Post-mortem: Aston Villa draw at Stoke and eleven games to go

A point at Stoke is progress. Defensively we were superb. Stoke is a hard place to go. It was very very windy and we couldn´t play the ball on the ground.

I'm sure I have missed one or two out, but they were generally the things said about the result yesterday in favour of Aston Villa and you can't disagree with any of them really. Or can you?

What the Papers Say

Joe Lovejoy - The Guardian
March is about as popular with Martin O'Neill as it was with Julius Caesar. In 12 attempts, he has never won a Premier League match as Villa's manager in the month in question, and he was left ruing a barren scrap at the Britannia Stadium, which saw his team fall further behind in their pursuit of Champions League football next season.
Jon Culley - The Independent
Aston Villa fans may be wondering if this will be another season that promises much but, in the end, delivers little. A draw against Stoke at home, when they conceded two late goals, began the unravelling of their Champions' League ambitions last season. They gave themselves nothing to squander yesterday, yet their failure to break down an unashamedly pragmatic opponent leaves them with more ground to make up on fourth place, even with matches in hand, than they might like with the business end of the campaign looming close.

The Manager

Martin O'Neill
We would love to have won the game but it was never going to be easy. Stoke are always difficult. There weren't many chances in the game and the wind didn't help matters. I was hoping we would get the ball down, but that is easier said than done. It was a reasonable outcome. Probably a draw was a fair result.

The Players and Some Stats

Big Brad, Ricardo, King Carlos, Stephen Warnock, The Ginger One, Stewart Downing, Webcam, James Milner, Stiliyan Petrov, John Carew (Gabby Agbonlahor, 77) and Emile Heskey all played yesterday. One sub was used and it wasn't a popular one with the Aston Villa supporters. One substitute, in a two week period when we have five games to play. One substitute. When is the penny going to drop?

I've given up putting down passing numbers because the thing is, it isn't really about just ´passing more´. It's about the football and if the football gets better the passing numbers will go up. So, when I see the football getting better, we will look at the passing numbers again and guess what, I think you will see the number goes up. But until that happens, no more passing stats. We did have three shots on target in 90 minutes though.

Man of the Match

I actually forgot about this so I am going to award it this week and I have decided that the award will go to No One. He came so so close on so many occasions yesterday that had a few more crosses gone to No One, I am sure we would have scored.

Final Analysis

Is Stoke really that difficult a place to go? If you look at the home and away league table and if Hull win their game in hand, they and Burnley, both teams in the bottom three, will have the same home record as Stoke.

If the league table was based on home games, Stoke would currently be 11th and if Hull did win their game in hand, Stoke would be 12th. Is it really that hard a place to go; really?

Okay, sure, if you want it to be a hard place to go, we'll call it a hard place to go. But there are many more harder places in the real world.

The result however is progress, because we lost at Stoke last season. We also beat Wigan at home last season and lost this time round, so have we progressed or just evened things out? My point is, things change - you can't always look at individual games from last season and compare to this one. You can, but it isn´t really a true picture.

In fact, the only thing that really does matter is where we finish in the league at the end of the season. If we manage to pick up some silverware along the way, fantastic, it is a bonus.

We have eleven more games to play, all potentially three points, so say what you want today; say some are overreacting, say some just can't see what is or isn't happening, say even that the blind faith brigade are running out of positions to support O'Neill or that the real world supporters are really in cloud cuckoo land.

None of it really matters and the only thing that does matter is where we sit in the league table on May 9th. By all means, discuss, argue, fight and backup your opinion or view - but don't forget that nobody is going to be right or wrong. Until the final day of the season, it is all opinion.

Come the end of the season, we will either be standing still, moving forward or going backwards and whatever it is we end up actually getting, it´s what we get.

We can all see exactly what is happening or isn't happening according to our interpretation and fortunately for us, individual interpretations are usually always unique.

We drew at Stoke but we are still six points off fourth place with two games in hand. If we win those two games in hand and we score ten goals more than our opponents in those two games, we would go fourth, if Manchester City don't win their two games in hand, because if they do, we would be three points off fourth, probably in sixth place.

Eleven games to go. A lot can happen.