Lots of frustration and anger after Sunday’s stinker, and fingers are pointing everywhere, which will happen. Most are singling out the players, and some have gone a bit further, logically, saying the performance at St. Jame’s Park would’ve gotten Smith sacked.

Me? I think it’s two things: squad and system. Or maybe just one: a mismatch of squad and system. How’s that for genius?

The squad is what it is. There’s definitely quality and creativity in Phil and Buendia. It’s been a struggle up top for Watkins this season. Most of the negative focus falls on Luiz/midfield and the the service from wide areas. Ollie’s coming in for his fair share of stick, too. Course, everyone does after a performance like that.

But in this system, Ramsey, Luiz and McGinn have a LOT of space to cover, and there’s less help from the front than they had in the 4-2-3-1. With the FBs racing upfield whenever we get the ball, McGinn and Ramsey are often filling in, and Luiz is left with virtually the entire center of the park to cover. 

Additionally, with less pressing and a more narrow front three, it’s easier for opponents to play out, overload and attack us down the flanks, and cut back to the middle. Given the way SG wants us to stay compact, when we are closer together, those two banks of three rotate to try and overload on a given side. Which means switches are always on and the side are dragging back across, usually too late. So we’re getting stretched.

Think of it this way: With both FBs constantly bombing up like wingers, we’re often a 2-3-5 in attack. Which tells you why the CBs and CM/DM have so much to do and why we’re seeing them on islands. You either need to make it stick/win it back high, or see the ball go out of play to prevent really dangerous counters. The Leeds goals that got us so excited were really pretty much what Villa were best at previously, in terms of philosophy.

I don’t know whether the system is naive at the PL level or whether Villa just don’t have the players for it, which is why I’m saying it may well be a combination. When pressed for a description of Smith’s philosophy, I’d say, “He likes to funnel opponents to the outside, deal with crosses rather than getting sliced through the middle. Keep it solid and simple at the back. He wants to break at speed, using the minimum number of passes to get upfield and exploit space quickly. He also favors a high press.”

Didn’t sound like much, but it’s essentially classic counterattacking football. Win it high, and failing that, invite them on and create space. Smith was less worried about possession than not conceding. The side’s attacking strength, at the time, was also largely built around Grealish’s ability to carry. This meant of lot of play down the left, and space wide right as a result. Stay-at-home Targett came up in support. A lot of goals came from the back post.

The weakness was also relying on Grealish. But to my mind, Smith was trying to play to the team’s strengths and sidestep the negatives. And while some version of 4-2-3-1 might always have been his preference, when it worked for Villa, it really worked. Fifteen clean sheets in a season says something.

Fast forward, and under a no-nonsense and reputedly much smarter Steven Gerrard, we’re once again witnessing the same issues that got Smith the sack. Fans are slating Luiz. Complaining about Mings firing it long, and Ollie not holding it up well. Poor starts, one-half performances. Bad touches, poor passing. Lack of possession. Blown leads. And now the full match where everyone seemed to be sleepwalking. The standard line was Smith had favorites, needed to raise their games, and was slow to sub or change tactics.

Yet, we still rely on Mings to be the ball-playing CB. Luiz is still in there (though Nakamba’s absence obviously factors in), Sanson still frozen out. McGinn is even further back than before. We still see some lovely passages largely outweighed by longer spells where Villa struggle to keep hold or play out from the back. We see the same poor decision-making. Konsa, Watkins and Cash seem to have regressed. Changes have been late and ineffective. Carney has looked lost in what I’m assuming is an effort to convince him there’s a pathway. The youth everyone calls for has largely been sent out on loan.

It’s beginning to look like there wasn’t a magic formula to be absorbed on the training pitch. And that Gerrard is as stymied as Dean Smith was.

And yeah, on the positive side you will get some more pretty one-touch football if you add Philippe Coutinho and Emi Buendia. Ramsey is excelling without the responsibility of playing in the middle.

But overall, apart from having two playmakers now, not much has changed, and defensively we seem to have gotten worse. Or at least no better than we started the season.

What has changed (apart from Coutinho and Digne) is the formation and responsibilities. The narrow 4-3-3, or 4-3-2-1, that produces less high pressure, asks the FBs to be wingers (without three CBs) and midfielders to be fullbacks. There are acres of space for switches, the front line is easily bypassed, and all the goal-scoring threat, apart from Ramsey, is concentrated in the middle. The CBs are on islands. There’ve been little to no tactical changes. A couple odd tweaks here and there in-game (like Luiz sitting back with the CBs to start or being further out), but nothing to suggest Gerrard is willing to change his system to suit what he has, or to match up with opponents.

To be fair, neither Bailey nor Traoré have been available. But Smith never had Bailey, Coutinho, or Digne, and usually had to deal with Grealish being out for at least one major stretch of a season. The wide threats Smith did have, Ghazi and Trez (who were part of the bargain-bin shopping spree following promotion) are now gone. Traoré was healthier last season, and did score goals.

I think we’re back to players, in other words, which is where I’ve always said the weakness was. Athleticism. Touch. Tackling and combativeness. Decision-making.

So I might then ask whether it makes sense to enforce a different system if the players are perhaps even less suited.

Perhaps the idea is to see how they fall short to guide Villa’s summer business. But I don’t think I’m wrong in saying the players we had were always supposed to be upgraded year-on-year, regardless. I’d said we weren’t strong or fast enough in midfield. That we needed a 10 (to take the load off Grealish, as it was then). That Ghazi and Trez weren’t going to be starting and would be moving on. Many others have said the same.

Anyway, this is what I’m seeing. It may sound like I’m trying to rehash a Smith controversy, but I’m not. I’m simply offering up comparisons of what wasn’t good enough before to what isn’t good enough now.

I am, though, in this comparison pointing out that there’s not always a lot a manager can do, and we can maybe use a bit of hindsight to temper expectations of what’s down to a manager versus the squad.

During January, we heard supporters saying “no way” to McGinn going to United for £50m. Villa apparently rebuffed £30m+ for Luiz. The Bissouma approach faltered over price, which does make sense since he’ll be available for much less in the summer. Whether we get him or not, that’s another story. But where were the backup choices? To hear it, surely anyone is better than Luiz, and now the failure to get a dominant holding midfielder spans regimes (not that January is where you should shop for every need).

When I’m reading “look, we’re mid-table, it’s not good enough for top 8, the season now is about assessment and hopefully building some momentum,” I have to say I’m largely in agreement. And based on Gerrard’s body language Sunday, he probably is, too. Whether that was the thinking when we went for Coutinho and Digne, I’ve no idea. But that seems to be the reality now after two points from what should have been six.

As some have noted, players are playing for their places. I doubt they’re consciously coasting. Perhaps Villa were just leggy after Leeds following a long layoff.

Regardless, I was more hopeful of a glorious charge, didn’t want to be back here so quickly. Perhaps a shake-up will help in the short term. Whatever, if it gets us results, I’m all for it. If Gerrard is indeed ruthless, there will be lots of changes come summer. But one hopes that solves the problems, rather than this being a failure of system and evidence of obstinacy.

I could go, and already have, but that’s enough for now.

Over to you.


Comments 76

  1. Thanks Jc , this is what I thought could very likely happen, poor pre-season coupled with injuries saw any chance of putting together whatever smith had in mind. Then boot Smith out and change tic-tacs again and bring in even more players. We lacked cohesion then and we lack it now,

    Jack was more than a player he was the glue that smith used and along with smiths original staff to produce a culture at Villa. SG is installing his own based on personal excellence , it might not suit many of the characters smith installed. It’s one thing to get excited and put in the effort because something is new but quite another to have the personal drive to keep it up day in day out.

  2. Cheers JC. Between now and the end of season, SG has no alternative than to keep working his system and drilling the players accordingly. He may need some tweaks to account for the playing staff at his disposal. Dougie and SJM are not firing as they should. In Dougie’s case, he’s currently out of position. May also be true of SJM. Think it was Bilic at West Ham who bought a player that subsequently complained about where he was being asked to play. Bilic told him a player should be able to play anywhere. I disagree with that sentiment, each position is specialist.

    The game against Watford on Saturday will tell us a little more about the way things are progressing or regressing.

  3. Really interesting write up John which maybe highlights the benefits of a football club having a consistent strategy into which new players and managers either fit immediately or are capable of adapting.

    The alternative seems to be that we have to start from scratch with the squad every time the manager changes and surely none of us want that?

  4. I’ve worked in different companies (ranging from selling lavender toiletries, games consoles and soft core porn) and had to manage very different sets of individuals within different cultures and had to adapt to the hand I was dealt.
    So . . . I find it difficult to accept that the players don’t fit the way our manager wants them to play. Surely it should be up to our manager to adapt to the players at his disposal?

  5. Are we really saying that the players aren’t up to it and we need to change most of them?

    We’ve brought in Coutinho and Digne . . . .class players, to supplement the players we already had and Jacob Ramsey has really stepped up. If the squad, with them in simply isn’t good enough then why the hell did we get rid of Dean Smith.

    If you’re saying that the players are the problem then presumably you’re accepting that Dean Smith wasn’t?

  6. We’ve been very ready to praise Gerrard for developing Nakamba and Ramsey so who is to blame for the drop in form of some of our other players?

    I’ve seen plenty of comments on social media suggesting that Luiz, Watkins, Cash and Mcginn aren’t up to it. I find that hard to reconcile that with the suggestions that each of them are considered to be worth upwards of £30m each by other clubs.

    It’s no time at all since there was a strong consensus that we had our strongest squad in ages and I firmly believe we still have. It seems to me that we have two options:
    1) expect our manager to get the most out of these players
    2) accept that we are putting ourselves in the hands of our manager to change the playing style of the club and. . . . as some of our players don’t fit this style, we have to be patient whilst he changes the squad to fit how he wants to play.

  7. Don’t get me wrong.. . . .I don’t want a change of manager. I believe that Gerrard has the potential to be good for us but it seems he either needs to adapt his style, or we need to adapt to the idea that this is a transition season where we’re looking for mid table security rather than anything more exciting.

  8. One other thought though. . . . if we ARE looking for a change of style and playing personnel then it does seem odd to do it with a manager who will move on if he does it successfully.

    what will happen when he moves on. . . . .do we change course again?

    My own preference . . . .Gerrard adapts his playing style to the skills of the players and brings the best out of them this season. That’s not going to bring us European football but it would be good to have a strong finish to the season that sees us believing in European football next season

  9. Got a feeling that SG is going to have the same problem that Roy Keane had. Both were highly driven elite players who probably don’t understand why lesser players can’t do what they did. They will get frustrated by this, and have a go at the players. This will confuse, demoralise then piss off said mundane players and increase the impatience of our too good to be true benefactors.

    I feel peeved that our young trendy fashionable all conquering new manager is going to rearrange the numbers 4, 3, 2 and 1 into a new formation of the day with out any regard to the abilities of the players he took over. That is just playing Football Manager 2022. Can’t get what he wants, just buy the latest glossy players and we will get instant Europe.

    I want our top man to manage then evolve the team he has. I’m worried we are in a Frank the Bank situation, only from a lower base.

  10. I remember after our first few games under Gerrard, comments to the effect that we were basically playing the same style of football as under Dean Smith.

    But . . . we were winning and it did seem that Gerrard had managed to motivate the players and bring their skills out.

    As the weeks went on we saw an increase in movement off the ball, swift passing, and cute little triangles, leading to some really exciting play.

    We’ve slightly upgraded the squad since then but it’s just not happening for us at the moment.

    We must surely ALL know in our hearts (because weve seen it with our own eyes) that this group of players, under this manager, ‘can’ play well and succeed.

    Between them they just need to re-discover how to do it.

  11. For me the reality is that we do not have a squad capable of a top 6 spot at present and its natural for any club with ambitions of becoming an elite side to have the squad members come and go over a short space of time in order to the club to reach there aims . reference Citeh and Chelski

    We wold hope most of the current players will be part of a top 6 squad but i reckon only a small proportion of them will be a villa in18 months time

  12. our squad lacks pace and physicallity, i dont think theyd ever beat a west ham/burnley team.

    said it weeks ago, sg ball with and without nakamba like chalk and cheese. he took over and wanted one cdm with nakamba playing like we have never seen before. since he has been out the shapes gone out the window.

    should he change his style now as we dont have a 6 to play it? 4231? chuck tim in as a 6?

  13. i dont think theres any surprises. we have watched this team for 3 years. struggle to keep the ball, weak and slow.

    27 looses since 2021 says it all.

    make no mistake change will come in the summer. big overhaul and some players we could be upset leaving ie mcguinn, watkins.

    i do wonder how many know there out the door allready

  14. mark

    yeah man we have 0 proper leadership, a very quite team. sure mings will try and organise and talks but not dishing out bollockings.

    im 100% confident sg will buy a spine in the summer. cb, cdm and st

  15. Runtings, I agree we’re not ‘yet’ a top 6 squad . . . . did anyone really think we were? (well yes. . . .actually some did)

    We all knew that there would continue to be some changes but we’d pretty much all convinced ourselves that having had to start from scratch when we were promoted we’d now reached the stage where we would be gradually upgrading 2-3 positions each year plus, investing in and developing our promising youth.

    We were playing well and we were winning games or narrowly losing to top teams.

    Suddenly after a poor run there are some saying that we need to change the whole squad .

    a) I just don’t believe it at all. We KNOW the existing squad can play well they need to re-find that confidence and energy and we’ll be winning games again. If we don’t, then those who called for Dean Smith’s head and wanted Gerrard to replace him should man up and admit they were wrong.
    (by the way. . . . . I personally still believe that SG and his team ARE capable of doing well with this squad)

    b) If we now want to replace the whole squad rather than just a few players each season we are basically saying that our owners and management have got it all wrong over the past few years. That goes against everything that I’ve been reading on here and social media over that period.

    So. . . .I’m going to use the F word. If you’re calling for wholesale change now you’re a fickle fan. A few losses and suddenly the glass is three quarters empty. I’ll bet whatever you like that I could go back through postings on here and fan’s postings on twitter etc and find them praising our owners for having turned the club round. For having a long term vision, for building a stronger squad.
    I bet many of them were delighted that Steve Gerrard replaced Dean Smith and after a few games felt vindicated and said that he was going to take us places with our current players. I’ll bet many have commented on how much he’s improved certain players.

    I’d better apologise now for having gone too far. . . but my only excuse is that I’m more wound up by the calls for wholesale change than I am about the abject performance against Newcastle.

    We have a decent squad. . .best we’ve had for years. . . .you all know it.
    I believe we have a good manager and a good back up team.
    We have excellent owners who’ve backed the club to the hilt.

    Now we need to show that we’re good fans who will carry on supporting our team not ‘even’ when things aren’t going so well, but ESPECIALLY when things aren’t going so well.

  16. oh. . . . .and if that last posting seemed a bit TOO emotional then I blame it on the fact that I have to do a 45 minute presentation this evening followed by 45 minutes of questions. . . . .I ‘hate’ doing presentations. . .always have, so maybe I’m a bit more hormonal than usual!


  17. Relax RoBBo, presentations are a piece of piss. Crack a bit of humour and everyone’s laughing. Villa however, are a different matter entirely!!

    When Jack left and the new faces arrived, most supporters hoped Deano would kick us on up the table and then see how far it went. What wasn’t envisaged was losing 5 on the spin or losing after being 2-0 up. Valid reasons for the set backs were aired on these pages but it cost Deano his job.

    Now SG has brought in a few new faces, with indifferent results so we must be patient and hopefully see some improvements over the coming games. If improvement is not forthcoming, the pressure is more likely to come from our ambitious owners rather than the fans.

  18. Actually SG has brought in two very experienced quality players that should be in their prime not the type we have gambled on so far. Its a complete turnaround in approach, we also got Ings and Young under Smith but the age trajectory under SG has defo been upward where as Smiths team had the average age of a foetus. And if we want immediate results/success then that’s not unusual nor a negative. Doesn’t smack of next season to me though.

  19. On the system…

    Early success: I think new manager/novelty of system.

    Subsequent problems: Being sussed out/not adapting.

    If Nakamba was so integral to it working, then you have to adapt if you don’t have a like-for-like player.

  20. Thanks Plug and JC. . . . . .still running through the presentation in preparation for this evening . . . . but silently in my head now and gargling honey as I sense my voice is going!
    It’s taking place online and when I did a run through with my daughter last night (poor thing) I found it really difficult not being able to judge reactions from the audience.

    It was well worth the run through those as she was able to point out that although I couldn’t see her, she could see me. . . .

    No nose picking during the real thing!

  21. In fairness to SG, I get why he’d be upset (and the fans) over Newcastle. I do also think the Leeds game had something to do with the ‘effort’. And you do see it elsewhere.

    We tend to remember teams playing well (“why don’t we play like that?”) and forget all the matches where teams are just having a really bad day. Like I said, don’t think anyone’s coasting, etc.

    At the same time, when you’re trying to install a new system (which does have very different responsibilities) and teams are unlocking it in different ways each week (they know exactly what they’re going to see and who’s going to be doing it), it can be difficult for players to adjust in-game.

    Easier to to adapt when you’re already familiar with something, and you’ve seen how sides try to exploit/attack it.

  22. r0bb0,

    Yeah, not a fan of Zoom/Teams meetings where you can’t see everyone. Very hard to read the room.

    Not a fan of them in general, either, but these are the times in which we live. Good job doing a run through.

  23. H&V,

    On the 27 losses…That’s the issue. And it’s less the win-loss ratio than the draw-loss ratio. We just haven’t drawn many.

    Our win totals haven’t been that bad. You look at the table and it’s lack of draws that really does us in. The ability to at least not lose is a big area for improvement.

    And if you’re more likely to draw than lose, you’re probably more likely to snatch extra wins.

  24. JC, I totally get why Gerrard, ‘and’ the fans are upset about the Newcastle loss. . . . .it’d be worrying if he wasn’t!
    You’d hope however that he is able to detach himself somewhat from the emotions and calmly analyse just what’s gone wrong and what needs to change.
    If he came to the conclusion that we can only succeed through wholesale squad change then I reckon he’s come to the wrong conclusion, but also, it would mean that he’d given up on this season. . . . .which would definitely be wrong!

    He has to find a way now of making the best of what he has and the players need to work bloody hard and respond to it.

  25. Robbo good luck with your work today

    I am not personally calling for the squad to be sold and am usually guilty of being too optimistic about villa’s chances of success , however my view is changing especially as we do not have a team that is confident in keeping the ball for any real length of time …. under Deano we played at pace into spaces playing percentages football which I feel suited out current players a lot more

    Also hoping certain players can now kick on to a level expected of a top player but feel a little disappointed in the progress …. Ramsey possibly now one of the best players at the club which either means he is a superstar player or some of the more senior ones are not as good as first thought ?

    Anyway if the owners are to achieve there aims we better not get to attached to any player who is not pulling up trees in there position

  26. Excellent leader JC,
    and good to see so many good comments too.
    Didn’t make comments on the match at the time, as rather than just hit out over my disappointment of losing a match that most people were expecting us to win, even a lot of Geordie fans. On the morning of the match I popped in my local for a quick pint and bumped into a group of Geordie lads, working locally who were in to watch the match. One lad was lucky enough to win just over £100 on the bandit, and that was it for them, free lunches and beer for them all, and fair play, they invited me to join them. I wish I had now, but I wanted to go home and change into my Mcginn shirt for the match , and perhaps catch up with them later!

    I am sure that Gerrard expected his players to adapt quickly to his changes in formation, and on the training ground, it can look like they are, but come to the game, and the opposition is sussing you out, it is a very different story, coupled with their manager’s ability to adapt his formation, which is exactly what Eddie Howe did, and Bielsa.
    I agree that Gerrard needs to take into account the players he has, and how they can adapt to his system. I understood when the new owners came in, that Villa was adapting a style that would be played throughout all the teams in the club, then players and coaches could follow it , and any changes in management would not upset this system.
    It would appear that this has all gone out of the window, and we re now going to be playing to a new rigid system being introduced by Gerrard, and if players cant adapt, then the will be moved on.
    Good to see that Guilbert is now one of the top fullbacks in France , but will he return to Villa?
    I for one, was disappointed when he returned to France in the summer, as I was impressed with the little bit I saw of him.
    I also think that some players were just too stretched after the Leeds game to be able to put in another mile a minute game. The time wasted over the disallowance of Ollie’s goal again was a total demoraliser for the boys.

  27. Good luck with your presentation tonight r0bb0,
    hope all goes well for you. Remember it is like being on tv, so try to make sure you are comfortable facing the camera, relaxed and not moving too much!
    Glass of sherry to steady the nerves can help !!

  28. runtings,

    “under Deano we played at pace into spaces playing percentages football which I feel suited out current players a lot more.”


    For years we’ve not been a good tackling team, and neither have we been good on the ball under pressure—passing, retaining, or receiving. We’re also not that fast in MF. Not the best combination.

    Basic book on Villa is get in their faces, don’t give them time and they’ll give it back instead of punishing you for getting too close or committed.

  29. Ahh, screw it! I’m gonna unleash my dog Lola for a pulsating run through the trees.
    When a new manager comes in a big change isn’t going to work. Take what you have and then blend your ideas and tactics into what was in place. To think a good player becomes dispensable just because he doesn’t quite fit into the new format is stupid. Does anyone think Targett was that less of a player than Digne? The manager has to acclimatize to what he has and work with that. Big changes are overrated.

  30. Thanks for the good wishes . . . . . the presentation went well thanks.
    PP, I didn’t have a glass of sherry . . . but did have a large gin ad tonic disguised to look like a glass of water

  31. I’m in the Ian camp on this one. . . .the manager needs to adapt to what he has. . . . . .I the short – medium term at least.

    and. .. .like PP, one of the things that has impressed me with the owners is the apparent desire to build a playing style throughout the club. Now if they feel that they’ve learned over the past few years that the style they’d chosen wasn’t right and needs changing then that’s fair enough. . . . but. . . .it will now take longer to achieve the objectives while the new style is adapted at all levels and suitable players need to be found to fit it.
    If this is the case then I’m prepared to be a bit more patient while it works it’s way through the club. I guess we’ll just have to keep watching that space

  32. yeah its fair to say a manager has to get the best out of what he has at his disposal. SG has played 4231 so maybe go to that.
    Just get to the summer with no drama as im still worried about a relegation fight. What midfielders do watford have…anyone a bit quick or over 6ft and im worried. we just made shelvy look like busquets.

  33. My dismay with Gerrard, in his post match interview, was how he slated most of the players, with the exception of Courtinho, Digne and Chambers, his recruits, of course. He did also include Mings, but then he could not praise Chambers and leave Mings out. I like many, thought that Courtinho was missing most of the match, and did not contribute a great deal, but Gerrard still sang his praises.
    I am not sure what team he will eventually name on Saturday, but we know that constant chopping and changing will not help. We need a settled side that can get used to playing with each other for the rest of the season, if we are not to be dragged down into the mire.
    I really hope that Gerrard does not turn into a five minute wonder, and that he can adapt the system to the players we have for now, and get the best out of them.

  34. I am not sure about everyone thinking that Chambers should be our centre back while Konsa is suspended, when Hause has been so good when deputising, has a good head on him, winning the most headers in defence, and can score at the other end too. Chambers, if played anywhere, should be in front of the back four, giving the cover needed for the midfield.
    Sanson is ok, but is still yet to really prove himself. Douglas Luiz has just been left with too much to do in recent games.

  35. H&V, yes we’re tying everything down today. We’re in North Devon but not on the coast, and just outside the red zone, but . . . . . we’re on a hill with views 20 miles to the West. That’s great. . . . . but does mean that even on mildly breezy day we feel it strongly here. Tomorrow could be. . . . .exciting.

  36. Robbo

    No way man I’m north Devon too! Jeez man good luck tonight and tomorrow. Getting better in the afternoon. Im on the coast and there’s nothing in the way of the wind coming off the sea and my top floor flat! Prob won’t sleep much tonight!

  37. H&V
    So you’re catching the absolute brunt of it!
    I’d suggested to the wife that we take a trip up to see what it’s like at Westward Ho!
    Seems she didn’t think it was my best ever idea.

  38. I was just saying that it doesn’t feel any worse than a few of the other storms we’ve had since we’ve been down here. . . . .when a flying branch hit the window.
    No damage done. . . .except to the wife’s nerves.

  39. Important to get the 3 points tomorrow and re set and have a final push.

    Luiz Watkins both need dropping, mcginn to I would say and cash

    Time for Sanson Ings young and Ingoram to start

  40. Storm update. . . . . . we stood watching as the roof tiles started to move with each big gust. Then they started flapping up and down. Then they started lifting off and flying into the driveway. . . . now looking at rafters on part of the roof.
    I have to say, up to now Churchill insurers have been really impressive. they couldn’t have made it easier and their feedback has been instantaneous and really easy to respond to. . . . .hats off to them.

  41. As I was feeling a bit peeved at losing my roof I decided to cheer myself up by breaking my usual rules and reading a Frem post. Encouraging that he only wants 4 players dropped and with no accompanying player insults! 🙂
    Not sure on what basis we should be bringing Ingoram into the starting line up, but maybe others have seen more of him than I?

  42. Unusually for me, I’m actually feeling quite optimistic about tomorrow. It’s a shame Watford now have Hodgson (who I have a deal of respect for) but we have the better players, and if they’re not sufficiently rested and motivated for tomorrow, after last weekend’s poor showing, then they never will be.
    We know our existing team can play really good football under Steven Gerrard and I reckon we’ll see that again tomorrow.

  43. this article from the local Watford paper https://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/sport/19935523.roy-hodgson-wants-watford-stifle-aston-villa/ spells out exactly what you might expect.
    Hodgson firstly wants to stifle our attacking players and then exploit the gaps we leave in our defence as we push forwards.

    Did we have early success under Gerrard because he slightly changed our approach and it took a while for opposing managers to catch on?
    or. . . .
    We recognised that Nakamba was playing well, but was he ‘essential’ to play the way SG now wants us to?

    If the answer to either of those questions is yes, then presumably we need to see some changes in our approach.
    Having said that , I do believe that with the right energy levels and self belief we can beat Watford convincingly tomorrow, even if we do stick to the recent Gerrard game plan and even without Nakamba.

  44. Robbo

    Argggghhh gutted about the roof man. Loads of devastation here. Mothers fence is down.

    Sg mentioned Tim was very close to a start and after toon display maybe closer!

    Guess which club hodgson has beaten most in his career ……

  45. Sorry about your roof Robbo a pain you don’t need. The loss of one fence panel seems trivial but then I haven’t looked at the roof yet , might of blew the moss off. 3 1/2 hours to get home after the m40 was blocked so di the shopping in another town on the detour ,bonus.

    If we can’t improve on the last game they should write and apologise to Smith.

  46. It finally felt safe enough to go up the garden, only to find a large tree had fallen on our beehives. Now that has made for an ‘interesting’ morning. . . .they clearly didn’t ‘get’ that I was trying to help them.

    As for the football, you’re right Mark, if we don’t win today you’d have to ask what’s going on now we have a better squad than under Dean Smith.
    Apparently if we were to lose and Norwich win (unlikely I know, but not impossible) Dean Smith would have have a better record at Norwich than Gerrard at Villa.

  47. I do still believe that we can do very well under Gerrard, with this squad though. He showed that he was able to get them to play exciting and effective football and it’ll be interesting to see if today’s team changes bring that back.

    It seems the club was well aware that we need midfield defensive support but they aren’t going to throw money at it willy nilly. I’m all for that approach if it means we get the right person at the right price eventually. It does mean that, like the owners (apparently), the fans will need to show a bit more patience though.

  48. oh. . . . .now where did I get the idea that there would be changes for today?

    Ings for Watkins the only change. With Ing’s record against Watford it’s not a bad move and you’d have to hope that Buendia and Coutinho’s trickery ought to be able to make the most of Ing’s goalscorer positional instincts

    Can’t help feeling sorry for Watkins. . . it just hasn’t been falling for him. I see the pundits do seem to agree that he was hard done by last weekend. One of his key assets has been his hold up play and that just wasn’t happening for him either last time out either so it does seem he needs a break. He’s worked hard to work his way up from the lower divisions though so I reckon he has the determination to do it again.

    Oh well. . . .now we’ll find out if it was Gerrard’s team selection and tactics that were at fault last week or just the player’s failure to implement them. I’ll be shocked if they don’t come out all guns blazing and get a win today tbh and I rarely feel like that.

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