Filed: Friday, 15th January 2010
By: Preview Percy
Due to the recent weather conditions, the Metropolitan Police asked Preview Percy to cancel this week's preview on safety grounds. Unfortunately he ignored them...
Next up is a trip up to Brum for a tv-friendly 1.30pm kick-off against Aston Villa at the conveniently-named Villa Park. That is, of course unless the West Midlands Police get to hear of a snowflake falling south of the Arctic Circle and call it off to be on the safe side.
The Villains currently lie in 6th place with 35 points from their 20 games thus far. This places them just outside the 5th place that guarantees Europa League qualification, though as we’ve seen in the past, that situation tends to change depending on who wins the league and cups. Villa, of course, have their minds on the loftier ambition of a “Champions & Others” League spot, and they are two points behind Spurs in 5th and three behind Man City who currently occupy the coveted fourth place.
They have won four and lost two of their last six. The two defeats have come in their last two matches. First of these was a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal, who required a cameo from Cesc Fabregas to prevail, having struggled for over an hour to make an impression against the Villa defence. They then lost an uninspiring match at Anfield to a 93rd minute winner from Torres. Of course to describe this run as “current” form is somewhat disingenuous since intervention by the weather and the health and safety people has meant they have yet to play a league match this decade.
The climate and the calendar have allowed them two cup matches, both, coincidentally, against the free-flowing and cultured football (not) of Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers. Villa experienced what were described as “a few anxious moments” in their 3-1 home win in the 3rd round of the FA Cup which, apparently, I am supposed to mention is sponsored by somebody called Ian. These anxious moments included requiring a penalty save from no.2 ‘keeper Brad Guzan and a 91st minute penalty of their own to secure progress to the next round where they’ll be at home to Brighton.
Then, the other day, they travelled to Ewood Park for the first leg of the League Cup semi-final. Villa looked a bit more comfortable during the 1-0 win, though admittedly Blackburn did bother the metalwork a couple of times in the second half.
Guzan started both cup matches, though his Christian namesake Brad Friedel is expected to return having not missed a league match since the last Ice Age. Also expected to return to the starting line-up are Luke Young and John Carew. This would mean a return to the bench for James Collins, whose career in the alternative claret and blue was interrupted early on by injury. Having recovered, Ginge tends to find himself on the sidelines for league matches with Martin O’Neill preferring to play Young or Cuellar alongside Dunne. Dunne appears to have been one of the shrewder acquisitions of the season having ben forced to leave Man City for not having been featured in Hello! magazine enough times. Or something.
Their middle four in their last league match (all those years ago) comprised Petrov, Reo-Coker, Milner and Downing. However, Ashley Young was missing from that line-up having picked up a suspension for his 5th yellow of the season in the defeat at Arsenal, and he is likely to return to the midfield, with Reo-Coker looking likeliest to drop to the bench. Since sulking his way out of the Boleyn a few years back, Mediocre’s relationship with O’Neill has, on occasion, been a bit fractious and newspaper talk suggests that a January move may be on the cards with such homes of free-flowing and cultured football (not) as the DDW, Reebok, KC and, yes, Ewood Park all being touted as potential destinations for the moody one. Young will obviously be something of a danger and Milner is currently in fine form, which is handy, what with a World Cup coming up and all.
Up front alongside the aforementioned Carew is likely to be Gabriel Agbonlahor. Agbonlahor picked up a yellow for “simulation” in the League Cup match the other night, though there appeared to be at least a little bit of contact as he went down. Still, I haven’t forgotten his blatant dive up at Villa Park a couple of seasons ago that conned the ref into awarding the hosts what turned out to be a match-winning free-kick and, if it takes an idiot like Clattenburg to issue a few dodgy cards to make serial divers think twice then so be it.
What about us? Well the soap opera that is West Ham united continues apace. I haven’t checked the news for the last few minutes – I’ve been writing this - but when I last looked the FA had tapped us up for another £115,000 following the shenanigans against Millwall, having bottled looking too closely at allegations of racial abuse against Carlton Cole. Same old FA then. We may also have new owners since I started writing this, with various parties from the UK, Malaysia, Italy and who knows where all claiming to be in pole position in the race to end our spell of Icelandic ownership. Whoever takes over I just wish they’d pull their fingers out as we have a squad for which “threadbare” would actually represent something of an improvement.
On the bright side there may be returns for one or both of Noble and the inspirational Parker. Swiss youngster Daprela, who had a useful debut against Arsenal in the Cup may also be involved, though Herita Ilunga may be fit to return.
It is up front that the squad is at its thinnest. Most sources – including the Club when we spoke to them - suggest that Franco will be missing for another couple of weeks. Which makes the official site’s assertion that he will be returning from suspension somewhat perplexing. Some very optimistic sources suggest that Carlton Cole might be fit enough to appear on the bench, though such comments always worry me, given our history of rushing back players prematurely only to see them break down and miss another couple of months. Freddie Sears may start having been rescued from the clutches of the evil Warnock at Palace.
Prediction? Well even the most optimistic of us would be hard pushed to go for an away win, given the depleted nature of the squad. However, there is the odd straw to be clutched at. In 10 matches this season against teams from the bottom half of the table Villa have only won four times. Granted, if I could be bothered to look at our record against teams from the top half, that particular stat would probably be rendered meaningless, which is why I’m not going t do so. We also have the (occasional) habit of scraping the odd really unexpected point here and there. We deserved a win against the Mike Dean-assisted Chelsea and the performance in the 2-1 Cup defeat to Arsenal was far from depressing. So, in the spirit of a new year and new optimism I’ll go for a streaky 1-1 draw against the odds – but more in hope than expectation!
Enjoy the game!
Last season: Drew 1-1 - A late goal from Tristan cancelled out an early one from Heskey to earn us an unlikely point.
Danger Man: Ashley Young – the prospect of him getting at our full-backs is not one I’m looking forward to.
Referee: Mike Jones – last seen in last season’s 2-1 home win over Stoke where, in between doing for the advantage law what Harry Redknapp is alleged to have done for tax law, he found the time to send off Ricardo Fuller for his girly slap on team-mate Andy Griffin.
Look out for: A snowflake - If you see so much as one flake on your way up to Brum FOR SAFETY’S SAKE TURN BACK IMMEDIATELY!
First up Aston Villa have already played on Thursday night and O’Neill’s isn’t the biggest of squads. However of most note is the history between these two teams. Generally they are low scoring (only one of last eight games having over three goals) and also tight. In those eight games only one has been won by more than a goal.
At extrabet you can back WHU at 6/1 for the win, the draw 5/2 and Aston Villa at 1/2. Probably of more interest given the above is 1-0 Villa at 11/2 or the 2-1 at 7/1. 1-1 is 6/1 and West Ham 1-0 is 12/1 with a 2-1 away win 18/1! A combination of one or more of these prices would seem to be the play.
“The questions still remains – when will West Ham’s season catch fire? They have not been the punters friend this season,” says extrabet’s Chris Shillington.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
07:24AM 16th Jan 2010
''Nice review Perce...''
by Pedro The Villan
10:53PM 15th Jan 2010
''Hope we beat you but also hope you survive in the Premier League, WHU are a big club who wear the right colours. Best of luck.''
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