COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Sunday 2nd November 2014
VENUE Villa Park






After the most recent round of Premier League games, Spurs sit one place above Villa who have had a terrible run of five straight defeat without scoring a goal.  Spurs have not fared much better if you listen to the media (including the BBC) and the scaremongers who want Pochettino out after nine matches. 

But then, if not Pochettino, then Daniel Levy.

The ones who often appear to get off scot free are the players, but there are some who are a conundrum to the fans.  Roberto Soldado is one, who appears to be losing out in the fans first team to Harry Kane, who is getting lots of backing to start matches, but Soldado gets serenaded when he appears and looks like he has a place in the fans' hearts.  Pochettino will not be swayed by fans favourites, but will pick a side to do a job and it is down to them to do that.  Surprisingly, it is captain Younes Kaboul who has looked shaky at the back of late and while he may be proud to wear the armband, perhaps it is weighing heavily on his arm.

But what of our opponents ?  Paul Lambert's side have looked a shadow of the one that won on the opening day away against Stoke, then on to enjoy wins over Liverpool and Hull.  The run without a goal is a problem for Villa, as in those last foive matches they have been beaten by three three times and two twice.  I would settle for one once to add to that after Sunday's game.  Spurs don't score too many goals these days, so expect a low scoring game ahead.

Brad Guzan has been having plenty to do in the Villa goal with his ability as a national goalkeeping prospect of the US being tested now, but you can't really heap all the blame on the goalie, as his defence has to shoulder some on the responsibility.  Alan Hutton has worked his way back into the side and had been performing well (with a Bale like run up the wing and into the box against Everton), but a ankle injury will rule him out of this match.  Central defender Phillipe Senderos is also out, but Nathan Baker may return, but his season has not lived up to the promise Villa hoped he would realise.  Good in the air, his concentration is lacking and he is not the best timer of a tackle on the ground. 

Ron Vlaar, who had such a good World Cup with Holland, is the mainstay of the Villa back four, but much more of this and he will be off to Manchester United in the January transfer window.  His physical presence helps him win the ball in the air and on the floor, but he is also a danger at set-pieces.  At full back, Villa might have to go for Matt Lowton and Aly Cissokho.  Cissokho hasn't played that much, but is a leggy defender and that can sometimes be his downfall, while Lowton came to Villa from Sheffield United and is a player who likes to think he is a tough tackler and one who likes to get forward.  The one thing he forgets is his defensive n.  Baker could be deployed at full back, with Ciaran Clark coming into a centre-half position.  Another youngster who has not made the progress hoped for, Clark is sometimes a rash tackler and is often beaten by good movement.   Leandro Bacuna is also available and while he has a good free-kick in his locker, his defending is not what he gets headlines for, being played there when he is usually a winger. 

The midfield for Villa is more recently constituted of Kieran Westwood, Kieran Richardson, Charles N’Zogbia and Tom Cleverley. Woodward was a player brought in from Crewe Alexandra, with high hopes he would develop into a top midfielder. Still young, he has time on his side, but he has not been able to dictate games and while he is another who is good at dead ball situations, he needs to get a grip on matches to develop to the level Villa require. Kieran Richardson had been playing in defence last season for Fulham and was snapped up on a free for Villa, but his career is on the wane, with midfield work a much more demanding role than in a back four where everything comes towards you.

N’Zogbia was a promising winger when he played at Wigan Athletic, but his move to Newcastle saw him shine occasionally, before leaving for Villa, where he had almost disappeared from view. A tricky winger on his day with a good shot, he is more often on the periphery of the action and fails to make an impact.  Alongside him, Tom Cleverley has left Manchester United, where he got lots of stick, for a loan season at Villa, with the possibility of a permanent move there.  Good on the ball, but with a problem of choosing the right option, he reminds me a bit of Jamie O'Hara.  Someone else who didn't realise their potential.

There are also Carlos Sanchez, Joe Cole (brought in as a free transfer) and youngster Jack Grealish (who did well on loan at Notts. County last season), but the loss of their only effective destroyer-creator in Fabian Dleph with a dislocated shoulder has affected both their forward and defensive departments.

With Villa's cash flow problems, they have invested in players with potential or who were cheap and few of those signings have paid off over a long period.   The options they have up front show this to great effect.  The big money they spent was on Christian Benteke.  A formidable striker on his day - good in the air and with the ability to get shots in on goal form all angles, he did well in his first season, but now injury and slight loss of form have affected him, Villa have to rely on their other forwards Darren Bent, Andreas Weimann, Gabriel Agbonlahor.  All are good in their own way, but rarely do they turn a game on their own.  Agbonlahor was going to be the new Emile Heskey and it appears that is how he is turning out.  Fast, but lacking the guile to get through on his own very often, he can be a problem if defenders allow him space and Tottenham have been doing that recently.  Bent relies on playing on the last defender's shoulder and with Lloris sweeping, it closes the space he has to work in, so Spurs should be able to keep him out; not that Lambert favours picking Darren anyway.  Then that leaves Weimann.  A decent forward, with pace and a little bit of nous about making a shooting opportunity for himself, he can be dangerous, so will need to be watched closely.  Libor Kozak, another striker, is out with a  broken leg.

I suspect Fazio might play alongside Vertonghen in this match, with Kane still on the bench, as Eriksen, Lamela and Chadli will most likely start in the attacking three.  It will be a test for Spurs but although there is a fag paper between the teams in the League, it is down to Spurs to prove that the gap is bigger in ability.

Having said all that, Tottenham have a habit of allowing sides who have been on a bad run a generous three points and while I am not sure even Villa might be capable of accepting those, it might be the outcome unless Spurs are on their game.

PREDICTION Aston Villa    1         Tottenham Hotspur    2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Etienne Capoue and Aaron Lennon face late fitness tests on knee and hamstring injuries, while Spurs will have to carry on without Kyle Walker (hip) and he is joined on the sidelines by Nabil Bentaleb (ankle).  Kyle Naughton will be fit to play if selected.
Alan Hutton misses out on a match against his former club, with an ankle injury, with Phillipe Senderos out with a thigh injury, but Nathan Baker could replace him after overcoming a hamstring pull.  Andreas Weimann could be fit after taking a knock in last Sunday's match at QPR.  Fabian Delph's dislocated shoulder will keep him out until Christmas, while Libor Kozak's broken leg rules him out too.

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Aston Villa   1 (1)                                                                  Tottenham Hotspur  2 (0)
Premier League
Sunday 2nd November 2014                                                                                    Kick off 16:00
Villa Park
Weimann 16m 58s
Chadli 84m 30s
Kane 90m 02s
Cissokho (foul on Mason)  38
Weimann (foul on Mason)  69 
Sanchez (foul on Townsend)  89 

Benteke (hands in Mason's face)  65

Eriksen (foul on N'Zogbia)  25
Vertonghen (foul on Westwood)
Chadli (foul on Westwood)  80 



Crowd :   32,049 Weather :  Mild
Referee :  Neil Swarbrick (Preston) Assistant Referees :  Mr. S. Long; Mr. A. Halliday
Fourth Official :  Robert Madley -
Aston Villa kicked off and played towards the North Stand in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 7 minutes
Aston Villa : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
  1  Brad GUZAN

34  Matthew LOWTON
  2  Nathan BAKER
  5  Ron VLAAR (c)
23  Aly CISSOKHO       (19  Darren BENT 93)

15  Ashley WESTWOOD
  Carlos SANCHEZ      
28  Charles N'ZOGBIA  (18  Kieran RICHARDSON 86)

20  Christian BENTEKE     
10  Andreas WEIMANN          (11  Gabriel AGBONLAHOR 74)

Unused subs: 
31  Shay GIVEN
  6  Ciaran CLARK
  Joe COLE

    1  Hugo LLORIS

  5  Jan VERTONGHEN     
  4  Younes KABOUL (c)
  3  Danny ROSE

29  Etienne CAPOUE  (17  Andros TOWNSEND 72)
38  Ryan MASON

  9  Roberto SOLDADO 
23  Christian ERIKSEN       (11  Erik LAMELA 46)
22  Nacer CHADLI      

10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR  (18  Harry KANE  58  )

Unused subs: 
13  Michel VORM

21  Federico FAZIO
19  Mousa DEMBELE
25  Benjamin STAMBOULI

Manager :  Paul Lambert Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino
Sponsor :   dafabet Shirt sponsor :  AIA
Kit Supplier :  Macron Kit Supplier :   Under Armour
Match report

A game that lacked little Spurs spark was ignited when the red mist clouded Christian Benteke's mind and when it cleared a red card was waiting for him and it gave the green light to Spurs to go on and win the match 2-1, for a much needed win.  The side looked like they needed a rocket up their backside for most of the match, as they dominated possession (as usual), but failed to make the most of it, although they did trouble the Villa defence more than they had done opposition defences lately.

Mauricio Pochettino shocked the Spurs fans.  Firstly by not including Harry Kane in the line-up, but also by including Roberto Soldado in a midfield role.  It had worked with Kane there against Asteras, so maybe this is as close we will get to two forwards in the side.  As it turned out, the one up front was the poorest performer of all three and Adebayor missed a golden chance and managed to get offside when Spurs tried to break away. 

With Villa kicking off, it was Tottenham who had the first chance within a minute when Soldado fizzed a shot just wide of Guzan's right hand post and then a few minutes later, a goalmouth scramble when Mason won the ball broke on the left, played it in to Adebayor, who laid it back for Eriksen to strike and the ball hit Chadli before popping into the air and Roberto had to react quickly but couldn't get his header on target.  The return of Christian Benteke to the Villa side initially gave them a boost.  Naughton had to close him out as he found a yard of space on the right of the Tottenham goal, then he produced a diving header to meet Lowton's right wing cross, but he aimed it straight and the ball went very wide, instead of a glancing effort, which might have brought Lloris into action.  He then thundered a shot against the post, with Lloris looking beaten and there was a repeat for the French keeper, when, later in the half, the Belgian striker headed inches wide, beating Kaboul in the air easily. 

But then something happened that comes along once in a blue moon. Villa scored. I knew they would score against us and we assisted them in doing it. We had given a couple of stray passes away before Capoue had one picked off. Then N’Zogbia took on Rose to put in a low ball into the box and while it looked as though it was heading for Benteke in the centre of the goal, Weimann stretched out a leg to slide it into the net with Lloris unable to react. Capoue hadn't tracked the Villa man and it would have been a poor goal to concede any day, but against Villa it was a crime.

That meant that we had to score twice and that hasn't looked likely lately.

Spurs did hit back with a blocked Chadli shot and Kaboul tried to beat Guzan after a goalmouth scramble from a corner, but there wasn’t enough power in his prod at the ball to prevent the keeper getting behind the shot. When Villa did break away, Eriksen earned a yellow card for pulling back N’Zogbia on the halfway line to stop anything developing.

Finding space on the left wing with nobody in front of him, Danny Rose often received the ball, but his crossing was not always accurate, although he didn’t always have someone to aim at. in the 27th Emmanuel Adebayor was put clean through the middle by a Christian Eriksen pass, but he wasn’t positive enough when faced by Guzan and with Lowton catching him, he hit a low shot to the keeper’s left, but he got a hand to it as he dived the right way. We have seen Ade finish expertly from similar positions, but this gave too much of a chance for Guzan to keep it out.

Four minutes later, Lowton could have settled it, when he met Cissokho’s cross from the left on the volley, but he shanked it and it took a flick off Rose before going well wide.  Sanchez and Weimann shot way too high before Cissokho was booked for trampling over Mason, having been robbed of the ball in the corner at his own end of the pitch.  From the free-kick, the ball ended up in the air and Vertonghen tried an overhead kick, but got it all wrong and the ball gently went straight at the keeper. 

So, the half ended with Spurs having had most of the ball (as is becoming a habit) and making the goalie work more often than of late, but without looking like they were going to score, which would now be necessary even to get one point.  Poch brought Eriksen off and replaced him with Lamela, giving Spurs more balance with two wide men and despite the Spurs contingent's songs for Harry Kane, he stayed stuck to the bench at the start of the half.

Chadli was finding the power to go past players and a low ball in looked harmless enough, but Guzan could not gather it and Adebayor was on hand to try and retrieve the rebound, but it bounced off him and out for a goal-kick.  A few minutes before the hour, the Tottenham support got their wish and Kane entered the fray to take over from the ineffectual Adebayor.  Straight away he added some urgency to the attack and he took the ball into the box and struck a low ball to the near post that Guzan kicked out for a corner.  From it, Kane rose in the box to head at goal, but it was straight at the keeper once more.

On the hour, things spice up even more.  Westwood was charging through the centre of the pitch and Vertonghen dived in winning the ball, but his feet were off the floor, albeit not high.  The Villa players were quick enough to surround the referee trying to get the Belgian defender sent off, but only a yellow card was forthcoming, which was about right as the man came second after the ball was won.  After this, the home players lost some of their discipline (strange for a team whose assistant manager is Roy Keane you might think).  Bentkee barged Lamela off the ball right in front of the dug-outs, then did the same to Mason, but when Mason did the same to Benteke, he reacted and there was a coming together of heads, but not butting and the Villa man put his hand in Ryan's face and pushed him off.  The fourth official was close enough to see it and tell the ref, who went to his back pocket for a red card and the whole pushing and shoving match was to be carried on after Benteke walked off.

Weimann got a yellow card for going through Mason and the ten men were suffering with players going down with cramp, as Tottenham started to add a bit of zip to their passing.  Lamela had two shots on goal; one which was weak, low and straight at Guzan, while the other was a free-kick that went way over the top.   Poch went even more attacking, with Townsend substituting Capoue and Villa did the opposite, with Agbonlahor coming on for Weimann.  It was a change that had significance a few minutes later. 

Now it was Villa on the break and Lowton's long run saw Agbonlahor get a corner off Kaboul, but Lloris punched it clear.  Then, as out of the blue as Villa's goal, Spurs scored an equaliser ... from a corner !!  Lamela played one beyond the near post for a change and Nacer Chadli came in to score an awkward looking goal, as he volleyed in with his left foot as the ball came in from the other side of the pitch.  His movement around the back of the pack in the middle of the goal left him in space, but Villa must look at Agbonlahor, who lacked the concentration to pick up a man and was stationary a couple of yards away when Nacer met the ball.

The goal had been a long time coming (admittedly not five games like Villa's), but the team suddenly appeared to gain belief from it and although Agbonlahor set up Cissokho for a 25 yard shot that went just wide of Lloris' post with the keeper diving at full stretch, the movement started to stretch the Villa defence and  let our players move the ball better.  Maybe the extra space provided by Benteke not being there gives some credence to Pochettino's claim about pitches being too small !!

As it was, Lamela picked out Mason on the corner of the area from a corner kick and the youngster's ball in was cleared, but then when the ball was won back and Townsend fed in just right of centre 25 yards out, Sanchez tripped him from behind and got a yellow card, as Villa's defending got desperate.  Kane grabbed the ball and defied Lamela's attempts to wrestle it off him, even though his last effort had trouble those in the Upper North stand.   Kane measured his run-up and struck the ball well, looking to dip it over the wall on the opposite side to where Guzan had positioned himself.  As it was the ball didn't clear the wall, but Villa defender Nathan Baker got his head on it, only managing to divert it in the space just vacated by Guzan and the net rippled without many not knowing how the ball had got there.  Not than most Spurs fans cared, as it was to be the winning goal, with six minutes of added time still to play, but despite some late passes played early into the Tottenham box and a yellow card for Chadli, the way Tottenham had turned the game around meant that they were not going to give this up.

The goal was greeted wildly by the Spurs support and the players celebrated in front of them, not helped by the Villa stewards laying hands on some of them, both off and on the pitch.  But Spurs were 2-1 up ... much against the odds and for once, we did better against ten men than eleven; a performance not often repeated in recent times when an opponent has been dismissed.

It was only in the last ten minutes, when Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert made some uninspiring substitutions to try to overcome the tiredness in his players legs.  Surprising that, as they had not played for a week and any tiredness in their legs must have come from the pressure of trying to hold onto a lead with just ten men.  His post match interviews blamed Vertonghen and Mason, for stirring up a nasty side of the game, but perhaps he should be looking at his own players.  Benteke reacting after shoving Lamela and Mason off the ball ... hardly legally.  So why astonishment when he shoves someone in the face ?   He said that the two Spurs men should have seen red, but overlooks Weimann's clearing out of Mason and a possible second yellow for Cissoko, with a pull back which had earned others a caution. 

In the end, it came down to individual mistakes at the corner that handed Tottenham an equaliser and a deflection that gave Kane the winner.  But more than that, the foul on Townsend by Sanchez was ill-advised at the very least.

Well done to Villa for going ahead, but after that and Benteke's shot that hit the post, there was little more to trouble Lloris and with one shot on target, he should be happy they scored.  Sinking fast, Villa should have been put away by Tottenham, but let's not get carried away.  Stoke next week will be a tougher task and Spurs will need to raise their game in performance terms and the tempo they play at if they are to get anything form Mark Hughes' team.

The Heathrow Spur



Aston Villa were named after a character in a novel by playwright Joseph Priestley.  The man named Ton (a Midlands abbreviation for Anthony) Villa was played as a slow, lumbering unit who rarely scored.  The side at the time were nameless and were said to be playing "As Ton Villa".

For fourteen home games during the 1936-37 season, Villa drew crowds of less than 23,700, as their capacity was constrained by the presence of a barrage balloon stored in the Holte End of the Villa Park ground.


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What you thought
Ted Maul Interesting that Lambert only had eyes for Ryan Mason, so it makes it more intriguing why he didn't comment on the treatment his players handed out to Mason.  Two bookings came for fouls on him ... Weimann's not the most subtle ever and retribution for Ryan's involvement in Benteke being dismissed.

Lambert is desperately trying to cover up the worst run of losing games Villa have suffered since 1967.  Benteke gave him that opportunity and he seized it with both hands ... luckily not raised in anyone's face ... unless Mason jumped into them of course.

Gary Sampson Let's put this match result in some perspective.  Villa were on a run of five straight losses before playing Spurs.  They hadn't scored since September, but did score against us.  For long periods, they made us look second best.

If we had lost, we would have been below Villa. The table is pretty heavily congested at the moment and that win moved us up six places.

We need to take the three points and get back to playing pacy incisive football, rather than the nonchalant possession football that has typified some of our recent matches and the style that gives hope to the other team.

Poch was brave in his initial selection and he might have been right to chose the sort of line-up he did, it was just Adebayor didn't help it work.  Maybe Kane deserves the right to lead the line.

Stoke will be all out to disrupt the way we play and make things difficult.  Tottenham have to be good enough to raise their game to make Stoke have the problems and head back towards their own goal.  A high tempo must help the likes of Eriksen and Lamela, who have to support the lone striker to put pressure on the opposition back four. 

Hopefully, for all the average-ness of this match, it might mark a turning point and see the players realise what Pochettino is trying to achieve.

- -.



Other scores during this week :
Arsenal 3 Burnley 0 Saturday
Chelsea 2 QPR 1 Saturday
Everton 0 Swansea City 0 Saturday
Hull City 0 Southampton 1 Saturday
Leicester City 0 West Bromwich Albion 1 Saturday
Newcastle United 1 Liverpool 0 Saturday
Stoke City 2 West Ham United 2 Saturday
Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0 Sunday
Crystal Palace 1 Sunderland 3 Monday



League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 10 8 2 0 26 10 26 +16
2 Southampton 10 7 1 2 21 5 22 +16
3 Manchester City 10 6 2 2 20 10 20 +10
4 Arsenal 10 4 5 1 18 11 17 +7
5 West Ham United 10 5 2 3 19 14 17 +5
6 Swansea City 10 4 3 3 13 10 15 +3
7 Liverpool 10 4 2 4 13 13 14 0
8 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 10 4 2 4 13 14 14 -1
9 Everton 10 3 4 3 19 17 13 +2
10 Manchester United 10 3 4 3 16 14 13 +2
11 West Bromwich Albion 10 3 4 3 13 13 13 0
12 Newcastle United 10 3 4 3 11 15 13 -4
13 Stoke City 10 3 3 4 10 12 12 -2
14 Hull City 10 2 5 3 13 15 11 -2
15 Sunderland 10 2 5 3 11 18 11 -7
16 Aston Villa 10 3 1 6 5 16 10 -11
17 Leicester City 10 2 3 5 11 16 9 -3
18 Crystal Palace 10 2 3 5 14 19 9 -5
19 QPR 10 2 1 7 9 20 7 -11
20 Burnley 10 0 4 6 5 19 4 -14


Position before match :  14th
Position after match :  8th
Position after the weekend :  8th


* Pub facts may not actually be true, but after a few pints everyone will think so.


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