My Five Favourite Things from Aston Villa v Reading

November 28, 2012 in Premier League

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Too early to be a frantically tense six-pointer, yet too late in the season for a lack of stability to prove costly to either side, before the 80th minute, I was sure it would end 0-0. The game yesterday was the worst I’ve seen since… well, Sunday.

But this was not the calculated display that was El Cashico – it was the other end of the scale. Thus, I present to you my five favourite moments from Villa-Reading.

 

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1) Adam Federici

Hardly tested (I’ll touch on that later), the Reading keeper was more than willing to come for crosses, most of his punches clearing the penalty area with height and distance. Heck, at one point he charged out of goal and stopped a Villa break-away with a cushioned header down to a defender.

It’s easy to see where it could all go wrong.

Because on a different night, he would’ve flapped at crosses, misjudged that header, fumbled the few shots he had to stop.

But he didn’t. No clean sheet though.

 

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2) Aston Villa’s general anonymity

Martin Laursen told us that in three years that he’s been away, Aston Villa have only managed to retain Gabriel Agbonlahor in their first XI. That’s a ridiculous turnover: indicative of stability on the level of say, Chelsea.

And aside from Barry Bannan, who this side is obviously built around, who in their starting line-up was a household name? Lowton? Baker? Holman?

Aston Villa have had a torrid time: methodologically selling their best players; O’Neill, Houllier and Stiliyan Petrov absent because of illness; Alex McLeish.

But for a guy who remembers when the England squad was basically Aston Villa + Terry, Gerrard and Rooney, it’s especially jarring.

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3) Reading’s tactics

In a world of asymmetric formations, false nines and double pivots, Reading’s tactics were archaic, if kind - leaving them outnumbered and outgunned.

A flat 4-4-2 with a big man-little man combination up front, box-to-box central midfielders with more energy than sense, their width on the left provided by their overlapping left-back… I felt like I was in 1997.

And it didn’t help them; playing with such rigidity left gaping holes between each of the lines, which isolated their forwards and gave Villa the space to dominate in front of the defence. Not that they could capitalise – the next entry is…

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4) Villa’s inability to score

 

Yes, I know Villa won the thing. And yes, Reading probably squandered as many chances. But Aston Villa were at home and had most of the play.

Headers were flashed wide, shots were wayward, the side netting was hit. Reading seemed to have set up an impossible-to-penetrate forcefield around the goal.

They hadn’t.

The best chance fell to Weimann who, from eight yards out with the keeper in no-man land and the chance to make himself a hero, managed to blast the ball over.

Eventually, the lethargy seemed to seep into Villa’s final ball too. Barry Bannan managed a corner which failed to beat a man just inside the penalty area, and Albrighton smashed a cross high enough to probably meet Weimann’s effort in orbit.

Darren Bent must’ve done something/someone unspeakable not to get into this team.

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 5) My Father’s arrival home

I was wiping my eyes til the 90th minute.

Jokes aside, this game cemented both of these teams as deep in the relegation battle. Villa may have won, but both teams lack the quality to haul themselves out of this. Mark my words: the race for 17th started here.

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