Post-mortem: Nigel Reo-Coker man of the match and a transitional season

Sometimes you just don't see things coming. This morning for example, I woke up too early with a stiff back on the couch. I didn't see that coming, but a wise women, my wife, did. I guess it is sometimes we don't want to see things.

So, I have to hold my hands up and say that I didn't see the result on Saturday coming. I really did think we'd get something from Sunderland and at the very least, a point. But, it is still early days and I had already written off this season, before it had started, so I shouldn't be surprised or that concerned.

But, I did learn something this weekend and I think the manager did too.

What the Papers Say

Louise Taylor, The Guardian
Despite starting for Villa on Saturday, Ireland played so badly behind Emile Heskey that Houllier took him off in the 55th minute and later admitted that a midfielder whose touch and vision were seen as integral to Villa's latest European challenge looked "a bit lost".
Jason Mellow, The Independent
Villa carved out enough opportunities to have cancelled out Dunne's error – Downing struck a post, Nigel Reo-Coker had penalty claims ignored, Emile Heskey produced an air shot with the goal gaping and Jordan Henderson cleared off the line from Steve Sidwell – but were unable to capitalise. As a result, Sunderland kept their third consecutive Premier League clean sheet for the first time in a decade and now pose a growing threat to Villa's efforts to secure a fourth straight top-six finish.

The Manager

Gerard Houllier
"I thought we started well. Our morale probably went a bit down when we conceded the goal because we had a bit of a slump. "But the second half was night and day with the first half. We were quicker, sharper, better and created chance after chance but unfortunately didn't manage to put the ball in the back of the net. "This was the only regret because I was pleased with the effort of the players and their reaction. "The reaction was good and the football was better in the second half. We exposed ourselves a couple of times but that is normal - I like a team that tries until the end. "I thought we were unlucky at times but sometimes in football you have got to be aware you don't get what you really deserve."

The Players

Friedel, Beye, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, Reo-Coker, Petrov (Sidwell, 40), Ireland (Albrighton, 55), Downing, Webcam and Heskey. Substitutes not used Carew, Clark, Guzan (gk), Cuellar and Bannan.

Man of the Match

I'm not surprised by this, he has had a very good run under the new manager and it is about time. The award goes to Nigel Reo-Coker who has been unlucky not to get a goal for all his hard work the last two times out.

I expect he will get a goal soon and when that happens his confidence will grow and he will look every bit the central midfielder we need in the middle of park, especially with Petrov out for the next two or three weeks.

Final Analysis

I'm not a big fan of blaming players but some are going to put the blame at Stephen Ireland and you've got to wonder what is going on in his head at the moment. We have seen some quality from him but just glimpses and why were Manchester City so desperate to get rid?

I think he needs time and I think he will come good, but you can not play him in the hole behind the striker. That position is for Ashley Young, much like the left side of midfield is for Stewart Downing because he is wasted on the right.

At the end of the day however, this season is a transitional one and transitional seasons are not the best. Things will get better though, as the season progresses and I still fancy we can do quite well in the FA Cup or League Cup, so there is some hope.

But like I said at the top, I think the manager would have learnt a thing or two this weekend and that can only be good.