High office ages its inhabitant. You can compare pictures of Bill Clinton or George Bush from when they entered office and over the course of their presidencies and their hair is grayer, their faces are more drawn and their experssions more weary.
That is what comes to the Manager's mind looking at this photo of David O'Leary. He looks like his tenure at Aston Villa is wearing on him. And while he has had his share of excuses, namely injuries to an already thin squad, his tactics and man-management have increasingly come under scrutiny.
Unfortunately for O'Leary, the Manager is not one to shy away from a bandwagon (see his fielding on 1/2 the ManU squad in his fantasy team over the weekend), so let him add his $0.02. It in unfathomable to the Manager that down 1-0 to ManU at halftime, O'Leary sends on J.P. Angel in place of James Milner. That left him with a midfield of Davis, McCann, Bakke and Barry. Gritty. Workmanlike. Rough and tumble. Perhaps. But not sparkling, creative, dynamic or thratening. Which is what Villa needed more of to get back into the game. How is Eirik Bakke going to help you beat ManUnited? And down 1-0 it was no longer an issue of "contain" ManUnited. At home, they needed a goal, or 2. And while bringing on Angel may seem an attacking move at first, leaving 4 central and defensive-minded midfielders on the field more than negates that move because there is no service for Angel and/or Baros to feed off. Milner would have given Villa balance, width and some attacking impetus. O'Leary deprived his team of that, and they never threatened to beat United.
On the other hand, you have Paul Jewell. Wigan rose as high as second in the table before a run of five defeats saw them fall back down the table. But those defeats were to teams better than them. Arsenal. Chelsea. Tottenham. Manchster United. Liverpool. No shame in losing to that list. But Wigan could absolute not left that affect them. They had to get back to winning not to let the losing become a habit.
They could not have asked for more accomodating opponents than Charlton, who like Wigan made a good start to the season by feasting on weaker opposition. But these days Charlton can only conspire to beat Sunderland and, unlike Wigan, they haven't looked good in defeat.
So behind a Camara hat trick, Wigan crush Charlton and just like that the losing streak is behind them and they can go into the X-mas games withough looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone. Kudos to Jewell for keeping his side up through the down times and for getting them to win the games they need to win.
In fantasy, ManU continues to have an easy schedule, facing Birmingham and West Brom over Christmas week. Rooney and Ruud are scoring for fun and they are getting contributions from all over their midfield - which makes those middies harder to pick (which one gets the points at any given time). Arsenal, West Ham, and Tottenham also seem to have easier games upcoming and are worth a look. Tottenham especially, look a side that are finding their feet. Edgar Davids is giving them an edge in midfield and is bringing the best out of both Carrick and Jenas. Which in turn is helping the forwards get goals (though they could be more ruthless) and the defense keep them out (though they could be more stingy).
Until next week.