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Friday, 25 November 2011

Topping's Tantrum: Aston Villa and Alex Mcleish

By Bill Topping

There seems no better place to start my blog than the team lying closest to my heart: Aston Villa Football Club.

It will not surprise you that I generally look at life with a pessimistic mindset and it is this that means Villa and me are a match made in heaven.

 There is a family of Premier League teams for which excitement in a season is a rare occurrence. Before this season I would generally regard, with Villa, these teams to be the likes of Fulham, Stoke, Sunderland and Everton. These are very unlikely to go down but are still a million miles away from the dizzy heights of seventh, sixth and fifth.

The chance of glory therefore is in the cup competitions, but when the inevitable draw against Manchester United comes out of the hat in the third round of the FA Cup after already having been knocked out of the league cup by some mediocre League One side, Villa fans know that the season is once more dead.

Most football fans will be aware that if their team is off the pace in the league or has no chance in the cup, that their desire for a decent style of play should not be hindered.

Under Martin O’Neil, Aston Villa were brilliant. Although we challenged competitively for both domestic cups, the goal of fourth spot was always out of reach. While of course we all wanted that, there was a general consensus that it would not be ours. This did not matter however, as the football we were playing was quick, exciting and brilliant to watch.

This has unfortunately all changed since installing Alex McLeish (via Gerard Houllier) as manager.

Whereas previously I could have looked forward to games knowing we would try hard and play attractive football, even if the ultimate result was for nothing, this season the standard of football has been nose bleedingly dull.

Mcleish’s style of football is drab and really not stimulating. The game on Monday was a prime example of this. The formation was wrong, the system dysfunctional and the players fatigued.

It’s a shame, because I feel the players at our disposal have the potential to make a great team. It’s also a shame that the personnel picked by Mcleish is right but the tactical setup is wrong.

It is fair to say the team needs to be built around Gabriel Agbonlahor. Up front he can cause all manner of problems and when playing well is one of the best strikers in the Premier League.

Currently Mcleish is playing Heskey on the left of a front three which is simply not working. I am very fond of Emile but feel his age means he needs to now be used more as an impact substitute.

Instead Mcleish should introduce Charles N’Zogbia and Marc Albrighton. On form, I feel they have the potential to be at least as good as Downing and Young with their speed and end product.

 I am also not a real fan of the error prone Alan Hutton. Defensively Cuellar is twice the player Hutton is so I would opt for the Spaniard at right back any day of the week, even though it is not his favored position.

I am glad to see Chris Herd doing well in the centre as he complements Stylian Petrov well. Our Bulgarian captain is our one player with any real creativity in the middle of the park so his role has become even more vital.

I am willing to give Mcleish a bit more time but if things don’t improve soon he will have to go. Our game needs drastically to change if these depressing Villa rants are to come to a halt.

 If you’re a regular listener you may have noticed I am susceptible to the odd rant so that’s why I’m writing Topping’s Tantrum a fortnightly feature on Friday’s in which I am free to seethe, lambast and analyse all things football.

I will not of course be talking about Villa every week it just seemed a very obvious place to start.

If you have a view point then please don’t hesitate to leave your comments in the box below or e-mail them to not premierleagueproven@hotmail.co.uk

Keep listening to the Podcast! 

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