Post-mortem: Aston Villa were shown how to play football by Fulham yesterday

Well, what can I say about yesterday that hasn't been said two or three times already? Not much actually, so let's just go straight to the source and this might be the last time I use quotes from Martin O'Neill, because it is all just blarney. He said "I think our issue in the second half was that we didn't play well enough."

Okay, that isn't all he said and we'll get to more later, but the thing that really does annoy me about O'Neill is he doesn't seem to see the obvious and these same stupid excuses, that we've actually heard from day one, about why we lost or drew a match are starting to become a little annoying.

When someone fails to see the obvious or worse still, sees it but doesn't understand what to do or refuses to change things around because he is stubborn, then questions have to be asked and when that starts to happen, it's only actions that count.

What The Papers Say

Glenn Moore, The Independent
Martin O'Neill reacted boldly, replacing both full-backs to the displeasure of Nicky Shorey whose slow trudge off brought an angry rebuke from his manager. With four up front Villa chased a recovery but Hangeland was always in control of fellow Norwegian John Carew and Fulham were comfortable.
The Sunday Times
Could it just be that they have played far too much football, beginning with that ghastly parody of a tournament, the Intertoto Cup, which qualified them to take part in the Uefa Cup. But when push came to shove — and they had hopes in that competition — their manager Martin O’Neill decided the prime target to be fourth place in the Premier League. So he sacrificed Villa’s chance in the Uefa Cup, putting out a weakened side in Moscow against CSKA, but their fourth place never materialised.
Stuart Barnes,
Fulham enhanced their chances of a place in the Europa League with a rousing performance that characterised their progress under Roy Hodgson this season.

The Stats

Fulham: Mark Schwarzer, Brede Hangeland, Paul Konchesky, John Paintsil, Aaron Hughes, Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu (Olivier Dacourt, 89), Clint Dempsey (Julian Gray, 85), Zoltan Gera, Diomansy Kamara, Erik Nevland (Bobby Zamora, 83)

Aston Villa: Brad Friedel, Luke Young, (Emile Heskey, 64), Nicky Shorey (Nigel Reo-Coker, 64), Zat Knight, Curtis Davies, Gareth Barry, Ashley Young, James Milner, Stiliyan Petrov, John Carew, Gabriel Agbonlahor

Goal Attempts (On target): Fulham 15 (11), Aston Villa 7 (2)

Goals: Murphy (pen) (7) 1-0, Young, A (14) 1-1, Kamara (46) 2-1, Kamara (60) 3-1

The Manager

I think our issue in the second half was that we didn't play well enough. We didn't test the goalkeeper and Fulham deserved to win from their second-half performance.

We've come here, we are playing away from home, we've had plenty of possession of the ball and tried to make use of it. But by our own standards it was a desperately poor second half.

Man of the Match

Once again, man of the match is Stan Petrov. Quite a few votes came in from London and Zat Knight and Brad Friedel got a few but Stan got enough to see it through. He did play well, but when everyone around is below you in quality, then it's got to be difficult. I suppose it's got to be more difficult when you figure out this isn't Scotland and it's not just about two teams and which one wants it more.

Up Next: Middlesbrough

This match is away and Middlesbrough are going to need the points regardless of what happens today and well, it's too easy to predict how this match is going to go and it's actually too late to drop the older players that are going to burn out if you don't, because then it looks like O'Neill has caved in and wasn't able to see what was right.

If he puts out a 4-4-2, we'll get a draw at Middlesbrough. I can't see us winning even if he puts out 4-5-1 as you can't expect victory straight away - you need momentum. Still, we're going to finish in the top six.

Final Analysis

Someone mentioned it in the papers, about us putting out a weakened side in Moscow and I've used it because it is as much about continuity and getting on a good run and Martin O'Neill changed it all when he sent the kids. He told everyone at the club it doesn't matter if you have a good run, only the league matters.

But then, he changed round a winning team by including Heskey, which is pretty much the same thing. It's saying, it doesn't matter to the players that have played so well. He'll figure this out soon, he has too.

But the thing that made my mouth open this morning was reading what Stuart Barnes had to say above. He talked about the progress Fulham have made under Hodgson. Yesterday, Fulham passed the ball better than us, kept possession better, created space better and in essence controlled the game better than us. Can any of you, hand on heart say, you've seen real progress in how we play football since O'Neill has taken over?

I see lots more energy, but that really is about all and well, maybe it's the quality; we need more and better quality for us to see the football get better. To next season!

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