I have tried very hard since the turn of the year to give it up. I have fought my cravings in an attempt to get healthier though, God help me, after Friday’s dismal cup exit to Millwall I am now back on the bread. I cracked and had a New York Delhi Sandwich. Oh, the intoxication of it all. Yes, the diet has crashed and its all down to Villa. I’d hardly call Friday night’s defeat a shock exit. It’s not a shock it’s now almost an expectation that Villa will lose. With this in mind I have made a conscious effort to avoid all things Villa these last few days in an attempt to attend tonight`s game afresh; to rid myself of my claret and blue depression. However, I am under no illusion that this game is massive. Loose this and we start to get cut adrift. Gulp.
My word. Nothing changes does it. Why does Lambert keep continuing with this utterly pointless 5 man defence. It doesn’t work, Paul. Firstly, Lowton and Bennett are not wingbacks they are fullbacks. Joe Bennett, if you’re going to persist with him, needs to concentrate on mastering his tackling and positional play. He doesn’t need the added pressure of having to bomb up and down with attacking runs to the by line when he can’t get the basic things right. Also, three central defenders? It’s just creating confusion. We play better with 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 so let’s drop this 5-2-1-2 or 5-3-2 because its driving me and the Mrs, potty. Paul isn’t listening to us in L8 though, so its the 5 at the back again. Fool.
Delph, who has been putting in some miles of late, finds himself injured so pint size Bannan and Ashley Westwood formed a holding midfield two with much improved ball wizard N’Zogbia floating behind a strike partnership of Benteke and Bent.
This forward line is a tactical mistake surely? Newcastle are dying in the league. We should have the quick, fired up Weimann and speed master Agbonlahor feeding of the colossal Benteke. Bent floating around the eighteen yard line will be nothing but an easy breakfast for Coloccini and Taylor. I cannot believe that Weimann and Agbonlahor are starting from the bench. Gunshot, foot anyone?
Mike Dean blows the whistle. We obviously don’t here it as we start the game atrociously. There is no tempo, no urgency and no fight. Our midfield two are non-existent as the cloaking device is already in full operation. There is no support from Bennett or Lowton either, the former finding himself targeted early on. I wrote in a previous article (Leftism) about opposition teams targeting our left side of defence. Indeed, Cisse puts in some lovely outer looping runs to the left side of our box, pulling the centre backs towards him and causing panic in Bennett who doesn’t know whether to come or go. I have to sit and watch this kid most weeks as L8 is right behind the LB spot. He fights, he tries but this level of football is just beyond him at the moment and he should be taken out for his own good. His tackling and timing are accidents waiting to happen. Gutierrez keeps drawing the throws and the decisions as Bennett lunges in or miss steps. I put my head in my hands and pray.
To the applause of the Holte End, Villa clear two Newcastle corners. A statement in itself, when you’re cheering a clearance, though with the amount we have conceded from set pieces it’s good to see progress in a key area. For once, nobody is shy trying to beat their man or meet the ball and nobody is caught out. About bloody time.
Our midfield are just embarrassing. Bannan is trying to compete with Newcastle’s new signing, 23 year old French midfield giant Moussa Sissoko. This is the type of box-to-box midfielder Aston Villa should be buying. His physical presence, timing, strength, power and creativity are all on show and he puts Bannan, quite literally, in the shade. It is a no contest and it makes me feel sad watching it. Bannan will never get the ball off him or win a second ball at this rate -even if you put him in Kevlar and allow him weapons. Westwood is tidy but he’s not offering much else. They both just seemed overawed by the partnership of Sissoko and the returning Cabaye. With no battle and creativity in the middle our defence is going to have to soak up immense pressure and our forward line will get no support (probably the main reason Villa have conceded more goals than any other team in the Premier League whilst scoring so few at the other end.)
The Mrs is tutting and pointing angrily at DB9. She tells me she would like him gone by midnight Thursday. I have no idea when his game fell apart -a few have here- though I am quite sick of watching him skulk around the pitch, with no fight, speed or purpose. Benteke is once again massively impressive. He is almost unplayable at times. If we should stay up, hanging on to him will be a real task this summer.
Newcastle inevitably take the lead on the 18th minute. The excellent Sissoko splits Villa in two with a killer ball. Cisse races on to it and dispatches a clinical cutter to the left side of goal. 0-1 Newcastle and well deserved. No complaints here. We are despicable. I don’t know about a sandwich -its going to be a 28inch Pizza on the way home and a German four pack. Villa should hang their collective heads in shame. All too easy.
Villa, to their credit, always fight when they are up against it. They nearly muster a quick equalizer when magician in the hole N’Zogbia goes on a dazzling run with the ball, letting fly with a devastating hit from 20yrds. The ball looks goal bound but comes back off the inside of the post. I have to say, Charles N’Zogbia has been exceptional these last four games. He is looking like the player we believed we brought from Wigan in 2011-12. Where have you been, son?
Barry Bannan, who has been getting pelters from the Holte Lower all half, shows some real laziness on the edge of our box. He could have stuck a leg in, could have speeded up but doesn’t. His peg partly comes up but he thinks twice about it. The ball is collected by Sissoko, ball comes back in, Vlaar heads clear but the ball lands for Cabaye who sends an absolute peach of an effort passed Goose Guzan for Newcastle’s second. 0-2 Newcastle with only 31 minutes played. Again, well deserved. They have absolutely ruined us this half. You could safely land a Deathstar in our midfield, such is the space and time Newcastle are been given. Barry Bannan will be having nightmares tonight. (Dare you say his name 5 times, Baz?… Sissoko, Sissoko, Sissoko, Sissoko…)
The Mrs looks up at me. Those big, beautiful blue eyes of hers flutter with hurt and disappointment. I feel genuinely guilty. I apologise profusely for introducing her to this rag bag bunch of over paid muck shovelling maggot farmers, none of whom deserve her hard earned money or her loyal and unflinching support these last two seasons. I tell her that we were, once upon a time, not half bad at the round ball thing.
A bunch of folks are heading for either booze, pies or the turnstiles by the 32nd minute. They can no longer bear to witness this drivel. I fib yee not, fellow Vitals, this is just eye boggling ineptitude on a grand scale. Given the importance of the game and our position in the league they should be playing as though they have all been injected with an antagonist. There is no absolutely no excuse for such lack of fight and application. The shirt deserves more, I deserve more and you all definitely deserve more. History demands it of them.
The Mrs and I have an altercation about who is buying the tea as the trusty tea flask is absent. We always bicker when Villa are playing badly. Neither of us have any patience. We end up spending half-time at different ends of the concourse, partly because we couldn’t find each other after I had cued for tea. We are friends again by the time Mike Dean starts the second-half.
Lambert must have gone mental at half-time. I imagine stuff got thrown. As a result, Bent and Bennett are both substituted for Weimann and Agbonlahor respectively (big sigh of relief there). Villa switch to a 4-3-3 and go at it like true Lions. There is speed, tempo and balls from the off. The formation change catches Newcastle flat footed. Weimann steams in to the area, receives a Benteke cut back on the right of the penalty box only to find his drive saved brilliantly by Krul.
There is no let up from Villa. Agbonlahor is ripping up the turf and within three minutes of the re-start he accelerates across the penalty box to steal the ball from Debuchy who clips him just inside the box. Mike Dean blows up authoritatively. Penalty. Benteke steps up and blasts the ball past Krul. Aston Villa 1-2 Newcastle.
Newcastle are being blown away here. Bannan and Westwood now look like world beaters. The barcodes just cannot get the ball of us. We are pinging it around like a Premier League football team which is wonderful to watch yet horribly frustrating. Why oh why could they not start with this line up, in this formation, with this attitude from the start? Weimann and Agbonlahor are just tearing into the Newcastle’s flanks and back line with mazy darting runs and pace. With Benteke nutting or collecting everything pumped up for him we look like we have the second.
Alan Pardew is no mug though.(He does have an eight year deal after all.) He sees that Newcastle are being over run so heralds the changes in the 74th and 79th minute with the introduction of M’Biwa and Anita in the middle, in attempt to add some defensive steel and energy to a floundering Newcastle midfield.
Newcastle are also doing their very best to run the clock down. Barcodes are dropping like flies as Villa finally show some mettle and spite. Claret and Blue bodies are throwing themselves in as though it matters. Heads clash and boots crunch down. Indeed, I have to sit down. It nearly brings a tear to me eye, stupid old Villa romantic that I am, to see such mud flying manly combat. There are naturally quite a few yellow cards though I’ll take that.
Villa are really pressing now. There are some goal mouth scrambles but the ball is not bouncing for us. It just won’t fall. Newcastle are just sucking it all up. When the fourth official gives Villa 5 added minutes of time the proverbial kitchen sink is thrown in. Nathan Baker eventually gets half a chance though his downward header is thwarted by a combination of Gutierrez and Krul. Having seen enough Mike Dean blows for full time and Newcastle take the three points.
For all our fight and endeavour in the second half, we have come away with nothing owing to a shoddy and disgraceful first half performance. If Villa could play like they did for that half, in that formation, for a full ninety minutes, every game, we would not be in the mess we are now. That is what we asking of our beloved Aston Villa. 11 men for 90 minutes. Everything you’ve possibly got; no hiding and no excuses.
Tired with a headache, hungry, annoyed we started so badly, we trek back to Aston Station. I will undoubtedly be lying in bed thinking about this until 4am, that is if London Midland can actually send a train along to get us home. I won’t hold my breath.
I absolutely hope, now we have got shot of Hutton’s and Warnock’s wages, that we now go and get a box-to-box midfielder. There is no longer a financial excuse. The money is there. Hell, I’d even take Fat Barry from Kings Heath park at the moment. Just sign someone who can eat up the middle of the park, for pity sake.
I now pass the Vital pen back to my partner in match reporting crime, the legendary Glensider. Look after us big man. Send us good news come Saturday.
Vital Villa’s Match Report. Villa v Newcastle