So that’s it. According to Aston Villa Gareth Barry is no longer for sale. Who are they trying to kid? He never ever was for sale in Villa’s eyes. Why else would they have slapped a joke price tag on his head? The statement from Villa Park says.
“During talks in the past few days, a final deadline to conclude this episode was set that all parties were aware of and agreed to. This deadline has now passed and so Gareth will remain with Villa.”
OK so is that it or are Villa trying to force the issue and get us to commit? If so I think they are wasting their time, no money unless we sell Alonso or, if the new rumours are true, Pennant, Voronin, Finnan and Arbeloa. As for deadlines I thought the transfer one ended on 31 August so have Villa got the dates skewed? The other notable thing is the lack of any utterances from Gareth Barry over how he feels about the saga. Perhaps Martin O’Neill’s got him bound and gagged in his attic and only lets him out for matches!
So to Villarreal, La Liga runners up, and therefore a step up in opposition and preparation for the big kick off. Rafa’s side reflected this by starting with Keane, his first game, Gerrard, back from injury, Benayoun, Hyypia and Srktel. However there was still room for experimentation with Plessis and new boy Ngog starting along with Darby. Interestingly Voronin was moved to the right wing to accommodate Keane however the intrigue proved short lived as he was largely anonymous!
The game started with a presentation to both side’s Spanish players in recognition of there contribution to the Euro 2008 victory. The trophy was paraded and Villarreal’s three players received medals. Our four, Torres, Arbeloa, Alonso and Reina, received something better – a model of a yellow submarine! Why? It’s Villarreal’s nickname, they play in yellow and used to go up and down between the leagues a lot! Anyway it looked terrific and I want one! One for the bath rather than the trophy cabinet but perhaps an interesting development. How about the winners of the forthcoming Community Shield receiving figurines of Wall E? What about winners of the Johnstone’s Paint trophy getting Buzz Lightyear and of course Mickey Mouse figures would ideal for the Carling Cup! Clearly this wouldn’t apply to major tournaments but surely, along with the proper medal, winners of the Premiership should get The Incredibles?
The first meaningful chance fell to Robbie Keane. Although he did well to escape his marker and create space, he was unable to dig the ball out from under his feet and lobbed it into the stands. Nonetheless we saw encouraging green shoots of an understanding with Gerrard. The partnership with Torres will have to wait for another match as by the time Rafa let “golden boy” play Keane had showered and changed. Ngog should have scored after an excellent “eye of a needle” pass from Benayoun. Darby did very well with a last ditch clearance to deny the home side after they had hit the post.
The second half saw us make nine changes. Pacheco blew a decent chance through poor decision making but what can you say, he’s done really well over the last few games. And it was late, remember he’s only seventeen! On a number of occasions the defence found itself hesitantly indulging in bouts of “pinball” but held out. Jay Spearing nearly won it at the death with a long range effort that went very close.
One wonders if Rafa should start fielding something akin to his planned starting line up for August 16th rather ringing so many changes. We saw thirteen last night. For example substitutes Finnan and Nemeth only played for thirty minutes or so before being withdrawn. I appreciate there are still preparation and fitness issues but, as a fan, I would like to see that. Surely he’ll have to do it soon?
So from men in lemon to “Orangemen” Rangers at Ibrox next but first the Champions League qualifying draw on Friday.