven’t seen it:

Byfield: Just played against Villa’s kids and all I will say is Villa fans can look forward to watching Jordan Graham #Baller

Byfield: Of course he will have to listen and work hard but if he does,he will be a top player,he has so much ability,tricky winger with pace

There will be some who think this kind of thing doesn’t really matter, but I always look at things like this favourably. Here’s a player who has been around the block to say the least, and he’s specifically picked up on the talents of one of our young players, surely bodes well.

Graham is just one of a host of young players at the club who could have very bright futures. That age group of course won the NextGen tournament last season, and although they rather criminally can’t defend that trophy, it was still a massive achievement for the players concerned and the club. Of course an endorsement by Darren Byfield doesn’t mean he’s destined for greatness, but he’s certainly one of a few that we have high hopes for.

We’ve also been in this position with plenty of other hot prospects, but there is real optimism with this lot. Let’s hope that a number of them can get loans out, or even better challenge the first team. The likes of Weimann, Baker and Clark have shown that it can be done, and Graham appears to have a good a shot as any.

UTV.

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Posted by upthevilla - 23/10/2013 at 1:57 pm

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Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott join the Fabian Delph appreciation club

Yesterday was sadly relatively predictable. Tottenham have turned into one of those sides we routinely struggle against, and despite a feeling we might be up for it following the Man City heroics, it was all a bit rubbish. It’s a sad state of affairs when you actually believe that your club has more of a chance playing away than at home, and it’s an ongoing trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

Ah well, one man that continues to impress is Mr Fabian Delph. It’s been a bit of a turnaround for him the last few months, and he’s impressed since last season really. He’s not the player I envisioned he’d be after we signed him from Leeds, and while he’s not the creative, goal scoring midfielder we desperately need, he’s a vital part of our side.

People have mentioned England plenty, but I can’t see that happening sadly, even though he probably deserves a shot. He featured in a Sky Sports ‘Unsung Heroes’ feature last week, and slowly but surely he’s getting more love from the wider world.

The two men in the title expressed their admiration for our walking yellow card via twitter, and here they are for you to see:

It wasn’t the win we all wanted, but it’s always nice to see our players given some love, especially by fellow professionals. We need plenty more in the side to step up to his level, and we could really push on.

UTV.

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Posted by upthevilla - 21/10/2013 at 1:57 pm

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Notts County fans have their say on Jack Grealish

He’s one of our highest-rated young players, and for a few years now us Villa fans have been very excited about him. He was a star in the NextGen tournament last season, and I really think he can go on to be an absolute star for us. It was a bit of a surprise that he went out on a loan deal in the first place, as I thought he might be around the first team squad, but seen as though he wasn’t, it makes perfect sense.

For someone so young he’s got a mature head on his shoulders, and in addition he loves the club. He’s got a bit of swag/arrogance about the way he plays, and isn’t afraid to put himself about. The coaches at Villa rave about him apparently, and he’s been mentioned on this site a number of times.

He’s gone on loan to Notts County, and by all accounts his debut was a bit of a success. He played a part in both goals in a 2 – 0 Notts County win, a win that was most welcome to the struggling club. I thought I’d have a look around and see what Notts County fans had to say on our young talent, and boy was it worth it. These views are taken from the Notts County FC forum (Forum Link)

“Had the game of his life this afternoon. Cracking player you’ve got there.”

“An unbelievable talent. Incredible performance today!”

“Was Man Of Match by a country mile.”

“We’ve had a few youngsters from Premier league teams over the past few years and they tend to look a bit lost.
Jack Grealish is pure quality and I can see him going all the way!”

“Cracking performance from Jack today,easily man of the match. Thats high praise as the overall team performance was excellent.”

“Im hoping now that Villa have a decent season and wont need him back. UP THE VILLA!! ;D”

“He’s a good player. I said the other night I thought we were unwise to be signing teenagers on loan in our current situation but I take it back on today’s evidence. Grealish is raring to take defenders on and plays without fear, in fact with a touch of arrogance. Shades of the impact Tom Ince made when he was with us.”

“Absolute class act today, very exciting player obviously born with masses of natural talent.

He went past players almost without any
effort whatsoever, that’s special.

Potentially a very big player in next couple of years for Villa.”

That’ll do eh?! Keep it up Jack! UTV.

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Posted by upthevilla - 23/09/2013 at 10:28 pm

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Maddeningly inconsistent…..Typical Villa

Boy are we a hard team to watch. Even when winning a game, 9 times out of 10 it isn’t overly fun, just because of the underlying fear that we’ll concede that inevitable late goal. I maintain and stand by the point that watching Villa try and see out a game is one of the worst things imaginable. Thankfully for us Villans we did see out the game, and what a massive three points that was.

Of course we also had the bonus of a clean sheet, and boy did Brad Guzan deserve it after that momentous performance. He was immense again, saving a penalty, commanding his box, and making one of the saves of the season late on….it really was sensational.

After the opening day win at Arsenal, some of us were predicting big things. Typically we lost our next three league games, sparking dramatics from plenty. You’ve all heard the clichés about this young team being up and down, and that will probably ring true. We’re maddeningly inconsistent as I write in the title, but I still hope we’ll be alright. Our home form is a massive worry, and it should never be the case that you prefer to see your team play away than home. Lambert needs to change things up me thinks at Villa Park, as we’re far too easy to play against.

We’ll be up and down plenty this season, and I’m sure it will be massively frustrating at times. There are still a few question mark over a number of positions, but I was encouraged to see us perform admirably without Benteke. It’s Man City next up, and that looks particularly daunting given today’s performance. Still we don’t have the worst record against them, so here’s hoping for another unpredictable result!

UTV.

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Posted by upthevilla - 22/09/2013 at 8:29 pm

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Are we happy then Villa fans?

So the transfer window is over for another year, and overall I think Villa did some pretty damn good business. Gone are the days of panic buying, and the possibility of some unknown signing because it makes us feel like we’re playing in a Poker tournament like the one we can find on bwin poker, we played it better this year than we normally do.

Amusingly enough it seemed some villa fans were unhappy with our business after the mass of signings early on, but I guess that’s to be expected really. I loved what we did this year, getting the right players in early, and I think that’s been reflected in our performances so far. 3 points from 3 games is average, but considering the teams we played, I’m more than happy. If we show that level of performance every game, we’ll be just fine this season.

Of course I would have liked more, and the latest signing of Libor Kozak is a pretty interesting one, but he seems to have something about him which I like. The mythical attacking midfielder would have been welcome, and we have a bit of a log-jam up front at the moment. Agbonlahor, Benteke and Weimann should start every week, so it be interesting to see how Lambert adopts some of these new faces into the mix.

So are we happy overall with the business done and our prospects ahead of the rest of this season? Personally yes, and I think that’s the same for many of you. I love the attitude of this team and manager, and like I said last season, hopefully that’s as bad as it gets for a long while. I’m not sure who I think will go down this campaign, and the league in general seems a bit stronger than last season, but then again so do we.

Anything above the position we finished last year would be a bonus in my opinion. We’ll probably get £30 million plus if Benteke moves on next summer, and Lambert would have a field day with that kind of money. All ifs and buts though, let’s enjoy what is hopefully a successful season.

UTV.

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Posted by upthevilla - 04/09/2013 at 1:48 pm

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More random links, but what do we need?

Firstly, it’s time for my usual apology for not updating as often as I would have liked. Busy times equal less posts, but hopefully I can get posting more often. As per, if anyone ever fancies contributing an article, feel free to get in touch.

What a start to the season eh? That 3-1 win at Arsenal was stunning, and despite losing twice since, I don’t think any of us could be too disappointed at the start we’ve made. It’s a bit of a cliché, but we all would have taken three points from the opening three games, so I guess that’s the best way to look at it.

Today we’ve seen a couple of links both in and out, and to be honest they are not really worth looking at in great detail. Aaron Cresswell is one, and even though the young left-back is highly rated, there’s little to no chance of us pursuing this. Luna has started the season well, and with Bennett in reserve, I think we’re set okay. In addition to this the likes of Baker, Clark and even Delph can drop in if needs be, so it’s probably one of our stronger positions in this day and age.

There are still ridiculous rumours linking Benteke away, but it’s not going to happen. Hopefully not anyway. We have just less than a week left of the window, so what do we need? I’m hoping we make at least another purchase, because I think the right kind of player could make a massive difference to us. Keeper is obviously set, and most of the defence is fine. Personally I’d like another right-back potentially, because I feel we’re a bit short there if Lowton was to ever miss a game. Herd can fill in, but a utility player a la Lichaj wouldn’t go amiss.

It’s midfield I think we could certainly do with another figure, and for me an attacking player would be ideal. Obviously easier said than done, but a Stephen Ireland type player (when he had that one good season), could be huge for us. We’re in desperate need of adding someone with goals in them, and I’ve said it many times on this fair site, but if we had someone who could get us ten goals or so from that area, we’d be laughing. Against Liverpool we didn’t really have someone who looked capable of breaking the opposition down, and despite restricting the Reds to one shot on target, we still lost.

Here’s hoping we sign someone of that ilk, because combined with the rest of our hard working squad, and the talent up top, we could really do something special by signing the right kind of player.

Who would you like to see come in?

UTV.

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Posted by upthevilla - 27/08/2013 at 1:29 pm

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