Role reversal for the Aston Villa attack and defence as pressure mounts
Aston Villa have mustered one point from two games since the last Good, Bad and Ugly look at the club. Ahead of the home clash with newly-promoted Cardiff City, which has quickly become a must-win game, here’s a look at the club’s fortunes over the last two weeks.
After Villa recorded their first clean sheet in 27 Premier League games in the 0-1 win over Norwich at Carrow Road in September further clean sheets have mercifully not been as hard to come by, with Guzan and his defence securing solid clean sheets in back-to-back away games with Hull City and West Ham. Ron Vlaar, whose place seemed severely under threat earlier in the season, seems to be beginning to finally show the potential to become the first real leader at the back that the club have had since the forced retirement of terrace hero Martin Laursen. Although still not quite the standard that Villa desperately need protecting their number one, Vlaar seems to have recognised in recent weeks the need to take control of Villa’s young and porous defence, as that is a role that only Vlaar will be able to do given the relative youth of whichever centre-back he will be partnering for most of the season.
Injuries. Gabby Agbonlahor and Fabian Delph – the latter having just won his third club player of the month award of the season (of a possible three, which says a lot both about the performances of both Delph and Aston Villa over the first twelve weeks of the season) –have been two of the club’s most encouraging and rewarding players so far in 2013-14 and were both dearly missed at Upton Park last weekend. Agbonlahor’s style is key to the team’s game, particularly away from home as he would have stretched the West Ham midfield and defence far more than any Villa player on the pitch did, and without Delph Villa’s midfield is embarrassingly unsubstantial and simply could not dominate.
Andreas Weimann, described by many of the national media as Villa’s “biggest threat” at Upton Park, despite the fact that any sensible Villa fan who has watched the side play regularly this season would have betted (successfully) against the Austrian converting any of the chances handed to him during that game. I said here after the Manchester City win that Weimann’s opportunistic winner in that game would do his confidence the world of good. Apologies for that promise, Villa fans.
The very fact that Weimann’s goal, in the 75th minute of the 3-2 home win over Manchester City on 28th September, was the last that Villa’s first team scored in a game of football is a particularly sorry one. Some 42 days will have elapsed since that City win, which secured Villa priceless back-to-back league wins, by the time Cardiff roll up on Saturday, with four games and an approximate six hours and 15 minutes of football having passed by without a Villa player finding the net.
The only saving grace during this dry spell has been the two clean sheets that have preserved two precious away points for Villa. Whichever way you look at it, however, two points and no goals from the last four games is relegation form. Cardiff at home should be the game to turn things around, but after the Bluebirds’ (sorry, Red Dragons’) win in the first Premier League South Wales derby last weekend, Villa fans should not be surprised if the Welsh side contest fiercely for an away win on Saturday.
If Agbonlahor and/or Delph are fit enough to return, it will be a massive boost for Paul Lambert. Villa have looked devoid of ideas and have failed to dominate a game in several weeks. Cardiff at home has to be the start of the turnaround, otherwise we’ll be back looking over our shoulders again as soon as early November.
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