The Good, Bad & Ugly – Is Villa’s Season Turning for the Worse?

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Although he will obviously take a fair amount of time to shake off his rustiness and rediscover his touch and sharpness, Christian Benteke looked to have been returned to a starting spot rather too soon. Clearly nowhere near fit, the Belgian had almost as little impact on the game as Gabby Agbonlahor.

With just four goals from eight games this season – Sergio Aguero scored that many in 63 minutes on Saturday and Southampton doubled that total in one game in their 8-0 win over Sunderland – Villa desperately need both the midfield to start delivering chances to Benteke, and the man himself to find his form quickly if the current situation is to get any better any time soon.

The absence of Grealish from the matchday 18 was baffling. Having just signed a new contract he would have been raring to go, and yet he was left out of the squad, a fact which made watching the performances of Kieran Richardson and Charles N’Zogbia even more painful than it otherwise would have been.

For the purposes of time- and word-saving, I’ll try to leave the comments on individual players’ performances there.

As one key player returns, another falls. Christian Benteke’s return to the match-day squad has been quickly overshadowed by the hammer blow of Fabian Delph’s dislocated shoulder.

After having to endure six months without the man who effectively constituted the club’s entire attacking threat, Villa now face ominous prospect of up to two months without their star man in midfield.

The fact that the England international is reportedly likely to be sidelined until just before Christmas leaves Villa’s midfield without its driving force in the centre. It also places far more pressure on Carlos Sanchez to quickly adapt to the pace of the Premier League and to begin showing his quality on the pitch. Even if he can do this, it’s going to be a long, long couple of months.

Nathan Baker limping off reinforced the apparent perpetuity of Villa’s injury problems. With Philippe Senderos injured during the international break, Ron Vlaar having been struggling with injuries for much of the season so far, and Jores Okore continually absent, Villa are hardly blessed with centre-back options.

One day in the distant future we might see Villa’s first-choice eleven players on the pitch at the same time, but it won’t be for a good while yet.




Villa’s performance went from looking merely dishearteningly predictable early on to becoming borderline embarrassing, and the optimism that followed Villa’s start to the season and the win over Liverpool is now a distant memory.

The goals that Villa conceded were dreadful to watch. For the first, Leighton Baines was given all the time in the world to cross and Aly Cissokho was the wrong side of Phil Jagielka seemingly for an age, making it all too easy; for the second, the defending to allow Lukaku in was awful and Guzan dropped a rare clanger. I won’t dissect the third as although I have seen it since, I’m not afraid to say that my attention had somewhat waned by that point in the game.

Every week, as soon as Villa go behind the game looks up. The quality of opposition that has been beating us week-in week-out has undoubtedly been high, but it’s not about the results – let’s be honest, what were we expecting?

It’s about the 440+ minutes without a goal, and the way we seem to be meekly slipping back into the habit of failing to even contest games. Yes we’ve played last season’s top five in our last five games, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of fight that has been shown in the face of adversity in the last few weeks since the excellent result at Anfield.

The quality of opposition, although undoubtedly an obstacle to overcome, cannot be used as an excuse for lack of results or performances. After the must-win QPR clash next weekend, Villa face two more teams higher up the table than themselves in West Ham and Southampton, and yet we have to be looking at battling to secure points.

If Villa go to QPR and lose – a real possibility as far as I’m concerned – last season’s vitriolic outpouring of feeling against Lambert and Randy Lerner will resurface with a vengeance.



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