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Villa, I liked the look of...

This is the first of hopefully a series of articles commenting on the opposition's players, in particular identifying players that the author views as worthwhile additions to the Pompey squad.

We are hoping that for each match a vital member will volunteer to write the article, bearing in mind you need to attend the match in person.

Please add your own observations but do remember that this is not about Pompey per se or how we played during the match in question.

Also, bear in mind that as the title suggests this article relates predominantly to how the Villa's players played during the match and not their general form this season.

We kick off with Villa. Knowing I was tasked with writing this I inevitably had my pre-match thoughts on the Villa squad and expected to be impressed by Carew, Agbonlahor, Barry, Young, Laursen - perhaps even Carson.

The press this week covered MON's comments about Jamo being the perfect role model for Carson and who'd disagree with that? Surely the Wembley fiasco was a one off and it would only be a matter of time before Carson replaced Jamo as England's #1.

I like underdogs for the same reason I dislike big heads like Ronaldo and wanted Carson to redeem himself in front of Capello and Clemence. Alas, a generally competent display was blighted during the first goal by positional naivety that frankly wouldn't have looked out of place in my son's North Hampshire U14s. Yep a great goal by the goal machine but this is the Premier league and 'Keepers need to offer stiffer resistance than that.

What can you say about goal number 2? Freak of nature or blind panic caused by the league's most in-form striker? Whatever your view on this, one thing is for sure it'll be some time before Carson gets to wear the England Cap again. Or at least is should be.

But in saying that, Carson is still only 22 and has probably been thrust prematurely into the limelight in exactly the same fashion as happened to Jamo all those years ago at Liverpool. I bet Carson is superb in training as was alluded to by Rooney and McStupid during the England-Croatia post mortem. But as far a keeper's are concerned there is no substitute for experience and being able to keep a cool head in the heat of the match. With this in mind, I'd be happy to see Carson replace Ashdown as Jamo's understudy although he's a long way from being a first choice keeper in a team with our aspirations.

Laursen is next up. I love this guy - he's mobile and committed and rare in being a white, northern European, high quality defender having also won a series of honours with AC Milan including Serie A and the Champions League in 2002/3.

He is probably the best header of a ball of any defender currently playing in the Prem and is capable of scoring 10 a season with his head from dead balls, currently supplied by the likes of Maloney, Barry and Young.

But yesterday wasn't his day - he didn't have a bad match more that Villa didn't have a good one and when your team lets in a couple of soft goals none of the defense is going to get man of the match. But he showed his mobility and looked less wooden coming forward than either Sol or Distin. He also made life difficult for our boys up front and was rewarded with a nasty elbow in the cheek from Baros who incidentally is looking a bit of 'handful'.

Jumping from defence to attack, both Carew and Agbonlahor had anonymous matches. Prior to kick-off I was struggling to understand Agbonlahor's appeal. He's only scored 17 goals in 3 seasons with Villa, although still young at 22. He was eligible for both Nigeria and England but has committed his future to England having since played at U21 level and was due to play in Capello's opener against the Swiss but withdrew because of injury.

Having seen him play a few times he looks to me a very good championship striker in the mould of Phillips or dare I say it Nugent. Yes he scores a few goals but as Pompey have recently proven the difference between scraping wins and winning with confidence and panache is largely down to the quality of your front men and yesterday two fairly well matched teams were separated by the quality of their strikers.

Carew has scored 9 goals this season and has enjoyed previous success with Valencia having twice scored goals to knock Arsenal out of the Champions League. I've never seen him in the flesh before and was shocked at his size and in particular his legs. He just looked too rigid to be able to compete against a variety of defensive styles and reminded me of Ivica Mornar, supposedly the best pound for pound physique ever to wear a Pompey shirt.

I can see how he can get the odd hat trick but against Pompey yesterday he was seriously out of his depth playing against super athletes in the form of Distin and Hreidarsson and let's not forget we didn't even have Sol on the pitch yesterday. MON swapped Baros for Carew - hmmm not sure about that one.

Reo-Coker looked as sick as a claret parrot at half time having been set-up by Carson. Other than this I can't say I saw too much of him although he didn't make any obvious mistakes. I'd see him as a Sean Davis type player, good, solid with a touch of flair. Good enough for a Pompey chasing top 6? I'd be interested to hear your views.

Next up is Gareth Barry who has long been the apple of Harry's other eye along with Defoe. I was impressed with Barry prior to yesterday and he didn't disappoint during the game being Villa's best player by far. He's one of those players that don't catch the eye in the way that Diarra or Muntari does yet he is just as effective and can place the ball on a sixpence. He's a big guy too - and dominates the immediate vicinity although as Diarra proved yesterday when he took the ball off of Barry a couple of times, his size and the resultant inertia can be an impediment.

If Diarra was to leave or Muntari for that matter then I'd like Barry as a replacement and could see him coming in as captain - and as wiki points out, he's migrated to midfield via central defence and left back, being for me the perfect defensive utility player. Shame we didn't get him back in 2006 when he was supposedly on the verge of signing. But don't rule out him coming down here especially considering the growing number of England International's that now call Pompey home.

Finally, Ashley Young. Villa paid a lot of money for this young featherweight winger come midfielder and having broken into the full England squad under McLaren I wanted to see if he'd be able to solve our right wing requirements. My seat is on row B, North Stand right next to the half way line so I got a very good look at him. He's quick and skilful and I believe earned more free kicks in dangerous positions than any other player on the pitch. He made a few of our players look like they'd just got back from Big Ears bar after a night on the lash, skipping past their challenges and then putting some nice balls in.

Shame he didn't do more in front of goal as you'd expect any wide man to cut in from the wing in the same way as Johnson or Kranky does - in saying that he did a good job of adding width to their attack but I guess the easiest way to assess this is to ask whether he'd currently offer more than Utaka - and for that I'd have to say no. I think he'd make a great squad player, but that's never going to happen given MON forked out over £8m for him - he'd expect to play week in and week out and I don't think he'd be able to do that at Pompey, certainly not in the immediate future.

In summary I had hoped to be impressed by quite a few of the Villa players yesterday given we need to grow the squad to make it capable of 4-5-1, a genuine 4-3-3 and 4-4-2. With Villa being so high in the league you'd expect them to be full of quality but as it turned out Barry is the only player I'd sign without reservation with both Laursen and Young being squad contenders.

True, Fratton Park is a difficult place to come, but we've now beaten Villa home and away and you have to question their quality in depth if that happens. I believe Pompey looked a far better team than Villa yesterday, much more than the adjacent league position would suggest.

Written by ChrisW.

The views within this article are the views of the individual who wrote and submitted this piece, sometimes solely theirs. They are not necessarily shared by the Vital Pompey Site Journalists.

Join the Vital Pompey Debate
The Journalist

Writer: pompeyrug Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday March 16 2008

Time: 4:12PM

Your Comments

this is a really good idea ChrisW, well thought out and well written - taking a look at the opposition in this kind of way is something that i do like doing myself, and hopefully this idea will catch on and others will do so likewise from time to time...
without any shadow of a doubt i would have gareth barry here any day of the week, i was gutted when we couldnt sign him a couple of years ago, the chances of getting him now probably arent that great but you never know... i thought that shaun maloney had a decent game yesterday and was causing us a few problems. he took a while to get much of a chance at villa, but from what ive seen recently he seems to be showing why o'neil wanted to bring him to villa park, following him from celtic park... i think agbonlahor is a quality footballer, and to be fair to him altho he might not have had his best game he had been struggling to be fit i believe?
Nice stuff Chris. Villa's squad is thin and they are carrying a number of injuries. Agbonlahor's bruised toe to start with. But if MON spends big this summer they could improve next season.
Nice to read unbiased views on our players ChrisW. Laursen and Barry are indeed our best players and we take them for granted , some fans even slag then off when they don't produce 9/10 performances. Lausen is without doubt the best centre back I've seen since Paul McGrath at Villa Park and I'd say hes in the top 4 in the Prem without a Doubt. GB even when not so good is as you noticed still one of our best players , had he got some quailty alonside him instead of Choker we'd be right up there ! PS can we have James back ? thought not!
Chris that is just the type of response we wanted from opponents. Thanks Villan57 and well done Chris!! And correct Jamo is going nowhere.
my view on the villa players is that i would take barry - as i think that he is a very good player, however i am not sure where he would fit into our team, and so IF he were to come in, it would only be because someone had left. he would be a good man to fill in, but i wouldnt choose it! Abonlahor is out of form at the moment, however his early season form was very impresive. nhe is fast, and knows where the goal was, so before defoe came, i would have said "yes" - but im not so sure now. maybe as another backup... Ashley Young however is a player that i DO like. Once again, our defence coped very well with him - but despie this (hey, we kept ronaldo, and rooney quiet!), i think that he still showed sparks of brilliance. and he alo knows how to take set peices, which is why i WOULD love to see him come in. unfortunatly, the chances of that are about 0.
nice idea for an article but to say that agbonlahor looks like a Championship player tells me that your a chumpionship journalist in the making
you have to remember rotter that my views were based on his performance yesterday not his form from earlier in the year as I made clear at the top of the article. Besides, there are very few Prem quality 'strikers' playing in the Prem. Most of the top 10 do have have one or in Chelsea's and United's case 2 but in my opinion City and Villa don't have any - and neither did we until 6 weeks ago.
And for clarification, by Prem quality I mean strikers who typically are on the score sheet more often than not - which is why I exluded Benjani form that select group too.
strikers or forwards though...benjani was a top quality forward, as is kanu (well, if he was slightly fitter) and baros is working on it... unfortunatly though, i dont think abonlahor falls into that category either. (carew might)
yep that's the distinction I mean poachers and strikers as in Linekar, Shearer, Henry, Van N'Roy, - not forwards as you say like Benjani or Kanu.
Not really with you chris, you started off your paragraph about your view on agbonlahor expressing the idea that prior to k.o you couldnt see his appeall so you were already biased. If you were a Chelsea arsenal or liverpool fan-teams which he has caused damage to this season amongst others then i suspect you would have a different view. Modern Strikers are also required for their ability in assisting something which he does on a regular basis, while your opinion on his goalscoring doesnt stand up that much given that he only broke into the team last season and has only played regularly this season. He isnt playing his best at the moment but even rooney and owen have had lean spells and he has barely turned 20! Frankly your judgement that Agbonlahor is a championship player is laughable. He may not be rooney, but Capello, ferguson, wenger, mourinho and benitez cant all be wrong when they have described him as one of the most exciting talents in english football. Still its your opinion and I respect that even if I find it completely off the wall.
I would also love to see Barry here, heis a quality player, and this season he has improved yet again. Also i have always been a fan of Reo-Coker and he would have been a great signing for us when he was at Wimbledon. However i dont think any of the Villa side will come to us, as Martin O'Neill is on the verge of something big there. I was speaking to some Villa fans before the game and they said that they wish we had signed Petrov and that they had got Muntari or Diarra instead. Villa are a good side, well supported, witha great manager, to beat them twice this season has been great work by Pompey, and i am sure that Villa will go on to challenge the big 4 very soon. Bullers how did Spurs get on at City!! ROBBIE KEANE WILL BE OUR NEXT SIGNING, was he mad or what!!
Rotter let's see how he turns out - I hold with my view 'tho that Villa need a class striker similar to what we have in Defoe. Agree with your comments that A'Lahor has more to his game than scoring goals, but that just serves to reinforce my point - He's a good premiership player, perhaps one day he might be great, but I can't ever see him being a great 'striker' which after all is the topic being discussed.
I thought Ashley Young did well on heavy ground & not signing Barry was always a chocker. The right side of midfield is where we need to strengthen. David Bentley, can we tempt him from Blackburn or Aaron Lennon from Spurs or even Theo Walcott from our feeder club???
no one at villa doubts that we need a 20 goal a season striker but agbonlahor is a player who started off as an attacking winger and is essentially an attacking player who gives us options. He is versatile. He may become a great attacking player but i didnt remember saying that he will become a great striker-thats your assumption?but he can still become a great player for the range of options that he brings us much like barry.But please Championship? do yourself a favour.
seriously, Laursen would fit into any team in Europe, of all our players (if he remains fit which is looking good at the moment) he is the one that is world class.
The Fear
completely agree about laursen, its just a shame he has had so many injuries at villa, for his and your sake i hope he really has got over these as he is world class, a fit laursen - and fit for a long enough period - could play for any club in this country or abroad, and he has played for one of the very best already in milan hasnt he...
jeez, im not looking forward to this feature next week when we play spurs - they'll be hating it if we slag off any of their players! unless you want it again Chris" or maybe anyone else wants to step up to the plate i could be tempted to 'put my head on the block' - as said if anyone else wants it tho, say so.
rotters - ddnt abonlahor play in every minute of every game for villa up until easter or so last year? i think he had plently of regular football last season. Laurson, i must confess, has never really struck me as a super star - however, i havnt exactly followed league football for a very long time (couple of years), so if a defender wants to get my notice, he proably has to play for england... ...oh, and as far as next week, when we play spurs, i will predict now that any player we say that we like, we will be told to "****** off and get our own players", and any player we dont, we will be told "yeah, well he could walk into your team any day"...(do i get extra points in the prediction league when the spurs fans say this?)
i gotta mention that carew has been immense for us this season and was not 'out of his depth', he just didn't have a good day. all players are capable of having bad games, but big john has dominated whole games against toure and gallas and many other lesser defenders this season. gabby is not scoring the goals at the moment but have u been watching the lad play?? he is still running at players full of confidence and creating chances for us. i would advise, don't judge our players based on how they have played against you this season
Good idea ChrisW. I seriously doubt you'll find these types of pure football loving articles elsewhere. Great stuff.
2-0 god result villa have nbeen going well also so you gotta be happy with that
ozanne park rangers
Great idea and well executed Chris although some of the Villa fans feel that it's not necessarily unbiased I disagree (given you are a Pompey fan) I'd challenge many to do a better job. well done mate as I sadi a great article and well delivered .. you've set the standard for others to follow..
Rug.. I'll do the 'unbiased' report for the Spurs game if you like.. If fact I've already started it .. Robinson = A buffon in a yellow jersey, Keane = An arrogant winker who wears his boot two sizes to small just to show he's too big for them, King = Mr Sicknote no2 an overrated Utility player.. and so it wouldgo on...Oooh I could really enjoy it and I'd love to reply to some of the comments we'd get from Bullers and some other of our 'Friends' in North London ... come to think of it probably not best if I do it .. I don't think 'I hate Spurs' is a unbiased standpoint to start from .... I will have fun reading it though ! Well done Chris again
Many thanks for your kind words guys - it certainly adds a different dimension to the game when you need to be objective. Rug/Chix who ever ends up writing the next one it'd be great if we could keep this going, inevitably it will draw comments from opposing fans, but that's to be expected isn't it?
it certainly is, i often try and look at a game as a whole - i appreciate football, and good football at that, so if others play it i'll acknowledge it, when sebastien larsson scored that free kick last week, from where i was sat it looked a beauty so i applauded it and said to my friend 'that was a crackin' free kick'... im happy to do the spurs one, i do rate a few of their players but at the same time i think some are way too over hyped - im looking forward to it, i just hope that spurs 'get the point' of it...
A quick note to Villa fans. I just wanted to repeat my earlier comments about this article being based on the performances during the match - and with this in mind I believe my observations were reasonably accurate. I do understand that you feel Agbonlahor and Carew are much better than seemed the case during the match but on the day they didn't perform. If Defoe for example who’s prime role is to score goals, wasn’t scoring at 2 in 5 or better, then I’d expect him to start warming the bench again given the top clubs need to score at least 60 a season to be competitive. It’s a tough world being a top 6 premiership striker, you have to convert the majority of good chances else you are out. Back to Carew and Agbonlahor, neither of those guys can to be considered top quality strikers using the criterion mentioned – between them they’ve scored 16 for the season, barely more than a 1/3rd of Villa’s total. On the one hand you’ll be happy that you have goals coming from the likes of Barry and Laursen but on the other you’ll probably acknowledge that MON will need to drop Carew or Agbonlahor in order to find room for the natural goal scorer that’s inevitably going to arrive during the summer. In saying that guys, we are a fair bunch on here and you made good cases for your strikers and I for one will be watching them closely over the coming weeks.
Think it is a fair article mate. Carew flatters to deceive and has to be far more consistent, if he can get that then he could be awesome but for a big bloke, he often doesn't put himself about as he should. Gabby is only young and learning, but no goals in 15 odd games does make you wonder why he isn't rested. That said, our back up is awful as our squad is so small. Still can't believe we didn't buy Defoe when we had the chance, he'd have fired us into Europe and that was at the stage we still had a chance of 4th.
The Fear
thought that villa were alright laursen was really good young wasn;t consistant enough and what was that comment about Ivica Mornar, supposedly the best pound for pound physique ever to wear a Pompey shirt??? he was poor and light weight muntari and diarra bossed the midfield and johnson was able to go down the right beacuse of lauren being a defensive right midfielder.
Boy, that's what the Pompey doctor said about Mornar when he had his medical and had nothing to do with his ability as a player - clearly.
Fear, thanks for your comments. What do you think about MON?
you're having a laugh surely? Id place James, Bouma, Distin/Campbell, Laursen, Mellberg, Barry, Muntari, Young, Defoe, Gabi and that's being fair. The table doesn't lie guys.
Leelindsay, I think I see what you are trying to say but even if I understood you correctly you have still discounted Johnson, the best left back in the country and also Lassana Diara probably one of the best mid-fielders anywhere... Btw, how's Petrov been since his move?
correction, Jonhson right back, he's versatile but not that versatile..
Very good article. Prompted a lot of sensible debate. Interesting what you were saying about the arrogance of Spurs fans. Before the season started there was a posting comparing the squads of Villa and Spurs. A vast majority of the Tottenham supporters would not have picked ANY Villa players in a joint first XI. I think they accepted Barry and possibiliy Young on the bench. League table makes interesting reading, doesn't it? Very good game of football I thought on Saturday. Disappointed with the result, but not the performance. Our small squad is being found out (Gabby desperatley needs a proper rest), but we have a very interesting Youth Cup Semi Final on Wednesday v Chelsea. I believe we have eight Youth internationals on show. Look out for Nathan Delfonseau. Only just 17 and tipped to make his Premiership debut this season. He COULD be our 20 goal a season man in a couple of years. Great prospect. Good luck for the rest of the season (especially in the FA Cup)....Oh, out of interest, my joint XI between Villa and Pompey would be : James... Johnson, Laursen, Distin, Bouma....Young, Diarra.Montari, Barry....Agbonlahor, Defoe.
thanks krfeskivilla. Your joint 11 would indeed be some team! and watch out that Harry doesn't nick Nathan Delfonseau, you know what he's like.
I think MON has been 'naughty' as well. We have pinched a lad Harry Forrester (England U17) from Watford who United and Liverpool wanted. Initial payment plus add ons when he plays in Premier League could take fee up to £500k. We did the same with Gareth Barry from Brighton. Sad really, but that is the way of the modern day game ( I think West Ham pinched Defoe from Charlton in a similar fashion(
leelindsay, how do u plan on winning games with 10 players? and great article and fantastic idea chrisw!
amazed at the some of the comments that already being debated here but hers another one for you chrisW. ashley young a squad player you said,there isnt a chance of that happening whatsoever,take a guess who has set up most goals in premiership this season? answer: ashley young. who also would've scored 2 goals in the said match but apparently didnt do enough in front of goal if it wasnt for 2 world class saves from your goalie? answer: ashley young again. my last point would be i think he would walk into your side at present and in the future most sides on the planet,young has the rare quality of getting his supporters of their seats every time he gets the ball. my joint team would look very much like krfeskivilla's and to regards saturdays match if james was still playing for villa,villa would not have been beat,james was the ONLY difference between the 2 sides,he is great form at the minute. UTV
Belfast Villain
Sir Alex had a right moan at Pompey about their treatment of Ronaldo (unjust critiscm I think). I wouldn't mind betting that there were more fouls committed on Ashley Young on Saturday than Ronaldo. I was delighted to hear that MON had no complaints (it is supposed to be a mans game) and even defended Baros by saying he thought his stray elbow was an accident. Surely this is what the game needs. Fully committed teams playing attacking football and getting stuck in. This doesn't appear to be the case with United and Arsenal and their whinging managers. Well done Harry and MON (even if Harry doesn't like us fans!)
you have to remember Belfast that this is my opinion of who I'd like to see join Pompey - yes I'd like to see Young as part of our squad but for me he's a little fragile to be playing as part of a full on push for Europe. Sure he caused Jamo to make a few saves but playing Devil's Advovate you could say Young should have scored with at least one of them. Re Jamo, I didn't realise that we could lay claim to past players, so I'll have a word with the FA and borrow YAK for the recent Everton game
krfeskivilla, yep MON seems a very reasonably minded manager. I was touched recently when HR said he didn't want to be talking about Berger coming to PFC in the Jan window for fear of upsetting MON. That shows real mutual respect - take note SAF/Wenger.
thanks Jbaker, the format needs a little more consideration but I think it works. Nice to see the Villa fans commenting, although some seem to be taking it a little too personally.
*sigh* wouldnt it be nice if top level (ie TOP level) manages took a leaf out of MON and HRs book of repect...atually, maybe they should write a book, as essentially, SAF and co need to realise that if there team dont win, then its there fault for not predicting how the oposition would play, and adjusting the team acordingly. Avram Grant, desite his many criticisms, managed to congratulate barnsley when they beat them, and (from whta i have seen) has not said a word against poor refereeing/baf aproach from the oposition. only against the media...
I think you have been harshly treated by some here Chris, Villa on the day were unimpressive, Laursen stood out as their best player, Carew was anonymous, Agbonlahor looked like a striker in the middle of a 12 match drought (we've seen a few of those at Fratton), Barry was quiet by his standards and Reo-Coker looked like the player he was toward the end of his West Ham days. Having said that on their day they are a great team, but Saturday was not that day.
Villa are like us a deent team, who if they play can match up with anyone, they had a lot of bad luck last week, and some inspired defending kept them out. However the gap between the big four and the rest is huge, and will be so for many seasons to come, and to get in there huge investment in talented players will have to take place again. Consistency is the key and without it teams win one game, draw three and lose a couple instead of grinding out results like Liverpool inthe 70's and United more recently. Pompey, Villa, Blackburn and Everton have to learn to do that
paultsmouth, it was written with a a view to inviting comments so I dont have an issue with that, but clearly one Villa fan can't read or doesn't understand that although Agbonlahor may well be a great premiership forward that doesn't prevent him from being a championship quality striker...
Gabby appears to be the 'centre of a bit of debate' here. Definitely off form at the moment. I wouln't argue that, but I do think Chrisw is wrong to label him a championship striker. His goalscoring record and youth and reserve team level was excellent, and he is still very young and learning the game. Before Christmas he was good as ANY striker in the Priemership, but he has played non stop for two seasons and desperately needs a rest. MON and Fabio Cappello clearly rate him, that's good enough for me. However, just to reiterate that this is an excellent article and has prompted sensible healthy debate. We ALL see games (and players) differently. There is NO right or wrong answer. Just opinions, and with Gabby I go along with MON and Capello (Oh yes and also Ferguson and Wenger - who we understand are keen to spend £15m on the kid). Keep up the excellent articles - breath of fresh air!
yep I can see I 'may' have underestimated Agbonlahor, hence my earlier comments to keep a close eye on him over the rest of the season. Thanks for your support krfeskivilla.
I sure hope we can have this sort of intelligent banter with Spurs fans. As for Agbonlahor, having observed him in U21 action, I get the impression he's on the cusp of becoming the world class striker England needs.
Agbonlahor and Defoe up front, wouldnt be bad, with Rooney tucked in just behind
Owens, a bit light on height...

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