Date: 22nd May 2009 at 10:40am
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Well, could we have done better?

I suppose, given the group of players that we have at the moment the answer must be a resounding ‘No’. In truth we have probably done better than could reasonably be expected, given our starting point,
namely, that for most of last season we did not have a team.

Sadly, it can be seriously argued that, on many occasions this season, we have not fielded a football team, per se. What we have done is to field a group of talented footballers and asked some of them, at times about 40% of those on the field at any one time, to play out of position and not in their natural role.

One can get away with this sort of tactic once it a while, but to do it week after week is, ultimately, to invite a run of defeats. Once our opponents realise that there are endemic weaknesses in our ‘team’ you can guarantee that those weaknesses will be exploited (It took half a season to identify Hull’s endemic weaknesses which were then exploited, look at what has happened since).

I will be the first to admit that I am no football strategist, in fact my game of choice as a young man was Rugby, but I do understand management and management principles. However, it is my contention, that
regardless, management rules still apply. To crudely illustrate the point, you don’t ask a plumber to build an ornamental brick wall or a carpenter to fit your central heating – you hire a specialist.

In management there is what is known as The Belbin Team Inventory; a concept that defines nine different roles within a team (anyone interested can look it up on Wikipedia) which, without too much imagination can be applied to the roles in a football team; for example, Specialist – Goalkeeper; Completer Finisher – Striker; Plant – Play Maker to name but a few. What Belbin states is that to be really effective a team must have people who can naturally fit in to each and every one of the nine roles.

When a manager consistently asks and expects footballers to play out of position or in a role that is not their natural game, then it can be inviting trouble. For example, after asking Stillian Petrov to change
his role in the team and adapt his game accordingly, it took him, a brilliant natural footballer, over twelve months to become really effective.

Sadly, that is what has happened to Villa during this last season. Too often and persistently we played games, in the most competitive league in the world with a number of the players being asked to perform in roles that were not their best or natural ones. Because modern Premier League football is played at such a pace, the instinctive/programmed reactions of the players are vitally important. When someone is being played out of position or even in a different role that split second of hesitation before making a move can be fatal and that happened to us too many times this year. The really great footballers don’t think, they just ‘do’.

Is it really any wonder that our defence has leaked so many goals? I seriously don’t think so, if fact I rather expected it. Am I criticising our illustrious leader? To be honest I don’t think so. I genuinely believe that he is one of the very best football managers extant at the moment. He is an good tactician and people manager and his motivational skills are exceptional. I certainly would not like to see him go, I believe that he can take us into the Champions League if not the League title.

What I would like during this transfer window is that MON and his team will bring in some new players that will allow us for every game to field a team in the full sense of the word with players and their back ups, in their natural positions and who are capable of filling the roles within the team as outlined by Belbin.

If that happens we will be playing Champions League next year.


3 Replies to “Could Villa Have Done Better This Season?”

  • You had a great season to be fair compared to recent ones, probably just needed a slightly bigger squad to make up for the fatigue setting in around January when your main players ran out of steam.Laursen was a big loss andCarew was missed i think,he’s been scoring for fun since he came back,and maybe the money spent on Heskey could have gone elsewhere in the window?Be interesting to see how you spend over the summer,and i think the competition for the top 6 places will be a lot stronger next season.

  • You are spot on with this. It is really intersting to hear some of the opposition tactics discussed then changed by KO because it is easy to see our weaknesses. For example, I travelled to the Boro game last week with a Boro supporting mate, on their radio station it was said that Downing would be on the right and Johnson on the left. As soon as Boro saw our team with Milner at right-back this was changed, Downing went left and he tore us apart until he got injured. Same happened with Ronaldo when NRC was at RB, fortunatley NRC had a cracking game. What I am trying to say is that our 1st XI based on our position is much better than XI of our best players put whereever. When Ashley went off on Saturday NRC slotted in to RW – AHEAD of Milner!!??!!

  • Surely the answer is Yes we could have done better. We could never have done any better than we did upto the Feb win at Ewood aganst Blackburn, but our abysmal record since then has to be one we could have improved on. Bringing back Shorey earlier, leaving out Gabby and giving the Fonz a run, and perhaps playing a couple of the other youngsters in selected games or to come off the bench would at least have given them experience – and we couldn’t have done any worse in results terms. Losing the Great Dane was a massive blow, and Arsenal are simply better than us and we couldn’t have made 4th once we lost our mercurial captain. A decline was due, but I don’t buy all this fatigue stuff. Players out of form, out of position, or even not good enough in some instances. But you cannot, as others have said, complain about tiredness and a small squad when you hardly ever make use of the small squad we’ ve got.

    In simple terms Stoke 2 points, Boro 2 points, and Spurs 3 points equals 7 more points. Still not enough to catch Arsenal, and still allowing for the fact that we were unlucky to lose to Manure too. But that would have been better.

    Truth told though, over the season as a whole we have not underachieved or overachieved – – but we have done a bit of both.

    Anyway here’s hoping for promotion tomorrow and relegation on Sunday! I was at Boro last week then went onto Hampden, tomorrow I may see my second team actually win something at Ochilview. And Newcastle down on Sunday would be a good way to end the season. I remember watching Coventry get relegated at Villa Park not that long ago. We need a fighting performance last match this time, not another Wigan performance and shallow lap of honour with the only highlight the opprtunity to say goodbye to the great Swede. Hope Laurrsen is there on Sunday to take his bow. Come on Stenny. Come on Villa!

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