Villa Slump Due to Midfield Mindset

September 22, 2011 by
Filed under: Hot topic debates 

After a decent start to the season with regards to results Alex McLeish will have been happy to have picked up a difficult away point at Fulham before comfortably beating Blackburn. A late show in the League Cup from Villa’s young guns followed and the side were into round 3.

Almost a month on and the tables have turned to leave the fans with a gloomy outlook upon life under McLeish following 3 successive draws in the league. First up, off the back of the 2-0 win over Hereford, was a home derby against Wolves. A dull affair could not be settle with a lack of creativity from central areas of either side proving and issue as the deadlock remained unbroken.


A point was ruefully accepted by the club and much of the fanbase ahead of a tricky trip away to Everton. A dismal first half showing saw Villa bossed by a somewhat weakened side from the hosts but after falling behind twice, Villa showed battle to fight back for an undeserved 2-2 draw through goals from Petrov and the thus far impressive Gabby Agbonlahor.


A decent point at Goodison was fairly well-received, if not the abject performance in the most part, and we soldiered on preparing to face Newcastle. Another no-show at home angered some of the fans after Villa took the lead, again through Agbonlahor, and should have killed off the game. Instead we let Newcastle back in it and in truth they controlled much of the proceedings and could have easily won it were it not for an in form Shay Given.


A look at the stats from the first two league games showed Villa kept 49% of the possession on average against Fulham and Blackburn. Since then the side have kept a meagre 44% of possession in their three league fixtures since, despite two of them being at home. The win over Blackburn was the only time Villa have edged possession all season with 52%.


However, the most disappointing stat in this regard saw Newcastle, who had averaged just 44% of possession in their previous matches, control the game at Villa Park with 59% possession, with Cabaye and Tiote pulling the strings.


The team’s passing has also diminished. In their first two games McLeish’s side achieved an average success rate of 76.5%, which would place them around mid-table in the league in this regard. In the three games since the Blackburn match Villa have completed just under 71% of their passes which would place them in 19th in the league, only ahead of Stoke.


With the fixture list having been kind to the new manager thus far, another home game came up shortly after, albeit a tough 3rd round cup tie hosting Bolton. The display was arguably the worst of the lot this season as Villa created little to no clear cut chances despite the industry of Agbonlahor upfront. A lack of ideas saw Bolton carve out the best chances and open the scoring through Chris Eagles before a Gael Kakuta strike ensured the Trotters a place in round 4.


The defence has improved this season. Of that there is no doubt, and McLeish deserves credit for such efforts. However, his work on the backline has seemingly come at the cost of offensive side of the game, particularly from midfielders. The likes of Fabian Delph and Charles N’Zogbia have been somewhat starved of creative freedom in recent matches, providing the strikers with very little to feed off of.


While Agbnolahor has impressed Darren Bent has seen barely any of the ball in recent matches and looks short of confidence and perhaps fitness. Playing two holding midfielders is all well and good away from home when a point is a good result at most grounds in the Premier League nowadays but McLeish’s line-ups and tactics have lacked imagination in my opinion.


The problem is that the Scot has inherited a squad which is far less creative than it has been in recent years. Ireland was given a chance to impress against Bolton and didn’t while Delph has been effectively turned into an anchor man which is beyond me. Ask any Leeds fan if they could see Delph as a defensive midfielder and they’d laugh. His work rate is very good but he is a flair player at heart and hasn’t been afforded the chance to prove as such.


Jermaine Jenas is likely to feature against QPR and may bring some much needed height to midfield, while Gary Gardner waits in the wings with real ability to attack and score goals. With QPR in good form it is hard to see Villa getting any more than a point, which for many Villans just won’t do. A lack of result means a win against Wigan will be paramount if the numerous McLeish out banners are to stay in their cupboards much longer!


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6 Comments on Villa Slump Due to Midfield Mindset

  1. noel kenny on Thu, 22nd Sep 2011 16:31
  2. well its not a bad start to the season, but i thought villa would have won against newcastle especially at home. mcliesh should let villa attack more and not try and hold out when you are winning by one goal. if stephen ireland can play like he did at man city it will be a very good midfield along with petrov. bent will score the goals but at the moment i dont think he is giving the service as he was last season. villa will beat qpr. up VILLA

  3. Bill on Thu, 22nd Sep 2011 16:53
  4. Jenas adding height? Isn’t he another shorty? He’ll add some much needed box-to-box pace and energy, something that we don’t have. You can’t play Petrov and Ireland together – Ireland needs someone in there to do his running for him. If he comes good he will be an asset, if not then ship him out.

    I think he should play the following team (fitness permitting):







    Let Ireland run free, give him a chance to release our forwards (all of whom have great pace) with his passing (which will hopefully come back). We need creativity, so may as well give it a few games to see if it works and to see if Ireland can recapture his form (the confidence from getting 3 or 4 games may help). We may as well lose 3-0 twice and win 3-0 as lose once and draw twice.

    Gabby and N’Zog would get back and help the defence, Ireland would help the defence if he got his fitness up (which he’ll only get from games.

    Dunne has been decent this season, but he’s not exactly blessed with lightning pace and does tend to get caught out.

    The midfield may get overrun slightly, but then we may overrun opposition teams too with that attacking line-up. I’ve chosen Delph and Jenas in there as they have energy and pace – something Petrov is lacking.

    It’s a proper 4-3-3.

    Away at the better teams I’d maybe sacrafice Ireland for Petrov, but then we’ll lose anyway there so it would make as much sense to go at them and keep Ireland in the team.

    If Ireland doesn’t do it, give Bannan a go, maybe even Albrighton, maybe even Petrov in advanced role (like he played at Celtic), or even give Gardener a go. There is no point in playing boring dross defensive football and still losing!

  5. Bill on Thu, 22nd Sep 2011 16:57
  6. I didn’t mean against QPR by the way, I meant generally. I am aware that Cuellar is injured.

  7. Mike S on Thu, 22nd Sep 2011 17:07
  8. QPR fan here, looking forward to the game with you guys at the weekend i think it will be close. I have seen a couple of your games this season you remind me of Birmingham as in your organised, hard working and hard to beat. good luck with your season after sat.

  9. Mike S on Thu, 22nd Sep 2011 17:13
  10. durrr i mean sunday

  11. Nick on Thu, 22nd Sep 2011 19:37
  12. Jenas is 5′ 10″ and half inches, hardly adding much height! But, we do need him in the middle, at least he is a natural passer of the ball and will help to stem the mentality of hoofing the ball up the pitch, which in my opinion is why our possession stats are so poor. We need to revert to playing just Petrov in the holding role at home, and allowing Jenas and Delph to get up the pitch more.

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