The wait is over: Sherwood has his first win as Villa boss, the Albion were beaten in Round One of the double-header and Gabby scored a goal. This on the back of a Jeckyll and Hyde performance against Newcastle at the weekend. What can be learned as Aston Villa fans from a busy few days?
NOT LAUGHING ANYMORE
The Newcastle game was a kick in the stomach. After a good looking first half, Newcastle’s goal knocked the stuffing out of Villa, their composure and confidence left completely in the second half and a 1-0 defeat was hard to take.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 but there were signs that Villa might have started to turn the corner. There were shots! There was passion! A point would have really made… well… a point…. But there was enough done during the game, even if the line-up led to some dispute (Cleverley? Gabby? Again, remember hindsight is perfect vision) to think that maybe the shackles might not be off, but the chains were getting looser.
And then came the game against West Brom…
Agbonlahor has been rightly slated this season for his contribution. It hasn’t amounted to much. He’s been wide, central, a target man, playing off a target man… and looked pretty average at best and completely anonymous at worst.
But tonight, for the first 45 minutes, he was terrific. The team was terrific, but Gabby’s goal was a demonstration of what he can do with a lucky break, a half chance, his body strength and his pace. He was unlucky not to have a second too, thanks to Ben Foster and goal-line technology – and a third, or least a penalty out of it. With Benteke’s flicks giving Gabby the opportunity to get in behind the defence Foster had every right to look shaky.
But here’s the question. Who has been to blame for his lacklustre performances? Lambert for managing him wrongly, or the player himself for not rising to the occasion when given the chance?
And here’s something else to consider – Recently this column pondered whether Sherwood’s magic touch could be used to bring the best out of Charles N’Zogbia (Sherwood himself seems to think so – he started the Frenchman in a creative midfielder position against WBA… as for how he did, the jury is still out, but he was involved and he was at least as good as Jack Grealish who improved in the half-hour after he replaced Zog) – but perhaps Sherwood could restore Agbonlahor’s self-belief and make him instrumental to the team’s survival mission.
Tim continues to say and do the right things as he experiments to find a consistent winning line-up. His quotes echo what fans in pubs around town have been saying for weeks: the strikers can’t score if they aren’t getting the service, West Brom are a big club but Villa are a massive one, after we beat Albion in the league once we’ll focus on getting into the semi-finals and winning the FA Cup.
His celebrations, a cynic might say, could be emphasised knowing the TV cameras are looking for them. But, come on. He beat our local rivals in the last minute of extra time to get out of the bottom three. Even Steve Claridge would have to appreciate that. He has a rapport with the fans and the players (see Tim and Christian Benteke at the final whistle) that Lambert didn’t have. Certainly not to this extent. Lamber was cool, Sherwood has no problem letting his emotions take over not just after the game but in his team talks. This victory will have won over a few more who might have been on the fence. But he will be well aware a game is 90 minutes and another weak second half showing proves there’s still something that needs fixing.
There were two fabulous moments in the game against the Baggies. If there were the only two things on the end of season review DVD, fans would lap it up.
- Benteke’s last minute penalty, cooling sending Foster the wrong way, to win the local derby and our first game in nearly three calendar months.
- Alan Hutton almost kicking Berahino in the crown jewels, then actually kicking him in the crown jewels, turning to the ref and shrugging
Fans will be talking about both for seasons to come. More of the same please, Villa, and we’ll have a season to remember plucked from another season of drudgery. UTV
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