Coach’s Corner: Defensive Masterclass from Aston Villa

So, you take a few days, you see some Champion’s League soccer, and still you wonder, how the heck did Aston Villa thwart Liverpool’s almost omniscient attacking force this past weekend?

You could go out on a limb and say Senderos lashing out at Ballotelli multiple times and Hutton putting in some timely challenges were defining factors in that game. But, if you asked me, it came down to one thing…

1) This man:

gabby a


And you say, “no way, soccer is a team sport, how could one man change it all.” Let me explain. Gabriel Agbonlahor changed the entire way Liverpool players. Going forward he is always going to be an issue. He is more athletic than he looks, he is strong, he is committed to the cause, he pressures the back four relentlessly and makes it difficult for anyone to get comfortable on the ball. Liverpool is a rhythm based team. The Reds need to complete some passes and string some joy together in order to feel confident and take risk going forward. If not, they lock themselves into defensive mode and hope to catch one on the break. One man doesn’t put Liverpool in that mode but Mr. Agbonlahor certainly tried to do do. But that is neither here nor there.


The real reason Villa’s performance was so impressive was because once Liverpool was able to break the pressure and have a bit of possession, this man once again created a massive problem for the Reds. It is well documented that Captain God, better known as Steven Gerard, has taken on a deeper lying playmaking role under Brendan Rodgers and can ping a ball anywhere he wants given time and space to do so. It is also well known that his athleticism is not what it used to be and that when taken out of games, Liverpool does not have another exceptional deep lying player with that kind of passing ability. You would hope that Jordan Henderson can eventually find himself there, but not yet. He isn’t ready.


Finally to my point about Gabby A. Whenever Liverpool maintained possession, he would sit on Steven Gerard. Watch the game again, take notice of Agbonlahor’s defensive movement and also his constant awareness of where Gerard is. He is constantly glancing over his should to find Gerard’s positioning and he never leaves his side until he knows someone else is marking him up. This does a couple of things:

1) It makes someone else try and make the game. In this case it was Jordan Henderson or one of the two centerbacks stepping forward. We all know that as much the modern CB is a ball player, they are in no way close to the technique or vision that Stevie G has. And when Jordan Henderson drops back he tends to try and continue to play short passes when at times it is a longer pass that will find more space for the entire team. Plus, Jordie enjoys one too many touches every now and then!

2) It forces Steven Gerard higher up the pitch. This in itself did a few things as well. It clogged everything up! It seemed like central areas were a nightmare to play through because they were constantly overloaded with Coutinho, Henderson, Gerard and one of the wide players tucking himself in. As weird as this may be, it looked as though Steven Gerard was uncomfortable in these areas further up the pitch.

The reality is, Gabriel Agbonlahor, whether by design or by coincidence, created mismatches and overloads all over the field that thwarted Liverpool’s usually potent attack. He forced players into areas they don’t want to be and was able to take the only chance they needed to win the game. Is this a tactic that teams will use in the future? I’m not sure, but I do know that it was a masterclass of a defensive performance from the Villains that made sure they got this result.



Week 1 Fantasy Premier League Standings

Here is an overview of the current standings for our Fantasy Premier League:

Week 1 93rdminute Fantasy Standings


As you can see, we had some very good scores in the first week of play that were largely aided by Chelsea and Aston Villa’s multiple fixtures this week. Currently, the 1st place squad managed by Mikko Linnamaa looks like this :

Week 1 #1Will that be the team that can carry Mikko to victory? I’m not sure. There is a lot of season to be had.


Star forwards of the week: Benteke, Welbeck and Aguero

Star midfielders of the week: Lampard, Oscar and Joe Cole

Star defenders of the week: Ivanovic, Coleman and Shaw

Goalkeeper of the week: Mignolet

Week 1 Dream Team looks like this:

week 1 dream team If you somehow managed to pick this squad and didn’t enter our fantasy league. Shame on you! You could be on your way to a personalized jersey!

Good luck in this week’s fixtures!



Cabaye Has Saved Newcastle’s Dreadful Season… At Least for Now

It is incredible where a calendar year can take you. Amazing how in a year’s time a team can go from competing for a Champion’s League spot to battling for the right to stay up! Newcastle, a dark horse of last year, showed promise and potential for a relapse to the team of old with the legendary shadow of Alan Shearer guiding a beleaguered team to a valiant 5th place finish.  After a less than promising 2010, Newcastle turned it around in the 2011-2012 season. The team found ways to win games and ended the year with 65 points, in fifth place, with a spot waiting for them in the Europa league. This was thought to be the turnaround; a chance for Newcastle to take back the Barclay’s Premier League.

But it was not to be. Prior to yesterday’s 2-1 win over a dreadful Aston Villa side, Newcastle was a point out of the relegation zone.  The Toon had lost five of its last six games and eight of its last ten. Its lone win was against bottom dwellers QPR. But, all is not lost. The first away win of the season is a season changer for United. Not only does it put them in 15th place in the premiership but it can be a catapult of sorts to keep them in the league for the coming season.  This combined with the incredible influx of French players into the team during the transfer window will be a major determinant in Newcastle’s success in the second half of the season. The Toon Army is appreciative of the signings and when you are fighting a relegation battle you need the fans on your side. Newcastle has that as you can see below.

French Love

Newcastle also has a midfield capable of silky attacking movement, clever passes and clinical finishing. This was apparent in yesterday’s game when Newcastle’s savior, Yohan Cabaye stunned the Villa crowd with a ludicrous, side-swerving volley that froze Brad Guzan and left Villa scrambling to pick their jaws off the floor. His return from injury has already proven dramatic and incredibly influential in Newcastle’s play. With the departure of goal machine Demba Ba, the midfield and defense will need to sure up the back and find other ways to get goals! Pappa Sisse is a good player but he is not the answer. The likes of Ben Arfa, Anita and Cabaye will need to be the breadwinners if Newcastle wants to survive to see another premier league campaign.

Tell me that face doesn't breathe confidence into your lungs.
Tell me that face doesn’t breathe confidence into your lungs.

Lastly, Fabricio Coloccini came out and said how sad he is about his transfer back home falling through. This could be the best thing for Newcastle. He is an excellent defender for them and sures up a shaky back four that have is leaking goals like stupid faucet you can never fix. The 31 year old insists that he will give 100% and a statement like that coming from a veteran like him makes smile with joy.

Organized, composed and ready to shutout everyone.
Organized, composed and ready to shutout everyone.

24 hours ago, Newcastle was a lost cause. Not anymore, not anymore. Newcastle will stay up this season. Newcastle will finish in the top ten. Alan Pardew knows what he is doing. Krul is one of the best young goalies in the world. The combination of players are ready to make a run. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. I won’t be surprised when Newcastle shakes things up.