Aston Villa Preview – Fear the Beard

by .

Via @myoldmansaid

Via @myoldmansaid

Goooooood morning from me. I live with an Aston Villa fan. One mopier than me when it comes to the beautiful game. As Villa are doing very well at the moment, it feels like he should definitely be contributing to the blog to help us understand in a bit of depth just how Roy  Keane has made the difference this season.

Here’s Tom…

Twice every season I’m asked to provide a guest-post for this blog, and twice every season I spend most of it talking about how inept Aston Villa are at playing football. Usually the name of Arsenal looming ahead in the fixture list is cause for concern, or at least simple resignation to the fact that “oh well” there goes another 3 points. However…

Last season, on opening day, when we almost finished off poor old Arsene Wenger’s tenure with a wondrous 3-1 surprise victory, sending most Arsenal fans into complete meltdown, and surely helping to force through that last minute panic buy of Mesut Ozil 24-hours later (you’re welcome), I remember waking up that morning and feeling confident. Call it opening day optimism, when the upcoming season is still full of hope, of promise, of dreams, (or top-4 trophies), when the horrors of the previous campaign are but a fading memory, and you can once again believe.. I believed that day friends, even more so when my quiet, tentative morning confidence exploded late afternoon into full on, laugh-in-your-face, obnoxious triumphalism, which Pedro suffered with a surprising tolerance, mainly because he knew that Wenger, and his belligerently tight-fists, was the real enemy. Anyway, that confidence isn’t a feeling Villa fans experience very often, and most of the time it’s much like a Jack Wilshire through ball – misplaced.  And yet, here we are about to face you lot again, and now more so than in a very long time, there’s a genuine confidence…a belief….

The reason for this is the fact that currently, we’re not shit. Which for a club that in recent history has been mostly shit, is quite good fun. This ‘not-shitness’ is based on a defensive solidity that is as robust as it is unexpected, particularly in the sense that much of it is based on Big Phil Senderos (remember him?) who along with Alan Hutton (returning reborn from the footballing wilderness) has helped us to concede only one goal in our first 4 games. Of course the flip side to this coin is that we’ve only mustered 7 shots on target in 4 full games, which is only going to get you so far before the wheels come off. But as Danny Welbeck well knows, it’s all about taking your chances, and so far we’ve made them count. After all, you only need one goal if you stop the other team scoring, a long-lost Arsenal philosophy that one..

As usual, it’s the pace of Agbonlahor and Andi Weimann that you need to watch out for, and surprisingly one Kieron Richardson, who has so far been great as the third prong in our speedy attacking trident. Backed up by a midfield of new ‘England All-Star’ Fabian Delph and the side-ways passing flair of a reformed Tom Cleverly with a point to prove, not to mention young Ashley Westwood, the real star of our midfield in my humble opinion, we’re showing a little bit more dynamism and solidity than we’ve had in a long time.

As for the reasons behind our great start, who knows? It has Villa fans scratching our heads as much as anyone else, my guess is that a smattering of players with proper PL experience unleashed into the nursery school of our first team has balanced out our wide-eyed youthful fragility with something more solid, ugly and ruthless. Or in the case of Joe Cole, something permanently injured. Although speaking of ruthless, the popular consensus seems to be that one Roy ‘Greybeard’ Keane is the real reason for our bright start. Putting much of it down to the fact that our players are way too terrified to dare play badly, and the mere presence of Killer Roy standing there menacingly on the touchline, or sat lurking in the shadows of the dugout, his cold murderous eyes scanning the pitch for signs of weakness, has helped turn icy dread into footballing competence.

Personally, I think Roy Keane is a prick, but hey, if he helps us avoid another long depressing relegation dogfight of a season, I’ll be happy with that. So far so good though, and hopefully after today we’ll still be sitting awkwardly up there in the nosebleed heights of the Champions League places. I actually think we’ll get a draw today. Which almost certainly means we’ll lose.

Finally, I have a bet on today’s game with a work colleague, which if I lose, (Villa have to lose by 2 or more goals) I have to change my Twitter profile pic to a picture of Arsene Wenger for a week. So if that happens, feel free to drop by and laugh at my expense (@Downinautumn).

It’s ok though, I plan on choosing a picture of him lifting the premier league trophy, so no one recognises who it is anyway…


42 Responses to “Aston Villa Preview – Fear the Beard”

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  1. Bamford13

    Wenger on C.Ronaldo—

    ”I negotiated with his agent in Paris. We had agreed a deal. But Sporting Lisbon wanted £4.5m for him, we offered £4m.”

    Courtesy Highbury Ghost, on Twitter

    Classic Wenger. Penny-wise, pound foolish.

  2. Bamford13


    You might try paragraph breaks next time. Makes for better reading and a more effective post.

    A few things:

    “no one can fathom him”

    I told you your approach was fundamentally religious.

    “brilliance in 90% of games”

    Brilliant? Arsenal weren’t even GOOD in 90% of the games last season much less “brilliant”. In point of fact, Arsenal were not “brilliant” in even ONE game last season. If we were, please remind us of that match.

    “think we need some kind of genius move to make our defence even as good”

    Does it really require “genius” to sign a quality CDM and CB? No, it doesn’t. And we’ve needed both — along with a quality CF — for two years now. What we need now is not genius — though I’d love Klopp or Simeone — but someone other than our senile Don Quixote of football, a man sitting on a pile of cash who imagines he’s defending football’s honor by spending as little of it as possible while competing with a substandard players (his broken lance, in my metaphor).

    As or your ‘eyes’ quote, someone explain. Must be a British thing.

    As always, Wenger out.

  3. shad

    Oh how days have changed. Years past I’d look at this fixture in anticipation of 3 pts in the I’m thinking best case is a draw, worst case is we get spanked. Wenger will force the diabolical 4-1-4-1 system till probably Theo is back and our defence will be tested by Villa’s pace.

    How the wheels have fallen off the wagon and with a demented chariot driver. 3 more years chaps.

  4. Cesc Appeal

    Would like a change in set up today, not a fan of Ramsey and Wilshere in the same side but because of Wenger’s stubbornness and refusal to do his job properly I see little option. However I would shackle Ramsey for today and tell him to just sit and play a Sven Bender role.

    Bellerin, Mert, Kozz, Gibbs
    ——Wilshere, Rosicky
    ——Welbeck, Sanchez

    First priority should be to be defensively solid and focus on not conceding. That’s what we did last year, we’ve got enough creativity and speed in that team to have moments, no doubt. So firstly, we mustn’t lose and should try not to concede.

  5. Danny

    Welbeck in his first 2 games has missed 3 sitters.
    What does he have in store for us today?
    Try and prove Van Gaal wrong for fuck’s sake.

  6. Post Rocky Dave

    See, I never *want* Arsenal to lose a game football, but frankly i’ll take us losing 12+ league matches this season for the the powers that be to even consider sacking Wenger, so let’s start this process sooner rather than later.

    To have so many resources at his disposal and not even try to compete for anything above fourth place is a disgrace.

  7. qna

    Let me preface this with Wenger Out.

    A lot of people here seem to be iverly negative about our chances tonight. That concerns me because I fully expect us to dominate the match and get 3 points. They will create some good chances, but I expect the win. However; just because we put in a performance tonight doesnt mean that our problems are any less. Can just imagine the AKBs coming on here and gloating tomorrow in response to some gloomy predictions here. Fact is that we shpuld still be around about 4th to 6th. So of course we should be winning games like tonight. That doesnt change the fact that we need a new manager and a broom swept through all facets of the club.

    Expect Welbeck the donkey to open his account. Has something like 3 in 4 against villa I think I read.

  8. Dan T

    I think we will really go at them like we did against city. I think the players have rightly been battered in the media since their performance in Germany. They will come out with a point to prove.

    I just hope we don’t lose sight of the basics in the enthusiasm. We must stay defensively tight for the 1st half and play on the break. We have the players to do it. If we’re not leading by 65 mins then we can start to be more adventurous with the full-backs.

  9. qna

    Cesc. I like your suggested team and formation. I would love to see us start tonight like that. I doubt Ramsey would have the discipline to stay in position though.

  10. Johnty79

    But let it be said Ramsay and wilshere does not work. We need two defensive midfielders as our midfield is to weak.

    With Walcott coming back we really should turn ox into a midfield powerhouse.

    I’d freshen it up today.

    Sanchez wellbeck Campbell
    Ramsay flamini ox
    Gibbs mert koz chambers

    Pace power and staminer.

    Carzola Ozil wilshere poldolski to come on and change things if needed.

  11. Cesc Appeal


    It’s not ideal but as I say, Wenger’s idiocy has left us with little option.

    But, I fully expect to see 4-1-4-1 with Arteta holding.

  12. Cesc Appeal


    I rate Sven Bender extremely highly, when most on here were asking for Lars I said I thought Sven would be the better buy.

    He’s solid, workhorse, good tackler and also good distribution. Was a brick wall at the Emirates last year as well.


    Not a sage football analyst but I’ve always wondered why we do not play 4-4-2 or any formation with two strikers. I think clubs with players such as ours should play with two. We dont have that all round incredible striker. I fancy welbeck and Sanchez/Campbell will be good enough for villa today

  14. kwik fit

    I think we can’t play both Ramsey and Jack in the same team. Both seem to play in the same area’s some how and don’t compliment each other. I think we should play one or the other not both.

  15. Cesc Appeal


    Problem is we don’t have a strong holding type to sit in that middle. We would likely get overrun. If we had a strong, defensive type midfielder we could certainly try it, but I’d worry as really we need to ask two men to do that job in our side because Wenger didn’t see the need in buying an actual CDM.

  16. Cesc Appeal


    I agree with that, been saying it for ages.

    But, I just think we’re out of options. Wenger has left us with a shitty, shitty hand in central midfield as everyone on here was calling all summer.

    I don’t want to shackle Ramsey, but I think we have to for his energy. The alternative is playing Flamini where Ramsey was and switching Ramsey for Wilshere next to Rosicky.

    Rosicky must play today. Must!

  17. Ben


    Lars would make a good DM as he who is a CM is particularly good at defense. But this guy really enjoys going forward, and limiting his freedom on the pitch would be a waste of his talents. I agree we need Sven more as he would act as a shield in front of the defense to bring us the defensive solidity in midfield that we have been clamoring for.

  18. kwik fit


    Totally agree. Ramsey with Flamini in the middle and tomas wide left.
    Can’nt really fathom why wenger hasn’t play him yet despite being on the bench. For me he was the real catalyst in the cup final that turned our game.

  19. Ben

    Cesc Appeal

    What do you think of Schniderlin? From what I’ve seen of him he looks a realluy solid B2B but people think he could do the job at DM. I’m not sure though he seems to have the knack for goals.

  20. Danny

    I’ve no problem if Ozil gets dropped. Having him in the team is like starting with 10 players. Having said that I don’t regret buying him, we rarely buy “Stars” and it was great this time last year when we went 5 points clear at the top – Ozil was magic but of course Ramsey had done some deal with the devil which only lasted till Boxing Day. Then I think of that awful penalty against Bayern……
    When I was a kid we bought Alan Ball and then SuperMac but we won nothing with them but like with Ozil it was a great feeling that we’d signed players like them.

  21. Relieable sauce

    Another day, another roll of the dice.

    Good post Tom. A light hearted post mainly about football makes a pleasant change.

    I think its a tough one to call today, Villa have some players that could really trouble us if we play the same formation & tactics. We can’t afford to play a high line

  22. Ben


    Yeah he doesn’t defend, work hard, doesn’t take on player, scared of physical confrontation, doesnt goes for 50-50s, loses the ball and walks around lazily. I really don’t understand how Wenger can allow Ozil to get away with it. Then again Wenger is a fraud.

  23. Danny


    I give credit to Wenger or probably Ivan for buying Ozil, it’s just that we didn’t and don’t need him plus Wenger’s classic comment that we don’t need Cesc coz we have Ozil……that comment will sum up this crap season in May!

  24. Cesc Appeal


    Yeah I would have taken Schniederlin, wouldn’t have bee my first choice but I thought he’d be the easiest to grab in the summer.

    We can do better though. Well we should do better but won’t with Wenger in charge because it’ll be his way. And the only way he gets to stroke his ego is by doing exactly the opposite of what the general view of experts, journos, pundits, fans etc is on Arsenal; even if that costs the club.

  25. Arsene's Nurse

    Relieable sauce September 20, 2014 12:05:00

    He’s comparing us to Real Madrid & the Brazil 70 team : /

    In Wenger we rust!
    And we were proven right yet again – Wenger trying to squeeze his favourites into the team by changing formation to the detriment of the club.

    How many times do we have to be shown right before the AKBs wake up and see we’ve got Wenger’s number?

    Today is going to be a tough one. Villa are on form and they are at home. I expect them to be super organised and hit us on the counter. They only had 26% possession and 1 shot on target against Liverpool yet they came away with the 3 points.

  26. Ben


    Wenger is a student of economics and is motivated by money. He prefers saving it not least in his own bank account, to spending it if he can do so. I think that his parsimonious ways economically explain his pusillanimous ones regarding squad building. His love of developing kids,albeit his record is nothing to shout about in this department, is another factor regarding why he doesn’t sign more experienced players ,this leaves us always an hostage to fortune regarding injuries or suspensions,or like in Ramsey’s case currently a loss of form. Wenger however stubbornly believes in himself and so he doesn’t see any reason to change his ways. If forced to do so by circumstances /events, then I would expect him to flounce off . It wouldn’t be the greatest shock to me if that occurred ,it was close to happening last season when we were 2-0 down in the Cup Final.

    Arsene’s Nurse

    Even Aston Villa have a better manager than us how sad is that

  27. Relieable sauce


    Villa should be fired up for it, especially after our performance Tuesday. They’ve got chavs & city after us as well & could really build some confidence going into those games by beating us, just depends how brave they want to be imo.
    They should be looking to get at us early & press high up the field & look to exploit mert & arteta, its so easy to play against if you have the players for it & i think Villa might.

    Saying that we do normally respond after a shocker, maybe a draw then???
    Hutton to score both ends : /

  28. Tootaman

    I thought posters was joking when they said this blog is full of doommongers but we win 3-0 and ozil has a good game and welbeck scores but I’ve never seen it here so quiet on a match day . How come ?