Post-mortem: Dominant Aston Villa leave London with three points

To use the famous words of Eugene Wilkinson; how do you like them apples? I know I've banged on and on for so long that this next phrase is going to get laughed down, but it is a transitional season and change takes time, but things are starting to look better.

That is two wins now and if you look at the current form table, you'll see that we are sixth. With Stoke, West Brom and Wigan coming up, there is every chance we will end the season much better on that table and quite possibly better than many would have thought possible, just a few weeks ago.

What the Papers Say

Gerry Cox, The Telegraph
West Ham scored after only two minutes through Robbie Keane, but once Darren Bent equalised in the first-half, Villa were the better side and missed a raft of chances before substitute Agbonlahor headed home from close range in the 91st minute.
Paul Doyle, The Guardian
Although Villa did not complete their comeback here until added time, with Gabriel Agbonlahor heading in a cross from the excellent Ashley Young, it had long seemed inevitable, such was their dominance. The only surprise was that the winner was not scored by Darren Bent, who struck the equaliser, had a seemingly good goal chalked off and moved in a way that totally mystified the admittedly ramshackle home defence. West Ham have signed four strikers in the last eight months in an attempt to shoot their way to safety but none has the class of Bent.
Nick Szczepanik, The Independent
No player exemplified that winning combination of talent and fighting spirit more than Ashley Young. After a busy afternoon running at Lars Jacobsen, he still found the energy in injury time to charge after a loose ball and cross for Gabriel Agbonlahor to head the winner, and Houllier admitted that keeping him will be difficult.

The Manager

Gerard Houllier
The turning point is probably the short meeting we had together before the Everton game [on April 2]. We just said we were starting a new league, of just three games. In those we've picked up seven points and, more importantly, twice come back from going behind. The fighting spirit for me is the base. Whatever talent you have, you need to work and fight."

Players and Man of the Match

Brad Friedel, Luke Young, James Collins, Kyle Walker, Richard Dunne, Ashley Young, Nigel Reo-Coker, Stilian Petrov, Stewart Downing, Darren Bent and Emile Heskey (Gabriel Agbonlahor, 78) played and won it and while Ashley Young won the man of the match with 39.1% of the vote, I think Darren Bent was unlucky and I also think we found out something about Gabby.

Some Statistics

I'm not looking back, just at the stats from this match. I'm not comparing them and the last thing I want to do is start using them to demonstrate anything. I will just say this; we had 53% of the possession, 24 goal attempts, eight on target and eleven corners.

Why we didn't score more should be put down to Robert Green and some dodgy referring decisions, but I'm just adding these to justify the title of this post and you know what, it works.

Final Analysis

I've put a bit of emphasis on Ashley Young and Darren Bent above for two very specific reasons. First, Darren Bent is an excellent player and just watching his movement is a joy. Someone also tweeted me after the match that he has scored more than Dzeko, Torres, Suarez and Carroll combined which if true, I'm not confirming it, just goes to show why he was a steal at £18mn and why I think he'll get us 20 league goals very easily next season.

The reason I've put an emphasis on Ashley Young is to try and highlight how important he is to us. Don't get me wrong, I can get as frustrated and annoyed at his dead ball delivery and crossing as the next man, but his work rate is second only to James Milner and this could just be me looking for positives, but his dead ball and crossing does look like it is getting better.

We have to make him the first £100k a week player at the club, to demonstrate our desire, accept that that is his worth to us and we need to build a team around the likes of him, Darren Bent, Stewart Downing and Jean Makoun.

Before I go though, a mention of Gabby. He hasn't had the best of runs of late, but on Saturday he showed he is a threat and I don't want to pigeon hole him, but bringing him on with ten or twenty minutes to go, does add another dimension to our game. He did well and he answered a few of his critics at the weekend and I'm pleased for him. Let's see if he can do the same next time out from the same position.

Right, that is where I will leave it now. But we are ninth, we are in a positive place right now and with fifteen points to play for, top eight is not out of the question and all things considered, that would be a very good season and set us up nicely for the next one.