COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Wednesday 26th December 2012
VENUE Villa Park






Following an 8-0 defeat by Chelsea, Aston Villa are expected to get rolled over by Spurs on Boxing Day, but things don’t always work out the way they would seem on paper.

Paul Lambert will be looking for a reaction from his team after their “pathetic” performance at Stamford Bridge and Spurs are the lucky recipients of the opportunity to rub more misery into the Villa fans Christmas.

With Tottenham having struggled to get past the massed ranks of the Stoke City defence, the Villa boss might employ the same tactics to frustrate AVB’s team and to gain some brownie points with his own crowd. But the pressure is on his team to come out at home and be more attacking than they may want to be in the circumstances.

With a bunch of young players, things seemed to be turning around for Villa after their convincing 3-1 win at Anfield, but then it was only against Liverpool. Christian Benteke has impressed since his move from Belgium and has kept Darren Bent out of the side, much to the angst of the Press. His goals and his all round play have shown him to be a strong, skilful player who brings other players into the game, as well as being a strong finisher.

Alongside him, Andreas Weimann has shown that he can be a good man to play off Benteke, with good combination play with the big man and work the channels to make good runs off the ball. His play allows the midfield an outlet other than the ball up to Benteke and provides a link between the midfield and the front man.

Villa have suffered a bit by playing a large number of younger players in the same team, as they lack an old head to glue them together. With much of the old guard sold off or retired, the side lack the experience sometimes to hold things together when they go wrong. Richard Dunne might have been that player, but he has been out injured for much of the season.

Without Dunne, the defence lacks a leader and the youngsters James Lowton, Ciaran Clark, Joe Bennett, Nathan Baker, Enda Stevens and Eric Lichaj lack the nous to keep things tight when needed. All look decent players and would benefit from being in a good team, but when things are going against them, they look a little out of their depth.

Fabian Delph had a big future ahead of him when he was at Leeds United, with many big clubs chasing him, including Tottenham, but he chose to join Villa and a series of injuries have hampered his progress, although he is now coming back into the picture under Lambert. A good runner with the ball, who possesses a lot of skill and a good pass, he can open up defences, but needs a long run in the side to re-establish his confidence. Chris Herd is another the Villa faithful have high hopes for, but at the moment, he appears a bit too rash in the tackle and while he has good defensive midfield qualities, he lacks a little going forward.

Stilian Petrov would also have added some experience to the midfield, but his absence fighting leukaemia has been a big miss for the Midlands side. There are options in Gary Gardner, brother of Sunderland’s Craig, but he is out for the season with knee ligament damage and is still finding his way in the game and others, such as Barry Bannon, Ashley Westwood and Karim El Ahmadi are all relative newcomers to the Premier League. Marc Albrighton is more experienced, but is just coming back into the picture and played against our Under-21s last Monday. Stephen Ireland should be an example to the younger players in the side, but he has had his troubles and against Chelsea, he looked just as much at sea as the rest of the team.

In goal, Villa signed Shay Given, but he has fallen out of favour with Lambert and Brad Guzan has become the preferred option between the sticks. He has had some good performances, with plenty to do, with Villa having the worst goal difference in the division, but that has more to do with the players in front of him.

And that is where Spurs need to make the most of the problems that exist within the Villa team. Lack of confidence will be the main issue for the Villains, with Spurs needing to hit them early with a goal in the first quarter of the game to rattle their fragile belief even more. With the pace in the side, they should be able to test the nerves of the defence and get shots at the Villa goal to test their resolve. Only if Villa pack the last third will Spurs find it difficult, but by plugging away, they might get some joy.

Don’t expect a classic and it will be interesting to see if AVB reverts to a 4-2-3-1 formation away from home, but Spurs should have enough to break from the midfield to get at the fragile Villa defence.

PREDICTION Aston Villa    1      Tottenham Hotspur   2
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , history, etc.
Villa will have late checks on three injured players – Ron Vlaar (calf) , Gabriel Agbonlahor (thigh) and Charles N’Zogbia (knee) – to see if they are ready to play against Spurs. Former Tottenham striker Darren Bent will miss out with a hamstring injury. Midfielder Gary Gardner is out for the season with knee ligament damage, Stilian Petrov’s career is on hold while he battles Leukaemia and Richard Dunne has been out since the start of the season with a groin condition.
Spurs are still without Younes Kaboul (knee) and he is joined by Clint Dempsey, who has a groin injury. On the other side of the coin, Benoit Assou-Ekotto may be fit to be included in the match day eighteen and Scott Parker might make the starting eleven now he is back to full match fitness.

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Aston Villa  0 (0)     
Premier League
Wednesday 26th December 2012                              
Venue :  Villa Park
Tottenham Hotspur  4 (0)

Kick off  17:30
None Defoe 57
Bale 61
Bale 73
Bale 84
Delph (foul on Bale)




Crowd :   36,863 Weather :  Dry, mild
Referee :  Mark Clattenburg  (Tyne and Wear) Assistant Referees :  -
Fourth Official :  - -
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Holte end in the first half.
Aston Villa : kit Tottenham Hotspur : kit
22  Brad GUZAN

34  Matthew LOWTON
  6  Ciaran CLARK (c)
32  Nathan BAKER (  7  Stephen IRELAND 45)

15  Ashley WESTWOOD (12  Marc ALBRIGHTON 46)
  8  Karim El HAMADI
16  Fabian DELPH     
31  Chris HERD

14  Brett HOLMAN
20  Christian BENTEKE

Unused subs: 
  1  Shay GIVEN
30  Eric LICHAJ
25  Barry BANNAN
21  Jordan BOWERY

  25  Hugo LLORIS

28  Kyle WALKER
13  William GALLAS

  7  Aaron LENNON
19  Mousa DEMBELE (  8  Scott PARKER 66)
11  Gareth BALE        (31  Andros TOWNSEND 85)

18  Jermain DEFOE 
10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR (22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON 79)

Unused subs: 
20  Michael DAWSON
33  Steven CAULKER

Manager :  Paul Lambert Manager :   Andre Villas-Boas
Sponsor :   Genting Casinos Shirt sponsor :  Aurasma
Kit Supplier :  Macron Kit Supplier :   Under Armour
Match report

Spurs beat Aston Villa 4-0 at Villa Park.  It could have been many, many more.

If this Boxing Day match had been a boxing match, it would have been stopped  ... and that would have been well inside the first half.  In line with other footballing cliches, Villa were lucky to get nil and there needed to be two footballs out there ... one for Spurs and one for Villa.

At one stage in the first half, Spurs had a possession stat of 73% ... for an away side !!  While this means nothing without sticking the ball in the onion bag, it perhaps showed exactly where these two teams are at in their development at this moment in time.  Villa are struggling.  With a young squad, but with no experience, their confidence is shot and there are few redeeming things to come out of their last two matches, which have seen them concede 12 goals and not look like getting one in return. 

As for Tottenham, there is a blend of experience and youth, but more than that, there is an understanding and belief in the way they are playing.  And, frankly, they took Villa apart from start to finish.

From the first couple of minutes when Delph fouled Sandro, you could see Villa were second best and desperate to make sure they didn't get another thrashing.  But the way that allowed Spurs to knock the ball around and defended deep into their own third, then gave away corners unnecessarily, showed that they were more nervous than a Premier League team should be.  But while Spurs racked up 15 corners in the first half (with the record for a PL game being 20 altogether), they committed their usual fault of not being able to use corner kicks to their advantage.  Too often the delivery ended up flying over the players in the goalmouth and there was little threat on the Villa goal.  Perhaps that's why the home players kept giving them away.

There were chances to score, with a ninth minute strike from 30 yards by Kyle Walker that took a flick off a Villa man and went just wide, before another effort on goal brought another corner in the next minute.  Mousa Dembele set up Gareth Bale to curl a shot from 25 yards out and a flying Brad Guzan did well to palm it out for a corner.  One corner, taken by Walker halfway through the first half, found William Gallas' head and the ball skipped up off the turf, but Guzan had time to take the ball on his right hand side.

Delph was crashing about in midfield and perhaps showed why he gets injured so much and why he has lost form.  He needed treatment for clashing with Nathan Baker, his own player, then Walker needed a magic sponge after Delph had challenged him.  The player later got booked for a late, late tackle on Bale that bordered on the 'excessive force' criteria for a sending off.  Just before the half hour, Brett Holman got the ball across goal, but no claret shirt was on hand to do anything with it and it went through to the far post, where Joe Bennett came in and repeated the trick, missing everyone out. 

A Bale corner did pick out Adebayor's head and he got up well to it and got power in his header, but put it straight at Guzan with 31 minutes gone.  Five minutes later, Villa got an attack on the Spurs goal going, with Lowton putting in a low ball across the box to Holman at the far post, but he skied the chance over the top.  I have not seen a lot of Holman, but on this evidence, he will struggle to make it as a Premier League striker.  Lennon was ready to fire home a shot, but Baker threw himself in the way and when there was a clear shooting opportunity, Bale's drive from just outside the box swerved, but not enough to beat Guzan on this occasions, with the American keeper pushing the ball out in an ungainly fashion.

After such a battering in the first half, things had to change for Villa and Paul Lambert had to replace Baker with Stephen Ireland before the break and then brought Marc Albrighton on for Ashley Westwood.  Villa gave it a bit of a go at the start of the second half, but apart from a Lowton shot that went wide, there was little to trouble Hugo Lloris.

In fact, after Tottenham scored, it was mainly even more one way traffic than before half-time.  The ball was moved across the face of the Villa box and when the ball was knocked out, it came to Kyle Naughton on the right side of centre about 25 yards out and he played a precise straight ball forward to Jermain Defoe, who escaped Lowton and slipped the ball through Guzan's legs with the outside of his foot to give Tottenham a 57th minute lead.  It was no more than they deserved.  it was also the finish of a player full of confidence.

It had looked like Benteke would give Villa the lad a couple of minutes previous, but Lloris dived to make an agile save up and to his left and the offside flag was up anyway.  But when Villa attacked again, a ball into the Spurs penalty area was intercepted by a trademark lunging interception by Sandro and within the blink of an eye, the ball was in the Villa net.  The ball was played forward by Vertonghen, Clark tried to play a pass, but it ended up short and went to Lennon, who played it forward to Defoe on the right.  The Spurs striker was about to cut inside, when the ball was taken off his toe by Bennett, but it went infield to Bale, who skipped away from his marker on the turn and was one-on-one with Guzan, taking the ball to the keeper's left and then flicking it imperiously into the empty net with his left foot.  It was what Spurs do so well and left Villa gutted that they thought they might have had a chance of equalising but found themselves two down in just over an hour.

Villa once more tried to get back into the game, but their final ball was poor and in the 73rd minute, Bale was on the score-sheet again.  A good move down the Spurs right saw Lennon come inside and with Walker outside him, he chose to slip a short pass inside the penalty area by the D and Bale took it first time, burying the ball in Guzan's bottom left corner of the goal from just behind the penalty spot.  Within a minute, it could have been four, with Walker pulling a low ball back to Defoe, who uncharacteristically skied his shot way over the bar.

Six minutes from the end, Gareth completed his hat-trick with another well worked goal.   Again it came from the right, with Walker slipping a cute pass inside the full back from a wide position and allowing Gylfi Sigurdsson's perceptive run to receive the ball and he squared it to Bale, who this time drove the ball high into the net past Guzan's up-stretched right  hand.  it was an instinctive finish and gave the Welshman his first Premier League hat-trick.

In the remaining few minutes, Villa forced Lloris to his first save of the match with three minutes left and Spurs kept the ball to run out time and Villa were glad it had all come to an end.  Having lost 0-8 and 0-4 in two matches, they were shell-shocked and shocking.  Spurs were very good and made Villa looked a team less than ordinary.

So, three points and on to Sunderland on Saturday.  Three more there would be a good achievement, with the Black Cats having beaten Manchester City earlier today.  We will face a more confident side, with a goal-scorer in Steven Fletcher, who is in good form too.

A different test, but one which Spurs need to rise to and keep the good run of results going.

Isaac Gregory



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What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Arsenal P West Ham United P Wednesday
Everton 2 Wigan Athletic 1 Wednesday
Fulham 1 Southampton 1 Wednesday
Manchester United 4 Newcastle United 3 Wednesday
Norwich City 0 Chelsea 1 Wednesday
Queens Park Rangers 1 West Bromwich Albion 2 Wednesday
Reading 0 Swansea City 0 Wednesday
Stoke City 3 Liverpool 1 Wednesday
Sunderland 1 Manchester City 0 Wednesday




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Manchester United 19 15 1 3 48 28 46 +20
2 Manchester City 19 11 6 2 34 16 39 +18
3 Chelsea 18 10 5 3 36 16 35 +20
4 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 19 10 3 6 34 25 33 +9
5 Everton 19 8 9 2 32 23 33 +9
6 West Bromwich Albion 19 10 3 6 28 23 33 +5
7 Arsenal 18 8 6 4 31 17 30 +14
8 Stoke City 19 6 10 3 19 15 28 +4
9 Swansea City 19 6 7 6 27 23 25 +4
10 Liverpool 19 6 7 6 28 26 25 +2
11 Norwich City 19 7 7 5 20 28 25 -8
12 West Ham United 18 6 5 7 22 22 23 0
13 Sunderland 19 5 7 7 20 24 22 -4
14 Fulham 19 5 6 8 29 34 21 -5
15 Newcastle United 19 5 5 9 23 30 20 -7
16 Aston Villa 19 4 6 9 15 36 18 -21
17 Southampton 18 4 4 10 23 34 16 -11
18 Wigan Athletic 19 4 3 12 19 35 15 -16
19 Reading 18 1 7 10 19 33 10 -13
20 Queens Park Rangers 19 1 7 11 16 33 10 -17


Position before match :  6th
Position after match :  4th


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