So much has already been said since our captain Stiliyan Petrov announced his retirement from football earlier on, and the outpouring of love and support goes to show how much people appreciate the man and everything he’s accomplished, and will continue to accomplish. The news that he’s due to lead the team in their lap of honour after the match will make the last home game even more special, and you can be pretty sure the 19th minute will be cheered louder than normal.
It’s not a surprise, but it’s still a sad sad day. I was always a fan of the player, and felt that early doors, he got a bit of an unfair rap from sections of the Villa support. You only have to look how much we miss him to understand his influence both from a playing point of view, and a leadership perspective. Keeping the ball is vitally important in football, and Petrov did that better than most. He kept us ticking along, and was a steadying influence throughout his tenure. You can only imagine the impact he would have made in this young side.
He also popped up with some classic goals, and I still maintain if a player from a more fashionable club had scored THAT goal against Derby, it would be held much higher than it is. 45 yards out, half volley, top corner and on your weaker foot? Way better than Beckham’s which we see repeated all the time in my opinion, though I am naturally a bit biased.
I was fortunate enough to meet him once, and while I was like a Justin Bieber fan-girl barely able to speak (though without the screaming I may add), he was as nice as everyone says he is, and it was a great experience. We wish him well now and in the future, and I’m sure his foundation will do great work.
Thank you Stan.
Nice to see an ex Villan showing support for Brad Guzan, who had an extremely successful night at the awards ceremony, winning both the the Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the Year prizes. We talked about Guzan yesterday after his ridiculous link with West Ham, and what a successful season he’s had. And despite the amount of goals we’ve conceded, his two awards are certainly justification for the improvements he’s made.
Brad Friedel is the player in question, and he’ll know more than most the talent the younger Brad possesses. Guzan was of course number two to Friedel during his spell here, and after his treatment by MON in the Cup Final when he was dropped despite playing all of the games beforehand, it’s a good thing he’s still here. As I said yesterday I always viewed him as one of the very best reserve keepers around, but fair play to the man he’s gone from strength to strength. Here is the tweet from Friedel, for those who may have missed it:
Huge well done to Brad Guzan for his Aston Villa player of the year honour.Fully deserved!!!
— bradley h friedel (@friedel_b) May 8, 2013
I really hope we add some defenders in the summer, because Guzan probably doesn’t deserve to concede so many goals, or keep so few clean sheets. We’ve tightened up, but I’d still never fancy us to stop the opposition scoring in many games. Another centre-back is needed in my opinion, and it will be interesting to see who we end up with this summer. Still that’s another debate for another time, and we pass our congratulations on to Guzan, and the other winners from last night.
As you will probably know, I’m a sucker for transfer speculation. There are some stories that just leave you shaking your head, and wondering where the link was plucked from, and this is certainly one of them. The Sun have an ‘exclusive’ (I’m not sure what difference that makes to the story) claiming that Brad Guzan is top of West Ham’s shopping list, with a figure of £5 million mentioned (Link).
It just doesn’t make sense on a whole host of levels, not least that despite the amount of goals we’ve conceded this season, Guzan has been one of our best players, and completely turned his career around at the Villa. He might well have been our man of the match when we lost massively against Chelsea, and that speaks volumes. Without him it could easily have been 15-0, and that isn’t an exaggeration. He’s vocal, he’s a beast in the box and rarely makes mistakes (thankfully he got away with one on Saturday). Here are a few lines from the Sun’s report:
‘BRAD GUZAN is top of Sam Allardyce’s summer shopping list.
West Ham boss Big Sam has still not signed a new contract, but is planning for next season — and Aston Villa keeper Guzan is a priority.
Allardyce and his scouting team have been impressed by the American No 1, 28, but they will find it difficult to persuade Villa to cash in.’
Jussi Jaaskelainen is a good keeper, though obviously coming to the end of his career, and they may very well be after a new number one. Guzan just doesn’t make sense though, and if we stay up (it will be a minor miracle if we drop now) I think he’ll be more than happy to stay here. He clearly enjoys it, gets on well with the fans and is now number one after Lambert gave him his chance. I always thought he was one of the best number two keepers in the country, and he’s surprised me with how well he’s done.
He could easily be our number one for the best part of a decade, and if West Ham are interested, we have a reserve keeper in Shay Given you’re more than welcome to have.
The first of these will be absolutely no surprise, and that player is Christian Benteke. The other is slightly more difficult to work out, as there were a few players who were simply sublime last night, but it will be no surprise when I tell you it’s Mr Matt Lowton.
I wrote in our piece last night how impressed I was with the right-back, and how he deserved special praise despite Benteke stealing the bulk of the headlines with that hat-trick. Lowton was sensational, and for us Villans his form is no surprise as he’s simply got better and better this season. To make the move up from league one, and play every minute of every game and not look out of place is testament to the talent he possesses.
He’s a perfect modern right-back, more than capable defending and gets forward very well, as perfectly illustrated for Weimann’s goal last night. I honestly don’t think an England call-up is beyond the realms of possibility, but I’d be more than happy for him to stay in the background for now.
The players appear in the Who Scored team of the week, with Matt Lowton scoring 9.5 out of 10, and Benteke scoring a perfect 10. Benteke is also named in the BBC team of the Week, but Steven Reid gets the nod at right back ahead of Lowton, for real.
Good ol’ Garth Crooks has said the following, but I think that fee wouldn’t even come close to signing our Belgian powerhouse:
‘I wonder if Villa would dare turn down an offer of £20m, because it is not out of the question.’
Obviously biased, but I think £25 million should be the absolute minimum if anyone is interested in signing the big man. Obviously Carroll was a freak exception, but that’s the money we should be asking for, because I’m sure most fans and managers would prefer Benteke in their sides.
So well done to both, and I hope all you fans are still buzzing after last night. Here are a few Benteke tweets to wrap things up, and these further highlight the impact he has made:
13 – The only players in the big 5 European leagues to score more league goals than Benteke in 2013 are Messi (18) & Ronaldo (17). Exalted.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 29, 2013
Christian Benteke: Has scored or assisted a higher proportion of his team’s goals (52.4%) than any other player in the PL this season
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 30, 2013
Missing out a few things about Pavarotti but this was essentially what Paolo Di Canio said about his sides trip to Villa Park….Safe to say he got that one wrong. To be fair I also got it slightly wrong with my post earlier saying how I feared Sunderland, and that one goes into UTV infamy which also includes my now classic piece claiming that Randy Lerner would never appoint Alex McLeish.
Wow what a night. What a night. I’m still pretty stunned to be honest, and rather than celebrating like a mad-man as the goals went in, I was kind of dazed by what I was witnessing. We’ve been on the end of some thrashings this season, but finally we gave one out, and what a night to do so. Coupled with Newcastle’s heavy defeat we’re actually above them in the table, and who would have thought that going into this round of fixtures.
It was an example of just how good we can be, and if we do stay up, then good times could be coming back to Villa Park. This is the important season, and we’re oh so close to securing safety now. I think a point might be enough, as Wigan have a run of games coming up, including the small matter of an FA Cup final. 3 points would take us to the magical 40 points mark, and that should surely be that. Hopefully we get there this weekend, because like I said the thought of going to Wigan needing something is pretty terrifying.
Benteke will take the plaudits, and he was once again class. What a signing, and what a future he has. I was impressed with Sylla in the middle, and thought he combined well with Westwood and Delph. Gabby and Weimann were both excellent, and deserved their goals, with Agbonlahor now breaking the record for most goals scored by a Villan in the Premiership.
Special praise for Matt Lowton though. I wrote this piece a few weeks ago mentioning how I don’t think he’s too far away from an England call-up, he really is a class act (Link). He’s played every minute this season, he’s consistently good and only getting better.
Enjoy this one Villans, it’s been a special night, and offers a tantalising glimpse of what we’re capable of.
To be fair, I fear most sides before we play them, and this includes the likes of Bradford. It’s very rarely I go into a game with any confidence that we’ll be able to secure a result, and I guess that’s pretty typical for the majority of Villa fans. Going into this huge match against Sunderland, I’m once again nervous, and this time it’s for a whole host of reasons.
We’re not in an ideal position, but it’s our oppositions new manager that has got me concerned. With Martin O’Neill in charge I was convinced the Black Cats could drop. They had a tough run-in, and looked devoid of any confidence and a win looked a long way away. Sadly our former manager was rubbish at his job and got sacked, and the only good thing that came out of that was the fact that people will hopefully stop worshipping the ground he walks on….he’s a massively overrated manager.
When Di Canio was appointed as Sunderland manager the majority of Villa fans seemed delighted, thinking that this would somehow guarantee relegation for our rivals (same with the Southampton situation). I personally thought it was a stroke of genius, because who better to get a team firing than someone like Di Canio? The guy appears crazy, gets players going and short-term, that’s all that matters. Will he work out next season and beyond? Who knows, but I feared that he’d get them unified and picking up results, and so it’s proven.
After Wigan’s draw, a point once again wouldn’t be the worst result in the world, as it’s another game off the list. A win though and I think that might be that, so it really is a massive game. A loss would be a mini-disaster, and I really don’t want us to have to go to Wigan and get something.
Villa Park will probably be uber tense tonight, Di Canio will get plenty of stick, and here’s hoping he doesn’t get the win that will come with inevitable gestures towards the Villa faithful.
Come on you lions.
Slightly trivial, but after thinking Matt Lowton was a near enough certainty for goal of the season, RVP popped up last night with his own contender, because scoring a hat-trick and beating us didn’t appear to be enough. I asked for peoples opinions on Twitter, and once again the response has been top. Again feel free to sound off in the comments below, and let us know what you think.
Given this is a Villa blog you may think that the responses will go one way, and by and large they have so far, but Van Persie has still received some love, and despite the slight hint of offside, it was still sheer genius. Me I’m still giving it to Lowton, but it’s pretty close. Firstly he’s a defender, such things shouldn’t come naturally to him. RVP on the other hand is one of the world’s best strikers and while the goal was amazing, we’ve seen him score similar before.
Secondly Lowton had angry Stoke players pressuring him as he took the shot, so to keep his cool, and manage what he did, is something to be admired. RVP had one thing to worry about, as his clever run gave him space, and that was to finish, which to be fair he did with aplomb. As it was United, Van Persie and they won the league after winning the match, I fear Lowton may miss out. If we had scored that goal though, and RVP had scored Lowton’s, then I think the man from Old Trafford would still be celebrating. Just the way it is. Here are some tweets from our fans, and again let us know what you think:
@upthevillasite Lowton’s. Strikers should be hitting goals like that every week, for a right back to do it is a stand-out achievement.
— Joe Gardner (@MilkyMilk3) April 23, 2013
@upthevillasite Lowton’s for me. You have take into consideration who RVP was playing against, Vlaar is rubbish!
— Gary Costello (@B31villa) April 23, 2013
— Aine Byrne (@ainebyrne82) April 23, 2013
— Gemma Moore (@Gemmz28) April 23, 2013
@upthevillanews Lowton’s was class. But RVP was pass,run and finish so head says RVP goal of season, but heart says Lowton’s.
— Matthew David Barkle (@legobarkle) April 23, 2013
@upthevillanews same here giving Lowton the slight edge, but thats probably me being biased.
— Darrell Capille (@darrellcapille) April 23, 2013
@upthevillasite was RVP not offside ?
— Stephen Daly (@dalyvilla) April 23, 2013
Watching this second half has left me even more bemused/confused that we went with the system and personnel we chose tonight, because let’s be honest, tonight was never a night to really go for it. When I heard Lambert say before the match that our side ‘Only knows one way to play’ I was pretty concerned, because going to the Champions and playing with an attacking view point was rarely going to end well.
I saw plenty of fans approve of the managers selection, but I felt we got it horribly wrong, and it was proven as we were torn apart in the first half. Yes the goals looked offside, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the dominance United showed. I don’t think the top top sides would go to United and only play two in the middle of the park. You look at the difference that El-Ahmadi made in the second half, and for me at least, we had to go with three in the middle of the park.
I’m actually sort of relieved it was only three in the end, because while our goal difference has taken a bit of a hit, it could have been way way worse. I didn’t expect anything tonight, but it doesn’t mean our manager and side should be immune from flak simply because it was Man United. It looked like it could have been another Chelsea at half-time, but the boys were much improved second half, and if nothing else, hopefully this gives the side confidence going into the real important game against Sunderland next week.
Overall I like what Lambert is trying to do, but there are times he gets it horribly, horribly wrong, and tonight was one of them. We all would have written this game off, and as mentioned let us concentrate on the real games that matter.
According to the Metro ourselves and Fulham are being linked with Tottenham’s midfielder Tom Huddlestone, and personally I don’t mind it.
He came on yesterday against Man City and rather randomly helped to change the game. He has never really had a consistent period where he’s played week in and week out for a number of years, with the 09-10 season being his most successful in terms of appearances. There isn’t much in the report as you might expect, but here is some of the text:
‘Since returning from injury he has found it tough to find a place in Andre Villas-Boas’ plans, other than as a fringe player.
Spurs are expected to add to their midfield options during the summer by delving into the transfer market with Porto star Joao Moutinho still on their radar, and Huddlestone could be allowed to leave for the right price.
Fulham boss Martin Jol, wh worked with Huddlestone at Spurs, would love to take the Nottingham native across London to Craven Cottage but Villa boss Paul Lambert is also keen on a swoop for the 26-year-old – if the Midlanders stay up.’
He’s one of those players I’ve often thought would do alright at a club like ours, and could really benefit from playing every week. He’s had a few injuries during his career, which might make that perhaps unrealistic, but would I have him in our squad? Absolutely. Tottenham probably think the same, and as they look to go on to greater things, players like Huddlestone could be a valuable commodity. I don’t think he’d cost the earth, and as I’ve said many-a-time, I’d like to see us add some Premiership experience to what is a very important area of the pitch.
He’s scored a few screamers in his time, though not recently as his hair has reached rather epic levels. Again it’s tough to look too much into the future with our Premiership status still uncertain and the report not looking have to much substance. Still I wouldn’t mind it personally.
We wrote a post on this subject a while ago (Link), and for me a lot of what I said there still rings true. This was written before the nominees were released, but it would have been a bit of a surprise/shock if Benteke didn’t make the list, and he indeed has.
For those who haven’t seen it, here are the final six, and I think our Christian has a very good chance:
Gareth Bale, Christian Benteke, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Jack Wilshire and Danny Welbeck.
The first four are certainly justified, and although Wilshire is clearly a class act, he’s had trouble with injuries. I’m not sure at all about Danny Welbeck, and I think he’s only scored two all season, even Heskey might have been more prolific than that. Let’s just say if he wasn’t playing for Man United, he probably wouldn’t be getting a look in.
Benteke is currently the second favourite at 9/2, with Bale a massive odds on favourite at 2/9 on. Looking at it objectively then yes Bale should probably win, but as he’s nominated for the main one as well, I say just give him that one and let Benteke have the young player award. It might be a good thing though if he doesn’t win, as the last two Villa winners (Ashley Young and James Milner) left soon after scooping the award. Interestingly enough the majority of people’s bets are currently going on Benteke, and after the Kyle Walker shock win last year, maybe we’ll see another surprise (based on the betting anyway).
I’m not sure when the voting is done, but Benteke has just got better and better. Looking at impacts made by the nominees then once again it’s hard to look past Bale, but Benteke has made a similar impact here at Villa. Without him we’d be, well you know what we’d be. Here’s a little tweet from the Who Scored gang that highlights his improvement throughout the season:
Christian Benteke: Has scored more Premier League goals (10) in 2013 than any other player, ahead of Suárez (9) and Bale (8)
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 19, 2013
Congrats on a great season Christian, and here’s hoping for many more in a Villa shirt.