Now that was a welcome three points! After looking like we might end up frustrated/angry after a mediocre display, we finally grabbed a goal through Benteke, and from a corner no less, making these kinds of write-ups all the more enjoyable:
Brad Guzan: 7 – Made an important save early on after a corner caused chaos in the box, and did what he had to do well. Was pleasing to see his authority in the box, and he showed no fear in coming to claim the ball on a few tough occasions.
Matthew Lowton: 8 – Every time I write one of these I tend to remark on how well Lowton did, and once again the right back put in a very encouraging display. He just looks so assured, whether it be going forward or in defence, and could be our RB for years to come.
Nathan Baker: 8 – To be able to come in, and perform like he did was really encouraging. Despite the commentators thinking Jason Roberts was playing like Messi, I think that Baker and Clark kept the two up top relatively quiet. He’s more physical than Clark, and showed that in both boxes.
Ciaran Clark: 8 – He continues to impress, and showed some leadership skills in what was a ridiculously young back four. So assured with the ball, and came really close at the other end with a header that just went wide.
Enda Stevens: 6 – Started off well, but an injury meant he had to depart before half time. Hopefully it’s not a bad one, as he’s taken his chance in the absence of Bennett.
Andreas Weimann: 6 – A tough night for Weimann, and he knows he should of done better with a glorious chance in the first half. Still he gives his all which I love, and the movement and intelligence he has up front is great to see.
Brett Holman: 6.5 – Usual full of energy display, but lacking a bit of quality at crucial times. Did offer more going forward than we’ve seen though, and was unlucky with a few of his passes/shots in the final third.
Ashley Westwood: 8 – While I don’t think he quite hit the heights he did against Arsenal, this was still another impressive display. He brings a lot of what Stan brought to us, in that he keeps the ball, keeps us ticking along and has the talent to dictate play. Could be very important for us going forward. Also set up the winner with a peach of a corner.
Barry Bannan: 6 – Tough night for Bannan as well, although he kept going until the end. I actually thought his corners were much improved from recent games, as we came close a number of times from his deliveries. I’d be happy with a mix of him and Westwood on set pieces going forward.
Gabby Agbonlahor: 6 – Did okay overall, and was a nuisance throughout. A good outlet for the defence, but still would like to see him offer more of a goal threat.
Christian Benteke: 8 – I loved it when Sky showed his battles with the Reading defence, and you can see just why he might be perfect for English football. Got involved throughout, and the winner was well deserved after the effort he put in.
Eric Lichaj: 7 – Again came on to help us out, and did well overall. Bit rash going forward, but he’s turning into an extremely valuable member of the squad, and that tash of his is epic.
Stephen Ireland: 7.5 – He has his critics, but I thought he did really well when he came on and showed some quality in a game that mostly had very little. I’d probably put him ahead of El Ahmadi and Holman for the QPR game.
Marc Albrighton: 5 – Crowd showed their disapproval when a cross went horribly out of play, and it’s a shame to see how he’s regressed the last year or so.
MOTM: Really tough decision with this one. Asked a few people on Twitter, and the main names mentioned were Westwood, Lowton and Benteke. For me I’m going to give it to Lowton, but in reality I would have been happy with any of that group. He continues to impress, and looked like he’s playing in the Premiership for years. In what was a very young defence, he played a massive part in getting us that all important clean sheet.
Summary: Huge three points for us, and despite us not playing overly well, it was all about the win, and that’s exactly what we got.
In what was by and large an encouraging display against the Gunners, here are some player ratings after the 0-0 draw:
Brad Guzan: 7 – In all fairness he had little to do, which is certainly welcome against a team with the attacking talents that Arsenal have. Coped well when called upon and made a decent save from Ramsey.
Matthew Lowton: 7 – Lowton continues to impress me this season, and I think the fact we don’t really see or hear too much about him during games is a positive sign. He does his job really well, and is also a threat going forward. Looked just as composed when moved to the central of defence.
Ron Vlaar: 7 – Did well when he was on the pitch, and hopefully the calf knock isn’t too bad, as it be a worry were he out for any prolonged period. Strong in the tackle, and limited the Gunners to half chances.
Ciaran Clark: 8 – After a slightly dodgy start to the season, really starting to impress now. So comfortable on the ball and a cracking display was topped off by a crucial interception as Gervinho was ready to pounce.
Enda Stevens: 7 – Has done well since coming in for us, and I love the way he always looks to get forward. Still needs some work on the defensive side of his game, but he’s largely impressed since he was given the shout.
Andreas Weimann: 7 – Gave everything he had while on the pitch, and you can see he’s determined to keep hold of the shirt. Unlucky to see an effort chalked off for offside, and continues to get into threatening positions.
Karim El Ahmadi: 6 – Was brought in to add a bit of defensive solidarity, but didn’t really have his best of games. Was booked, and taking him off was probably the best thing to do.
Ashley Westwood: 8 – Hugely impressive display, and although Benteke is stealing the headlines, if Westwood continues to play like this, he’ll be right there when we look at our buys of the season. So assured in possession, and had over a 90% pass completion rate against the Gunners. Striking up a promising partnership with Bannan.
Barry Bannan: 7 – He’s had a run of games, and like a few others he gave his absolute all in this match. It’s nice to see him keep things more simple, and I hope we see him pop up with a few goals sooner rather than later. Would still like to see an improvement with his corners.
Gabby Agbonlahor: 6.5 – Decent display from Gabs, and he caused the Gunner defenders a few problems with his pace and directness. Really hope he gets a few goals soon, because his all round game looks a lot better.
Christian Benteke: 7.5 – Another top display from our beast of a striker. Is actually quite tricky and clever with the ball at times, and it’s great seeing him improve from game to game.
Eric Lichaj: 6.5 – Thought he coped well when he came on, and battled throughout. Might get another chance should Vlaar miss the Reading game.
Brett Holman: 7 – Lambert made a great shout bringing on Holman when he did, and even though his final ball is still lacking occasionally, boy does he give you his all. Deserved better with a great effort that cannoned off the bar.
Marc Albrighton: 5 – No real time to make an impact.
MOTM: Few candidates, but I’m going to plump for Westwood. As I read elsewhere, he’s like Joe Allen, but £13 million cheaper. I was intrigued about the player when he came in, and the Crewe fans who were keen to big him up look like they might have been on to something.
Summary: Big point for us, and hopefully we pick up a fair few more in the next few games.
This was certainly one of our better performances of the season, and it was great to see things come together and to pick up a hugely important three points before these nightmarish fixtures coming up. With that in mind, here are our player ratings following the 1-0 victory.
Brad Guzan: 7 – In all fairness he had little to do, but coped well when called upon, saving well from Cattermole. Might have got a bit lucky when he was beaten to a cross late on, but he’s certainly taken his chance since coming in. At one point he gave Ireland an earful after the midfielder changed the direction of his run and his throw went straight out of play….always good to see from your keeper.
Matthew Lowton: 7 – Have been really impressed with Lowton this season, and he’s made the jump from league one look pretty seamless. Kept Johnson quiet, got forward really well and put in the cross that led to our goal. Good display.
Ron Vlaar: 7 – Up there with the candidates for our player of the season so far, and this was another assured display. Kept the dangerous Fletcher quiet.
Ciaran Clark: 8 – Maybe his best display of the season, and this was what myself and many others were hoping for when he came in on a consistent basis.
Joe Bennett: 5 – Only stayed on the pitch a short while before re-aggravating his knee injury. Hopefully it’s not too bad.
Andreas Weimann: 7 – A bit of a good luck charm for us, and I’m delighted he was given the start at the Stadium of Light. Doesn’t stop running, and although some of the game passed him by, he still came close with a couple of good chances.
Stephen Ireland: 7 – Like good ol’ Darren Bent he tends to polarise the opinions of the Villa faithful. I thought he did okay here, and he set up a few chances. Got stuck in which was great to see, but I’d still like to see more of an end product.
Ashley Westwood: 8 – He had a tough start to his Villa career, but this was a really impressive display against a powerful Sunderland midfield. Keeps things simple, assured in possession and not afraid to get involved. Saw someone describe him as like ‘Joe Allen, but cost £13 million less’ and that sums it up nicely for me.
Barry Bannan: 7 – Like Weimann, Villa tend to perform better when he’s involved. Linked well with Westwood, and played a number of well hit passes that found Benteke. Slightly disappointing with his set-pieces, but hopefully that will come.
Gabby Agbonlahor: 7.5 – Popped up with the all important winner, and that will hopefully give him more confidence in front of goal. Caused numerous problems with his pace, but other aspects of his game have certainly improved.
Christian Benteke: 7.5 – Another more than decent display, and he set up the winner with a great header down to Gabby. You feel there is so much more to come from the Belgium International, and that’s the really exciting thing for us Villa fans.
Eric Lichaj: 5 – Tough outing for the American, who came on for Bennett and then was subbed himself.
Enda Stevens: 6 – Thought he looked pretty assured given his lack of Premiership playing time. Might get the start against United next week.
Brett Holman: 5 – No real time to make an impact. Has had a haircut.
MOTM: Few candidates, but I’m going to plump for Westwood. Much improved after a tough start to his Villa career, and if he continues in this manner, he could be a real player for us.
Summary: Really important win for us, and we can now go into these tough fixtures with real confidence.
This was always going to be a tough match, and the likely venue in which our unbeaten start to the season would come to an end. Whether you approve of the Man City model or not, make no mistake there going to be right up there come the end of the season. They have so much quality throughout, and when you can bring on one of the better players in world football (David Silva) off the bench, you realise how much of a gap there is between the two sides at the moment. It is sad, because only a few years ago we were bigger than Man City on so many levels. That’s what hundreds of millions will do though, and to be fair to Mancini he has brought exceptionally well, creating a squad full of power, panache and quality.
Anyway, enough of the Man City love in, and on to what really matters. I made the trip up to the game, and after hearing the team before the match I was pretty happy. Heskey was always likely to come back in, especially after the comments by McLeish in the week, and Clark was the likely replacement for Collins with Cuellar still on the come-back from his injury. Bannan dropped to the bench but again I could understand the logic. He has played a lot of football this season, and Man City is not the place to start tired players.
On to the match and I thought we started really well, keeping the ball well and almost going in front early on. Slowly though Man City settled and after we all gave him stick minutes before, Balotelli was always going to open the scoring doing so in fine fashion. We got to half time, and needed a strong start to the second half if we were going to get anything out of the game. This never came as a couple of stupid mistakes cost us and Man City found themselves 3-0 up. We did pull one back through a fine finish from Warnock, but it was left to Villa old boy James Milner to finish the scoring and put City 4-1 up.
Milner was top throughout, and there are few old players I miss more than him. He clearly has affection for our club and the fans, so massive respect to him for not celebrating his fine goal. Anyway on to the player ratings, and being at the match you always get a different perspective on events, plus there was a ten minute or so incident with the steward incident in the Man City end so I may have been slightly distracted at times.
Let us know as always what you think.
Shay Given: 6 – We did concede 4, but I don’t think any could be blamed on our keeper who’s had a fine start to the season. Made a couple of top stops from Balotelli in particular.
Alan Hutton: 5.5 – Still have to wonder what Chris Herd is thinking on the bench, as once again Hutton had a tough game. He does get forward well, but needs to work on his final ball into the box. Was beaten too easily at times though he was often left isolated.
Stephen Warnock: 6 – The best and worst of our left back was on display in this game. A horrendous mistake let in Johnson for City’s second though he got forward extremely well, and scored a good goal to give us some hope. Still impressed with his overall contribution this season.
Richard Dunne: 5.5 – A tough outing for Dunne against his old team. Troubled throughout and rarely looked comfortable. Needs to step up at the set-pieces after we conceded two.
Ciaran Clark: 6.5 – Coming in at Man City is never going to be easy, but I though he acquitted himself well in tough circumstances. Reads the game so well, and kept going until the final moments. Assured on the ball, I would love to see him in a defensive midfield roll in the future.
Fabian Delph: 5 – After a promising start to the season, his performances have dropped in recent weeks. Battles gamely, but the quality is sometimes lacking in the middle and he gives the ball away too easily. It will come, but he’s having a tough time at the moment.
Stiliyan Petrov: 5 – Has been one of our better players this season, but really struggled against the might of City’s midfield. We struggled to keep the ball, and Petrov was chasing shadows at times.
Stephen Ireland 5.5 – On the ball he is absolute quality, and made some intelligent passes throughout. Not sure if his team-mates are on the same page yet, as one great flick into the box went into the grateful arms of Hart, when perhaps if Bent had gambled, we could have grabbed another goal. Faded in the second half.
Emile Heskey: 5 – Tough return to action for the big man, who looked a little off the pace at times. Gives everything, and might have done better with a couple of headers.
Gabriel Agbonlahor: 6 – Full of running as always, and had a great chance to put us 1-0 up. His commitment to the cause is great to see, but this was a tough day.
Darren Bent: 5 – Was at fault for the third Man City goal, and to me still looks like there is something missing. Whether he is struggling to adapt to the new tactics, or is simply not getting the service, we need Bent firing this season.
Barry Bannan: 5 – Frustrating afternoon for Bannan, who was also booked for his troubles.
Charles N’Zogbia: 5.5 – Looked a bit more lively than in recent games, and was rather fortuitously given the assist for Warnock’s goal. Will hopefully give him a much needed boost of confidence.
Marc Albrighton: 5 – Little time to make an impact as Villa were left chasing the game.
Man of the Match: It seems a bit strange to award it to a defender, but Clark did look quality throughout. As mentioned he is so good on the ball, and looks like a ‘modern’ defender. Made a couple of top tackles, and while he will probably lose his place upon Collins return, he has a bright bright future.
Summary: This will represent one of our tougher games of the season, and although we looked good at times, Man City simply had too much quality. Silly mistakes cost us, and hopefully they were a one off. We did become the first team to score at the Etihad Stadium this season, and might have grabbed a few more so there are positives. There is no use in beating ourselves up too much, and a win against the Baggies next week will be the perfect response to a tough afternoon.
We’ve been doing these player ratings all season, and while they’re always fun, it’s much better to write them up after a win.
Now before the match there were a few nerves from some, mainly due to the fact that Wigan have been somewhat of a bogey team for us at Villa Park. Indeed before Saturday we’d failed to beat them at home in the Premiership. That would all change though after a comfortable 90 minutes that saw us run out 2 0 winners. Unlike our last home game against Newcastle, after we took the lead we didn’t sit back and let the opposition dictate, we kept on the front foot and kept playing good football.
I was happy with the new ‘diamond formation’ as well as the team selection, and felt that Ireland deserved another start after showing positive signs last time out against QPR. Bent came in to replace N’Zogbia in the only change, and again I thought this was the right decision. N’Zogbia has struggled this season, and I think he may have tried too hard if given the start against his former club. Also if your £20 million plus striker is fit, and he did look fully recovered unlike at Everton, he has to start.
The 30,000 or so who attended the match were treated to a top day out in the sunshine, and hopefully as the season progresses the attendance will increase in turn. Here are our Up the Villa match player ratings, and as per, we’d love to hear from you.
Shay Given: 7 – Another clean sheet for our ever impressive goalkeeper, who in all fairness didn’t have much to do. Made a couple of good saves from Di Santo and Villa old boy Shaun Maloney in the second half.
Alan Hutton: 6 – His best game in a Villa shirt and largely kept Victor Moses quiet. Got forward well at times, although was perhaps lucky not to give away a penalty after tangling with Di Santo after the break at 1-0. Could have been a huge moment.
Stephen Warnock: 6.5 – Another solid enough game for our reborn left-back, who has largely impressed this season. Solid as ever in the tackle, and won the challenge which started the move that led to Gabby’s opener.
James Collins: 6.5 – Another decent performance from the Welshman who is always prepared to put his body on the line. Plenty of signs that his partnership with Dunne is proving as solid as it was a couple of seasons ago,
Richard Dunne: 7 – What a difference a season makes. After looking like he couldn’t care last campaign, he’s back to near his very best and is a rock in front of his International team-mate Given. Wigan were kept quiet for the majority of the game and rarely threatened.
Fabian Delph: 5.5 – It’s great seeing him getting a number of games this season, and at times showed good flashes and got forward well. Was poor with his distribution though, and needs to stop giving the ball away. A loose pass almost cost us at one point, and you can’t afford to make too many mistakes at the top level. Might be the man to make way when Jenas is fit.
Stiliyan Petrov: 7 – One of our better performers this season, and continues to do the simple things well. Offers great protection for the defence, and came close with a screaming effort that Al Habsi saved well. Has just been awarded ‘Goal of the Month’ on Match of the Day for his effort against Everton.
Barry Bannan: 8 – The wee man just keeps impressing. His left foot is incredible, and he has an enthusiasm and love of the game which is great to witness. Set up Gabby for his goal with a peach of a pass, and looked threatening throughout. A joy to see him progressing in this fashion.
Stephen Ireland: 6.5 – In his hour or so on the pitch, I was once again impressed with Ireland and the improvements he’s made this season. Made some cracking runs, finds space with ease and some of his passes are top drawer. He needs more games, but slowly he is becoming more of a threat. Encouraging signs.
Darren Bent: 7 – A return to form for Mr Bent, who came close in the first half before finding the net in the second. Seemed to be developing a decent understanding with Gabby up top, and looked more threatening than he has the majority of this season. Looks fit, and hopefully his injury problems are finished now.
Gabriel Agbonlahor: 9 – What a display by the true Villan and fans favourite. He’s living the dream, and is back playing with an enthusiasm and attitude that is great to witness. Cracking first goal, leaving Al Habsi with no chance. The second goal while scored by Bent, was mainly down to the work of Gabby. He won the ball, left defenders in his wake with his incredible pace and put in a cross that Bent couldn’t miss. Top display.
Emile Heskey: 6.5 – We’ve missed the big man when he’s been out, and he made an impact after replacing Ireland. Holds the ball up well, battles hard and never makes it easy for defenders. Good cameo.
Charles N’Zogbia: 5 – Would have been disappointed with starting on the bench. Hoping this gives him the wake up call he perhaps needs to kick-start his Villa career.
Andi Weimann: 5.5 – Not given much time, but might have done better with a chance after coming on. Looks like he might feature in the managers plans, and looks like he has the talent to do well here.
Man of the Match: While Bannan once again impressed, there is only one man this can go to, and that is the local boy done good Gabby Agbonlahor. A hugely impressive performance, and looks to have rediscovered the pace that made him such a threat. Was in contention for an England recall, but has a slight back issue. Let’s hope he’s 100% for the Man City game next time out.
Summary: With nearly two weeks before our next game, this was a much needed victory before the International break. We’re still unbeaten, our defence looks incredibly solid, and our important players are looking a threat. There are of course harder tests to come, but for now let’s enjoy this moment. It’s a good time to be a Villa fan.
We were soooooooooo close! While there was a sense of inevitability about QPR’s late late equaliser, it always hurts. I was watching at my other half’s, and it was pretty tough not swearing at the top of my lungs. After the initial anger, I set off on my drive back to Wales proud of the boys for the shift they put in.
The first 45 minutes were diabolical, make no mistake about it. Despite this though QPR didn’t really trouble Given, even though they came close through a wonderful effort from Adel Taarabt which hit the post. Our only effort of note came through a Barry Bannan free kick which was terrifically saved by Paddy Kenny.
The second half was much much better, as whatever McLeish said clearly worked. We kept the ball for one, and the interplay between some of our players was great to see. We have the personnel to make a system like this work and I hope McLeish sees that this is the way to go. We went in front by what many see as a pretty dubious penalty but hey, I wasn’t complaining.
Up stepped the man of the hour, Mr Barry Bannan. There were so many things about the penalty that made me smile, firstly was the manner in which he stepped up, with all the confidence in the world and WANTED to take the spot kick. QPR began protesting, and the camera cut to Bannan flashing a slight smile as Anton Ferdinand tried to put him off. The referee blew the whistle, and the outcome was never in doubt. Bannan put the ball out of the reach of Kenny and we were 1-0 up.
I thought the rest of the game we played well, and should have scored more than just the one. Towards the end the nerves kicked in, and I don’t think the manager can be blamed for trying to defend the lead. The goal came after we gave possession back to QPR too easily from a corner. Now the most annoying thing about this is just before, the two youngsters (Albrighton and Weimann) took a textbook corner keeping the ball before winning another one.
QPR broke to the other end of the pitch and the highly unfortunate Richard Dunne could do nothing as the ball ricocheted off the defender from a cross and into the goal. It was heartbreaking for the player, who had performed heroics beforehand. That was the game and we left Loftus Road with a point many would have taken beforehand.
Lessons will be learnt, make no mistake, and McLeish was clearly unhappy with some of his players. We have to follow up with a win against Wigan on the weekend, and despite what many say, that will represent a good start to the season.
Here are our UTV ratings:
Shay Given: 8 – I just love the guy and what he’s brought to the team. While Brad Friedel rarely let anyone down, Given has come in at a different level. Despite QPR dominating for periods, didn’t have much to do. Made a stunning save from Wright-Phillips and could do nothing about the goal.
Alan Hutton: 5 – Has yet to really impress since making the move from Tottenham. Survived two penalty shouts and was booked. Not the best outing.
James Collins: 6 – Suffered a bloody nose on what a busy day. To the players credit, QPR did most of their work away from the box but he gave away a few needless free-kicks. Again too keen to launch the ball when a more considered approach would perhaps benefit. Whether this is an order from McLeish or not, he has the ability to pass it out from the back.
Richard Dunne: 7 – He continues to impress, and was ridiculously unlucky with regards to the own goal. Like the defenders beside him, he was prepared to put his body on the line, and we all love seeing that. After a tough campaign last season it’s great to see him back near his best.
Stephen Warnock: 6 – Perhaps lucky to stay on the pitch, and his tackle on Barton was one of our highlights of the first half. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to debate. Once again gave up a number of silly free-kicks, yet did get forward well and put in the cross that led to our penalty.
Fabian Delph: 6 – The first half wasn’t great, though that goes for the majority of the team. Was much more involved second half, and might have done better with two chances. Lost the ball far too easily at times, and it almost cost us. Passed the ball well, and worked hard throughout.
Stiliyan Petrov: 7 – People say his legs have gone, but he was everywhere yesterday. Keeps it simple, and that’s all we need at times. Offers a good amount of protection in front of the back four, and as mentioned QPR were largely kept away from danger. One of our most important players at the moment.
Barry Bannan: 8 – He loves the Villa, and we love him. Stepped up with all the confidence in the world to bury the penalty, and came close with a beautifully taken free kick. He’s a class act, and is fast becoming an automatic choice for our starting eleven.
Stephen Ireland: 6.5 – Largely anonymous in the first half, yet grew into the game as it went on. Showed some nice touches, made some good runs and uses the ball efficiently and effectively. If we can get him back to his best, we’ll have some player on our hands. The 90 minute run-out should provide a massive boost of confidence.
Charles N’Zogbia: 5 – Another disappointing outing from the winger we have high hopes for. Looked dangerous on a couple of occasions, but is not contributing at anywhere near the level we were hoping for. First touch and decision making were poor at times.
Gabriel Agbonlahor: 7 – He worked his behind off all game, and gave the QPR centre-backs plenty to think about. Looked dangerous, and won us the penalty that opened the scoring.
Marc Albrighton: 6 – A promising cameo, was somewhat spoilt by the error from our corner that led to the equaliser.
Andi Weimann: 5 – Battled gamely, but like Albrighton should have done much better from the corner.
Man of the Match: No contest really. Sky gave it to Richard Dunne, but for me it had to go to Barry Bannan. Was a threat throughout and his penalty was due reward.
Summary: We were minutes away from what would have been a morale-boosting three points. If we perform as we did in the second half, we should have far too much for Wigan next week. The defence looked solid, and the fact we’re still unbeaten without a number of our top players performing, can only bode well.
Another game, another draw. Unlike many who think the world is coming to an end every time we fail to pick up three points, it’s always better to be constructive and talk about where the Villa can do better, and thanks to everyone who gets involved.
Let’s be honest, we weren’t very good on the weekend. A bright start brought a deserved goal, but then it all went a bit wrong. Newcastle were given far too much space, and for the majority of the game looked like the home team. I don’t buy this McLeish is negative nonsense and plays for draws line that some people are using. You only have to look at the number of attacking players we started with, and brought on to see that’s not the case. In fact I’d argue we were perhaps too offensive minded on Saturday, leaving far too much space in behind that Newcastle to their credit, took advantage of.
We seemed to play a more traditional 4-4-2, and looked to push on at every opportunity. This left plenty of gaps, and Hutton and Delph in particular were left far too isolated throughout. I argued we needed a classic defensive midfielder since the departure of Reo-Coker, and this game was a good example of that. We’re far too lightweight at times in the middle of the park. For all his many detractors I also thought we missed Heskey in the final third. The ball came back too quickly, and there are few better than Emile when it comes to keeping hold of the ball up top.
Anyway there are positives, we’re unbeaten for one, and a number of players are nowhere near their top level. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the latest round of player ratings. As always feel free to share your views.
Shay Given: 9 – What a signing for us. They say a good keeper will earn you a certain amount of points with the games they keep you in, and Given is certainly doing that. Solid again, and despite being left horribly isolated for the goal, he still almost managed to make a miraculous save. The stop from Cabaye towards the end was one of the finer saves I’ve seen in a while. Keep it up please Mr Given!
Alan Hutton: 5 – He struggled on his debut last week, and while he offered a little more this time around, there is still plenty to work on. He looks to get forward a lot, and this is encouraging. Defensively though he was beaten far too easily, although as mentioned he was often isolated on the right hand side. I’m sure as he plays more games he will improve, but you have to imagine Chris Herd is a little disappointed sitting on the bench.
James Collins: 6.5 – In all fairness, Newcastle for their dominance created very little in terms of clear cut chances. As always dominant in the air, though a bit too keen to just launch the ball deep, rather than look for a pass to keep possession.
Richard Dunne: 6 – As with Collins, good in the air, and Newcastle by and large were restricted to long range efforts. Lost Best for the goal though, and as is often the case in football, a mistake will go punished. Overall though it’s good to see Collins and Dunne look like they’re recreating that solid partnership that served us well a few season ago.
Stephen Warnock: 7 – After a bit of a mare last week, it was good to see Warnock return to his tenacious best. A beast in the tackle, and as a result Newcastle offered little threat down the left. He does over commit at times, and needs to work on his distribution but all in all a good performance.
Fabian Delph: 5.5 – This was a tough outing for our young midfielder, as he often found himself overrun by his Newcastle counterparts. Not entirely to blame, as he was left extremely isolated at times. Needs to impose himself on games, as when he’s on the ball, he rarely disappoints. All part of the learning curve.
Stiliyan Petrov: 6.5 – He talked beforehand of getting forward more, and stayed true to his word as he supported the forwards extremely well. His great run and pass to Bent deserved a goal, and it’s encouraging to see him offering more of a threat in the final third. His attacking runs came at a cost though, as he left plenty of space in behind. Was forced off with a knock in the second half.
Charles N’Zogbia: 5 – Every week I seem to be writing the same thing with regards to N’Zogbia. He still looks off the pace, and playing on the right doesn’t seem to be doing him many favours. A promising run might have produced more in the second half, and I hope he uses the confidence of playing the 90 minutes and pushes on. It will come, of that I’m sure and people tend to forget that both Ashley Young and Stewart Downing took a while to get going at Villa Park.
Barry Bannan: 7 – The little man got the start he deserved and didn’t disappoint with a very encouraging display. He’s a class act, always looking to get on the ball and played some passes that were a joy to watch. Playing with a load of confidence, perfectly summed up by a 30 volley that just flew wide. Set up the goal and even though he went a bit quiet second half, there is plenty to build on.
Gabriel Agbonlahor: 7.5 – The boy is on fire at the moment, and it was great to see him playing in a more central role. Took his goal well after using his strength to good effect by keeping Coloccini off the ball, and came close in the second half with a shot on the turn that was inches wide. A very promising start to the season.
Darren Bent: 5 – A tough outing for Mr Bent, who didn’t look 100% from the start. Squandered two chances you’d normally see him bury, the sooner he returns to form the better from a Villa point of view. Reportedly picked up a slight knock, hopefully it’s nothing too serious.
Marc Albrighton: 6.5 – Looked bright when he came on, and might have done better with an effort that flew wide.
Stephen Ireland: 6 – It’s great to see him getting more game time, and he picked out some good passes in this cameo. Hoping he gets a start against Bolton in the week.
Nathan Delfouneso: 5 – Would have liked to have seen him enter the fray earlier, had little time to make an impact.
Man of the Match: Easy choice, and it goes to our star goalkeeper, Shay Given. What a bit of business by our football club.
Summary: We were nowhere near our best, and after a promising start it all went a bit quiet. Looking forward to Jenas coming in, as we’re lacking another body in the middle. Still we’re one of only four teams still unbeaten, and that’s without a number of our top stars firing.
I wrote yesterday that come 5pm today, I hoped that Blackburn fans would hate us just a little bit more after we’ve beaten them so many times recently. I’m pleased to say that I imagine they do, after we managed to eventually cruise to a 3-1 victory this afternoon at Villa Park.
The first half we were electric, with Gabby Agbonlahor scoring an absolute wonder goal before teeing up Heskey who put us 2-0 ahead. The start of the second half wasn’t so pretty, and with the aforementioned Agbonlahor being forced off, we made a sluggish start as Blackburn pulled one back. There were a few nervous moments before Bent did what he does best, finishing well to ensure we would see out the rest of the game in relative comfort.
With regards to the performances, McLeish went with three strikers, all of whom managed to grab a goal. The defence looked solid yet again despite the goal and Petrov and Delph look like they’re forming a very promising partnership in the centre of midfield.
I was pleased to see Alex McLeish given a positive reception, and to be honest I expected nothing less. He’s had a great start to his Villa career, and even his most staunch of critics cannot fail to be impressed with the way we set up and played today. Long may it continue. As I write this we’re top of the league….enjoy it Villa fans! The ratings are below, feel free to get involved and offer your own views.
Shay Given: 6 – Had no chance with the Blackburn goal, and besides that had very little to do. Collins once again took his goal kicks towards the end of the match, hopefully nothing more than a precaution.
Luke Young: 6 – Got forward well, yet forced off in the second half with what appeared to be a slight knock. Beaten too easily for the Blackburn goal.
Stephen Warnock: 7 – It’s clear that he’s delighted to be back playing regular football, and in two games to date he’s done little wrong. Always offers support going forward and despite a few long passes going awry, he didn’t let it affect him. Always prepared to put his body on the line.
James Collins: 7 – Again like Warnock, is back giving 110% and will do anything to keep the ball away from danger. Made a vital interception second half and look assured on the ball.
Richard Dunne: 7 – Could do nothing about the goal, and aside from that did his job extremely competently, sticking very tightly to the Blackburn strikers. McLeish has already got the defensive unit looking far more solid this campaign.
Stiliyan Petrov: 7 – Another good game for our captain, keeping the ball extremely well and providing vital support for our defenders. Often harshly criticised by Villa fans, he’s an extremely important member of our starting eleven.
Fabian Delph: 8 – A great performance by the young midfielder, and you can see his confidence building with every game. Forming a very promising partnership with Petrov, was strong in the tackle and sprayed the ball around with ease. Could play a big part this season.
Charles N’Zogbia: 6 – Still looks a bit off the pace, but this will no doubt come as he builds his fitness. Some nice touches and a great bit of play second half deserved a better result as no-one read his pull back into the box. Just a matter of time.
Emile Heskey: 7 – He worked tirelessly for the team, and seems to enjoy being back in first team action. Took his goal well and could prove to be an important part of the squad this campaign.
Gabriel Agbonlahor: 8 – What a 45 minutes. The kind of display we haven’t seen for a while from Gabby, and linked extremely well with his fellow strikers, setting up Heskey for our second goal. Scored his 50th premiership goal in stunning fashion, skinning Salgado with ease before curling a peach of an effort into the far corner. Was forced off at half time, let’s hope it’s nothing too serious.
Darren Bent: 7 – One real chance, one goal. Darren Bent does what he does best, taking advantage of some good fortune to fire the ball past Robinson and ease Villa Park nerves. We need to get him into games more but there can be no denying….the boy can finish.
Marc Albrighton: 5 – Replaced Gabby at half time and struggled to make much of an impact.
Ciaran Clark: 6 – Replaced Young and took his place at left back with Warnock switching to the other side. Looks great on the ball and will be a vital player for years to come.
Barry Bannan: 7 – Great little (pardon the pun) cameo by Bannan, who replaced Heskey in the second half. Always looking for the ball and possesses one hell of a left foot. Might have fed Bent instead of shooting at one point but besides that a more than decent display. Hoping he features a lot more this season.
Man of the Match: Fabian Delph – If Gabby had played the whole match, it may have been different. A great display though by Delph, who displayed all the characteristics we’ve been hoping to see the past few seasons. Solid in the tackle, and passed around Blackburn for fun. Hoping for big things from this great talent this upcoming season.
Summary: A great first 45 minutes by the Villa, and we did what we had to do in the second half. McLeish answered a few of his critics with a positive attacking display, and all three strikers named in the starting eleven managed to grab a goal, a very encouraging sign. Sterner tests are to come, but for now, there are many reasons to be optimistic. Let’s hope the injuries picked up are not too serious, and that we can build on a fine start to the season.
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Posted by upthevilla - 20/08/2011 at 6:35 pm
Categories: Up the Villa Tags: 12th Man, Agbonlahor, Alex Mcleish, Aston, Aston Villa, Bells are Ringing, Celebration, Charles N'Zogbia, Darren Bent, Emile Heskey, Fans, Football, goal, Goalkeeper, manager, match, Player Ratings, report, Round up, Shay Given, Up the Villa., Villa