A Thanksgiving weekend away with the wife ensured I didn't even bother to listen to this one on the web, but frankly our dire record at Villa Park (the 4-3 'miracle' win in 1999 excepted) may have led me to avoid it anyhow.
Curbs clearly had no choice but to change some personnel around, but surely Danny Murphy should have been No.9 or 10 on his list of players worthy of the chop, perhaps only behind Darren Bent and Alexei Smertin? Admittedly his most recent performances have been disappointing, but that's probably a compliment to him since teams know if they stop Murphy, they strangle our attacking options. Curbishley's thinking might make sense if we had a squad like Chelsea's, but a midfield trio of Kishishev/Holland/Smertin had all the creativity of a karaoke night down the King's Head. Throw in the absence of the perennially frustrating, but occasionally devastating Rommedahl, and it was clear a 0-0 was about the best we could hope for. It was 'conservative Curbishley-ism' at its very worst, to misuse political terminology.
The problem throughout this season has not been the central midfield trio but the defence, yet
somehow Powell keeps his place and the unconvincing pairing of Hreidarsson/El Karkouri persists at the expense of Perry whose lack of height would hardly have been an issue against Baros and Philips. Surely it makes sense now to shift Hreidarsson to left-back until we can find a decent replacement for Powell in the transfer window, and play some combination of El Karkouri, Perry, Fortune and a fit Sorondo at centre-back.
It seems to me the 'problem' over the past few weeks has ironically been the re-emergence of Ambrose who, despite clearly worthy of a place, has disturbed the balance of the side. The classic 4-5-1 which served us so well early on in the season did so because the wide men (Thomas/Rommedahl) were exactly that. Ambrose is clearly not a natural wide man and hence to maintain his place in the side, we either have to a) replace Murphy with Ambrose, b) play him as a deep-lying forward or narrower wide midfielder in a 4-4-2 or c) not play him at all. In my view a) and c) are suboptimal, and hence we have to kiss goodbye to 4-5-1 for the timebeing. It's unfortunate because the 4-5-1 was great to watch, but something needs to be changed since the model is clearly broken.
On a different note, Andersen has come in for some criticism again, and whilst not entirely without merit he is the future between the sticks, and not Kiely, and deserves a little while longer to prove he can mould his undoubted talent with some better decision-making.
The game against Man City (also out of form) is pretty massive now, win it and we will leapfrog them back into the top half. Any talk about 'looking over our shoulders' at the bottom three is premature - there are several worse teams than us in the league, and I suspect one of them (Sunderland) will fail to accumulate 19 points in total.