Apologies for the lack of GBUs in recent weeks, I fell asleep watching Villa at some point in late December and only woke up on Sunday afternoon. But finally, some positive signs. Two goals in one game, progression beyond round four of a cup competition – these truly are heady days at Aston Villa. Here’s a look at the Good, Bad and Ugly of Villa’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Bournemouth.
As if scoring twice in one game for only the third time in 25 matches this season weren’t enough, the quality of the goals was hugely pleasing, not least because it was getting to the stage where a three-yard shinned tap-in would have been met with celebrations befitting of a last-minute Wembley winner.
Carles Gil’s strike (let’s be honest, how many times have we all watched it since Sunday?) was a piece of quality the like of which has become so unrecognisable at Villa that I was almost unwilling to believe it wasn’t a mishit cross were it not for the fact that the Spaniard clearly has something to be excited about.
Gil looks a cut above, he really does. Even after less than a game and a half he is clearly technically one of the best players at the club; his footballing intelligence makes Villa’s midfield look like they’re playing football with their eyes open again; and his low-centre of gravity and eye for a pass should hopefully yield both goals and assists. As long as his first two appearances in a Villa shirt are reflective of what is to come throughout his Villa career, the club could have unearthed a real gem.
Andi Weimann’s strike was another top goal; the Austrian’s work-rate is undeniably impressive, and his movement for the second was superb, drifting unnoticed from midfield into space in the box, albeit in the midst of dreadful Bournemouth marking. The fact that his first-time finish was perfect was hugely encouraging for a man who so often fails to apply the final touch, and was a sign that his efforts could reap more reward if he finds himself in a more central role.
Ciaran Clark’s blossoming has been another isolated positive from the club’s recent run, and the progress he’s making as a mature central defender was on full display on Sunday. His current calm and composure is a world away from previous performances which were littered with errors and naivety, to the extent that in the eyes of some he appears to have gone from a Championship-destined squad player to potential captain material after the seemingly-inevitable eventual departure of Ron Vlaar.
The major plus point off-the-field has been the club’s rather remarkable feat of getting Fabian Delph to agree to a new deal. It looked for all the world in recent weeks as if Villa’s only choice was to let him go for peanuts this month or for nothing in the summer, but suddenly Villa’s options are much rosier – keep him for the foreseeable future or sell high.
Delph’s rhetoric upon signing, leaning heavily on the perception of loyalty and the thinly-veiled inference that he could easily have left the club (which in fairness, he could have done) is great, as long as he doesn’t go and ruin it by leaving in the summer anyway. In a perfect world Villa would get at least two more years out of him at the top of his game before allowing him to move on. If his decision to sign is genuinely because he wants to be at the club for the next few seasons, he should be another contender for the club’s next captain.
The reveal of his new contact was also the first time in recent memory that Villa have actually pulled a piece of PR genius out of the bag. Delph’s exclusion from the matchday squad had fans all over social media wishing him goodbye, before the announcement on Twitter that big news was to be announced ten minutes before kick-off. Despite what I can only assume were widespread fears that the news was going to be the permanent signing of Tom Cleverley (we were spared, for now – see ‘Bad’), the news was perhaps the best we could have hoped for.
The timing and execution couldn’t have been more perfect if it had all been planned, down to Delph’s absence on the day – the midfielder was apparently ruled out as a precaution with an achilles injury. Whether it’s Paul Lambert, Randy Lerner or Tom Fox that you give the plaudits to (most fans will presumably and understandably choose to praise Fox), this is hopefully the first step on the way to a rebuild job at the club.
Click ‘Next’ below for the Bad and the Ugly