By Chris Kemps
The first two games of the Christmas period played, one point, one Villa goal scored (but it was a flipping beauty), but possession is improving. Other than the obvious lack of firepower and results, what else did Aston Villa fans learn from the Man United and Swansea games?
Christian Benteke demands the ball in front of goal, which is great. But unlike Darren Bent, he is the first to lament quite strongly when the service isn’t what it could be. Bent would always applaud a good ball to him, even when he scuffed it wide of the target. But Benteke’s demonstrative strop-throwing can’t do much to help the morale of the teammates providing him the ball – especially when they are the likes of Clark and Weimann and not, let’s say, a playmaker like Cole or even Westwood.
Lambert has got his superstar on board and Benteke is saying all the right things about staying, now Lambert has told him the team will be based around him. But that doesn’t give him the right to throw all his toys out of the pram when a cross doesn’t reach him squarely on the forehead.
Surely the opposition would rather have Benteke visibly frustrated rather than applauding a good pass that doesn’t quite make its mark. Perhaps he should play like he’s a forgiving fan. The Villa Park faithful know what he can do and will keep faith in him, even after two games in a row where he has drifted in and out and perhaps should have made more intelligent runs into the box.
If he had the same faith in himself and his team that the fans have, he would be a more composed, more threatening striker. And would be less likely to be blamed for his lack of hustle or loose control from time to time.
Ashley Young. Villa took him to the next level and since he left the club for Manchester United he’s become a figure of cliched frustration for fans everywhere. His diving is laughable at times, and if he thinks everything is okay by reportedly telling Guzan that if anything the foul Gabby was sent off for should have been given TO him and not AGAINST him, he’s very much mistaken.
The collision would have been nothing at all if he hadn’t taken it upon himself to lie down as though a sniper had picked him off and he had broken both his legs as he fell, then stayed prone for three hours before trotting back on to the field after a sip of Lucozade. The ref got it wrong – and the appeal proved that.
So, Gabby didn’t pick up a ban – that’s great. But it’s not justice. Any ref worth his salt would take any potential foul involving a player with Young’s reputation and add that into the equation. But Lee Mason couldn’t get the red card out of his pocket quick enough, and as a result – appeal or not – Villa had to play the last 25 minutes of the game with only 10 men. And then for the FA to fine the players for presumably the disciplinary committee agreed with – questioning the foul – is ridiculous. Fergie wouldn’t have tolerated that, but then they wouldn’t have done that to Fergie.
Rightly (Richardson) or wrongly (Benteke, Gabby) Villa are rubbing refs the wrong way for some reason. And this has to be addressed by Lambert and the players. Refs are human, but post-match justice doesn’t help as much as it should and they must learn to deal with these potential game-changing situations before they happen.
SHINE BRIGHT LIKE A WEIMANN
There has definitely been a change of heart from the management (since Roy Keane left… a coincidence?) in the Villa playing style. Possession is up, results are improved and performances are far more appealing to the eye than they were this time last year. But some players still need a little encouragement and some good luck for once. Andreas Weimann is a prime example of this.
Weimann joined the club at 16 and broke into the first team the hard way after impressing in the reserves and on loan to Watford. He’s not looking like the same player who scored two against Man United a few years back and he’s probably the striker who works best with Benteke. Cynics will say he hasn’t been the same since he signed his new big money (by Villa standards) contract, but he’s playing everywhere he’s being told to play and usually gets one good chance per game – how many other Villa players can say that? With a bit of a break and a lift (and perhaps a change of formation…) he could compliment Benteke and both could reap the benefits.
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