James Elsewhere: Aston Villa v Chelsea

I spoke to Chris Bevan of BBC Online yesterday about the prospects for Aston Villa v Chelsea in Saturday’s FA Cup Semi-Final.

Context gives the game unusual interest. Only two weeks ago, Chelsea thumped Villa 7-1.

Scores of that magnitude just don’t happen to top-four candidates like Villa. Just about every other instance of a seven or more goal haul has featured a title candidate against a relegation certainty. Nor do scores of that kind happen to Martin O’Neill. It’s not what being Martin O’Neill is all about – nor is it what employing Martin O’Neill is all about. You can get 7-1 by employing more or less any manager you choose: you bring in O’Neill to prevent it.

What’s more, the game is unusually important for both clubs. Villa really do need to reach Europe directly this season, in order to demonstrate the real on-field progress they have made in the last two years. The top four might be too much, but the FA Cup could be just 180 minutes away. Villa lost at Wembley in the Carling Cup Final, and the players will be desperate to get back. But Chelsea will want to win the double to make up for both the humiliation of Champions League defeat to Jose Mourinho at Inter, and the FA Cup is now every bit as important to the blues players, now on a huge roll, as it is to Villa.

Chris’s post pulls in opinion on the game from far and wide, and includes my views on what options Martin O’Neill is left with against Chelsea. You can read the whole thing here.

15 Replies to “James Elsewhere: Aston Villa v Chelsea”

  1. O’Neill could always let slip that he’s been offered Malouda and Joe Cole in exchange for Milner, but is not tempted.

  2. You jest, sir. On the subj. of Celtic, when I lived in England, they were my Scottish team (combo of the attraction of the name when I was 8 and then the discovery of Stein and 1967). Now I’m here, I honestly couldn’t care less. My gut is looking out for Hibs, and regards Hearts as something akin to Darth Vader. None of this is the consequence of sustained thought (although the Hibs thing has much to do with my research interests – I was pleased to discover that the Slanj kilts shop is on the ground floor of Canon Hannan’s Catholic palace on St Mary’s Street).

  3. Well, I wouldn’t be tempted. Despite all of them sounding like minor characters in a Flashman novel.

  4. A question for you James – whether it’s a matter of Sports Psychology I’m not sure. Why is it that, in an Arsenal side full of pitter-patter-passing merchants, the chap who seems to understand how best to release little Mr Fleet-of-foot is the otherwise not very gifted Dane?

  5. Here’s a game – without recourse to the Telegraph or Google, work out who said this, this week.

    [The club]’s revolution has been industrial, a reassuring translation of graft into success.

    It is [the coach]’s mantra: repetition, repetition, repetition. “Strangely football is a sport in which some don’t expect to rehearse or practise,” he said. “It’s baffling. If you play tennis you will go out and spend hours and hours just working on your serve. If you are a golfer you will go out and spend hours working on one particular shot with one particular club.

    “You have to bring that culture to football. There’s no point in doing something for 10 minutes and then just have a game of five-a-side. The important thing is that what you are coaching the players to do has direct relevance to what will happen in a match situation.

    “People worry that it can get boring but I actually think players get bored if training isn’t serious, if you’re just doing passing drills and games of five-a-side. If I turned up now and just threw the ball out to my players they would not be happy with it. They’ve completely bought into what we are trying to do.”

  6. Without recourse? Well, let’s look at the clues: a club undergoing revival. An articulate coach or manager. A Scottish rugby fan from the other place asking the question.

    I’m going to narrow it down to three. Let me know how I’ve done. My best guess is Ross County. My second guess is Blackpool under Ian Holloway, although that doesn’t sound like a Holloway quotation. My third is Norwich City.

    Just don’t tell me it’s Huddersfield in 1924….

  7. It’s Mr Hodgson of Fulham, who, presumably not coincidentally, has worked a lot abroad.

  8. Here’s another game: pick your England XI from players who, you are confident, will not be in Mr Capello’s preliminary squad of 30. You aren’t allowed to pick the crocks e.g. no Owen, Hargreaves (or, I suspect, C Cole) ….

    In 4-5-1, I found myself with a front 6 of Bentley, Parker, Scholes, Murphy, Wilshere and Davies. Not very strong, you might think, but it did strike me that they would probably be better at retaining possession than whatever front sixes he fields in South Africa.

  9. A few bets:

    1. Paul Robinson
    2. Micah Richards
    3. Wayne Bridge
    4. Jamie Carragher
    6. Paul Scholes
    7. David Bentley
    8. Tom Huddlestone
    9. Bobby Zamora
    10. Darren Bent
    11. Ashley Young

    A few that might miss out: Carrick, Joe Cole, Jagielka, Wright-Phillips.

  10. Or, after last night, Ledley King. I watched City v Spurs in the Standard in Stockbridge, upstairs with my wife. Downstairs were bigger screens, but the frequent gasps and yells weren’t synchronising with our game. There was a Scottish match on, but that was only Motherwell v Hibs. That couldn’t have been distracting anyone from the most lucrative match in the Premiership’s history. Could it?

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