Villa 0-0 Latics
Saturday 31st January 2009
Let’s face it, Villa are a pretty good side this year. Ok so their top 4 aspirations depend as much on whether Arsenal get their backsides in gear as they do Martin O’Neil’s ability to get the best out of Emile Heskey, but they’re easy favourites to win ‘the rest of the league’ and have already taken us apart, at home, this season. Still, after two top notch performances against United and Liverpool and with an unbeaten record at Villa Park (it’s called the Keyes effect – 5 goal maulings just disappear when you’re in the Premier League) there were plenty of reasons to be confident.
Although nil a piece was about all the drab first half deserved, Latics could have been halfway home with he points before anyone would have really noticed. The now expected slow start was, followed by a period where Latics showed what they were capable of and created their best (only real?) chances of the game. Unfortunately, De Ridder or Figueroa both gave Friedel easy saves when, frankly, both should have done better.
Key to the performances in the previous two games had been the steadiness of the back four. I’ve laid the plaudits out as they really have managed to look top notch, at times, and have so rarely had to rely on last ditch defending that you’d think that this was a side capable of doing things in the top half of the table. The second half here was different.
Not to take anything away from previous performances, this was less assured, more resilient. With some proper backs to the wall, none shall pass, type stuff. Once Villa had their half time roasting it was back to 2005 with Figueroa and Scharner taking on the Chimbonda and Henchoz roles and throwing themselves in front of everything.
I’m not one for watching Match of the Day with stopwatch in hand, but I guess that we got longer than usual; otherwise there would have been a highlights package with nothing but goal line clearances in it.
How much of Villa’s second half dominance was down to a talking to in the break and how much it was due to Bruce taking his extra man out of midfield, I’ll leave to the ‘experts’ but ,on the second half alone, this really could have been another 4-0. Just like back in October, this should serve as notice that Latics have achieved nowt as yet.
There’s a long way between here and Tirana and whilst the season won’t necessarily be decided on results against those teams currently above us, Villa Park at the end of this game was about as far away from Tirana as you get. There’s a growing pack of teams gathering on our shoulder and whilst the table may be spreading a bit, there’s still not that much between our current position and an end of season underwear change.
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