This week finally came the official announcement of Roberto Di Matteo becoming the new Villa boss. It was obvious from the club’s short statement that Di Matteo hadn’t been to Villa Park yet to undertake an official photocall or announcement press conference/interview. Although, judging by some of the recent redundancies and cut backs at the club, there probably wasn’t a photographer or interviewer to call on anyway.
Instead Villa offered up a couple of lines from Di Matteo, probably dictated down the phone or from an email.
“It’s a wonderful honour for me to become manager of this great football club and I’m looking forward to the challenge of taking Aston Villa back to its rightful place,” said Di Matteo. Which was followed later by an additional quote in newspaper reports of the official announcement.
“Football is a simple game which people can over-complicate by forgetting the basics,” said Di Matteo. “You have to start with the basics and build on those foundations. It’s important to get the basics right and then build from there.”
Back to Basics
Whether he watched Villa or not last season, it’s very much hitting the nail on the head.
Last season, this Villa team completely forgot the simplest of basics – i.e. save, tackle, pass and shoot.
Guzan continued the errors of judgement that had hounded him in previous seasons and saw him dropped under Tim Sherwood. He should have been replaced last summer, nevermind this.
As for the defence, well where do you start? Personally speaking, my first and best position growing up was as a centre-back in a couple of successful league-winning youth teams. Even I’m appalled watching the Villa defenders’ ball watching, poor positional sense and lack of ability to mark players and read a game; I’d hate to think what their fellow pros think.
Although saying that, I had a chat in passing with ex-Villan Ian Taylor earlier this year about the Villa defence, and he too was amazed at their lack of being able to grasp the basics. He was pretty funny taking the pi** out of one particular Villa defender (we won’t name who).
“You’ve played centre back,” said Taylor. “So you know *beep beep* isn’t a centre back!”
If Villa are to stop being a laughing-stock, they have to rebuild from the back. It’s the foundation of every good team. Hopefully Steve Clarke will aid Di Matteo in getting that right, his track record is pretty good in that department.
The big limitation to Villa’s team in recent seasons though (even in the O’Neill years to a certain extent) has been without doubt the midfield. Bar Fabian Delph and Tom Cleverley having a decent handful of games last season, it has tended to lack conviction, endeavour, imagination and on the whole it has been noticeably afraid to go forward with any real purpose.
If I see Ashley Westwood pass backwards one more time, when there’s a forward pass on, I’d be tempted to shoot him. After watching him closely in the last game of the season against Newcastle, the only conclusion was he’s just taking up a valuable shirt on the team.
In theory, he should be a kind of Kevin Richardson-type character with a bit more vision, but his final ball is lacking and his deadball delivery is poor.
Villa need players that aren’t afraid to take players on, run at the opposition defences and pass with incisive intent.
There’s been a few newspaper reports saying that Di Matteo’s first buy should be a striker, but in MOMS’ opinion he needs to build a team first. After all, some of the world’s best teams have played without decent strikers, France won a World Cup in 1998 without a decent one, and Spain infamously in the 2012 European Championships, didn’t even bother with one, playing with a 4-6-0 formation.
As Di Matteo said, it’s time to get the basics right first and that means building a proper team.