By Matthew Knight
Aston Villa Star Players of the Week in Two Very Contrasting Games
After an impressive victory at Anfield, eyes turned to a home game against Arsenal (a team who haven’t left Villa Park empty-handed since 1999). With the Lions sitting pretty in second place, unbeaten in four games and more importantly, winning in three of those ties, the stage was set for Villa to face their toughest test yet.
Overshadowed by Scotland’s significant ‘no vote’, Villa’s ‘yes vote’ for Scottish manager, Paul Lambert and right back, Alan Hutton remained firmly in the minds of the fans as Villa Park filled with an impressive 40,013 attendance. Would Lambert’s new deal, keeping him at the club until 2018, be able to inspire both himself and the team to a victory against the Gunners?
Villa started well – the team was vibrant and dominant; these beginning-of-match dominations becoming characteristic of our early season performances. Until the 32nd minute, it seemed that defensively Villa were in control, even if the attack was not as strong.
However, it was of course Villa’s duty to rejuvenate under-fire, big money signings Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck. In the space of 192 seconds, Villa were caught like a rabbit in the headlights; a slick passing movement leading to Ozil scoring, the German then crossing in for Welbeck who scored a simple sidefoot and then Aly Cissokho sent a Kieran Gibbs shot into Guzan’s goal.
Such a performance would have been normal in last season’s campaign, but this performance left many Villa fans wondering what had happened to the defensive resilience which had been so apparent in these first few games.
This performance has been excused by many – especially Paul Lambert, who informed us in his post-match interview that a virus had swept through the camp, leaving many players (including the reliable Ashley Westwood and reinvigorated Nathan Baker) to be sent home before the match had begun. Lambert even reported that Weimann had been vomiting at half time.
In a game where Villa had only 28.6% possession, were outclassed in almost every area of the pitch and aided Arsenal to keep their first clean sheet of the season, it is hard to find positives. But a sickness bug can certainly help to at least justify such a defeat. Perhaps my player ratings will be more about who was the least ill, as opposed to who played the best.
Nevertheless, Villa remain in automatic qualifying places for the Champions league and if I was told at the start of the season that we’d have 10 points from the first five games (including a fantastic win at Anfield), I would’ve been absolutely shocked.
[Click ‘next‘ to see which Villa players were the best]