Despite the free-flowing attack from both teams, this match was not a fun one to watch, mostly due to the frustration of Aston Villa fans. Blackpool supporters have more reason to be frustrated, however, as the Seasiders failed to capitalize in the last twenty minutes, even with the visitors down a man after Jean Makoun was sent off. Gabriel Agbonlahor scored in the 10th minute, Elliott Grandin equalized four minutes later, and there the scoring ended, 1-1.
The majority of Villa fans are hitting out at Ashley Young, perhaps because his last-minute shot from a Stewart Downing cross went just wide, denying Villa all three points. Also in injury time, Howard Webb failed to award a penalty to Young, although the call would have been soft, and we all know Webb doesn't do soft. Captain Ash might not deserve such vitriol today, however. He got himself into space quite often (it's not his fault Kyle Walker and Stewart Downing often dallied on the ball) and kept the attack flowing after Emile Heskey replaced Darren Bent.
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This match gave glimpses of what Gerard Houllier is aiming for with his formation. This is a manager who has certain tactics in mind, and since he has yet to form his team to his mindset, is attempting to squish the team into his tactics, with varying results. But when the attackers switch places, it certainly does trouble the opposing defense, and that's what Houllier is seeking. Agbonlahor's wing play resulted in the Villa goal, with the speedster showing glimpses of his old self when beating two Blackpool defenders and easily slipping around keeper Richard Kingson. After that, though, the majority of the play went down the right, where Downing finally seems comfortable. Is it perfect? No, of course not. Do I think we'd be better served to have Gabby behind Bent and Ash on the wing? Sometimes, but then I see the interplay in the England game and think that maybe Young can, in fact, play in the hole.
I wonder if some of the team's time might be better served practicing defense against set pieces, however. On the whole, the defense was solid today -- except when conceding the goal on a Charlie Adam corner. There was some confusion in the box and somehow Grandin was left unmarked. Such sloppiness is really why the Villa are stuck near the bottom of the table, not the lack of talent up front. That being said, Richard Dunne was solid today, with a last-minute challenge that saved a certain Blackpool goal. Ciaran Clark was an utter beast, nearly flawless at the back and managing to get forward as well. Kyle Walker was again better up front than at the back, which is starting to look troubling considering the wobbles in defense. Finally, Carlos Cuellar got the start today, but tweaked his hamstring and was replaced by James Collins in the 25th minute. Much as I love King Carlos, this move might have ended up saving the draw, with Collins putting up a good show at the back.
What else? Oh, Jean Makoun. His passing and creation were once again crisp, but we won't see him for a few matches, having seen a straight red after a late challenge on DJ Campbell. Michael Bradley came on to shore up the Villa midfield, and at the risk of alienating even more people, I'm going to say it: Bradley might need a few more substitute appearances, a few more opportunities to train with the team, before he gets the start. He looked off the pace and even managed a challenge in which he simply slid along the ground rather than connecting with either player or ball. Then again, pretty crappy circumstances for anyone, so it's way too early to judge. I'm sure he has it in him to contribute to the Villa side, especially with Makoun out, but it may take a few games for him to catch on in this league.
The Villa have Blackburn Rovers coming up, and I can't remember the last time we beat Blackburn in the league. We've got two weeks to get through before that happens, however, which could mean we see something totally different from Houllier. Or not. I have no idea with him anymore.