In the week between Aston Villa‘s spirited 3-2 defeat to Manchester United and their 5-0 thrashing at the hands of champions Manchester City, several Villa players told the press that confidence was high and that ‘something special’ was on the cards for the club and its fans.
Now forgive me if I’m missing the point here but, wasn’t that a little bit contradictory and unfair on the Villa faithful? We’re all so used to hearing players from struggling squads banging on about confidence and team spirit, but how often are they actually right?
I was surprised when I saw the Villa result at the weekend because it came after a week when I had noticed several of Paul Lambert’s players claim that the side were confident of a positive result at the Etihad.
Striker Andreas Weimann claimed the Villa players would “go there with a lot of confidence” and that “at the moment we can take on anybody and at Manchester City we will be the same.” Meanwhile, goalkeeper Brad Guzan claimed “there are exciting times ahead” after the United result.
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Both players were both found out during a ‘confident’ and ‘exciting’ display that saw them lose 5-0. Of course going to the Premier League champions in search of a good result when you’re at the wrong end of the table is not an easy prospect, but it can’t be a good way to boost morale by building yourself and the team up and then failing to follow it through with a good performance.
Rio Ferdinand also fell foul to such crimes this weekend when he spoke of Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to show the United players the Premier League standings before their 3-0 win at Newcastle at the beginning of October. United were seven points behind leaders Chelsea before that game and Rio claimed it gave them a kick up the backside.
It certainly did as they went on to reduce that points deficit and go into last weekend’s fixture away to Norwich City two points clear at the top of the league. Rio claimed the performance against Newcastle was “hopefully a taste of things to come.” They went and lost 1-0 at Norwich and now trail rivals and new league leaders Manchester City by a point in the title race.
These comments are only ever good when they are backed up with solid performances and wins against sides your team should be beating. Obviously Aston Villa weren’t expected to win at Manchester City, but losing 5-0 after such comments just isn’t acceptable.
On the flip side, though, Reading’s Adam Federici and West Brom’s Youssouf Mulumbu both followed up their mid-week war cries with vital wins for their teams.
Reading recorded their first Premier League win of the season against high flying Everton after goalkeeper Federici insisted the week before that “we are not far away from a win, everyone is confident of it” and “we have got the monkey off our back with the clean sheet and the next one will be the three points.” He may have been putting his neck on the line but it turned out to be spot on analysis from Federici who helped the Royals beat high-flying Everton 2-1 at the weekend.
Mulumbu’s impressive West Brom hosted Chelsea who have recently been in poor form and he said he will be looking to get three points and maybe going fourth in the league. He also admitted that Roberto Di Matteo “has a strong team but let’s see what happens on Saturday. I am quite confident.” He was also bang on the money, and a 2-1 win lifted the Baggies into the dizzy heights of a Champions League spot.
So it is a fine line between what players are really feeling about their team’s current form and confidence, and what they might be saying just to keep their manager and, more importantly, their fans happy.
Personally, I think the only talking these players should being doing, especially the players of teams who are struggling, is on the pitch, working hard and giving their all for the team. Otherwise they will inevitably be open to even more scrutiny from the people bad results affect most.
So should players cut out the talk of positive feelings and good team spirit and just get on with playing football and getting results? There is not much room for slip ups between getting it right and shooting yourself in the foot. We saw both scenarios in their full glory this weekend and I suspect it’ll be the same again come Saturday.
What do you think? Do players do to much talking and not enough playing these days? Leave your comments below and join in with the debate.