Sunday afternoon saw, for the first time in I don’t know how long, a Villa game at Villa Park that was entertaining for the Villa faithful. The Villans dominated possession and had a mammoth 16 shots on goal! It was nice to come away from a game thinking how did we not win by more rather than how did we hang on at the end?
If you look at the league table now you will see that we are comfortably sat in mid table and only eight points off a Champions league place. More importantly the weekend’s victory meant Villa had reached the halfway mark to the magic safety barrier of 39-40 points (yes the clubs current ambition is that low).
A promising sign to come from the Midlands derby was the inclusion of two more goal scorers for the Villa this season. Before the last three games there had only been two registered scorers in the league (Agbonlahor and Weimann). The spread of responsibility in terms of goal scoring across the team can only increase confidence.
The continued blossoming of Clark and Okore as a defensive partnership is extremely pleasing. Both seem very at ease in possession of the ball, especially Okore who calmly bought the ball out from the back despite being under pressure. Personally, even putting contract disputes aside, I can’t see how you could justify bringing Vlaar straight back into the team. The big test for the new partnership will come in a couple of weeks when United come to B6.
The continued rebirth of our born again king Benteke has been a key part to making it five unbeaten. The Belgian gives us the option of just lumping it in his general direction when the sometimes unimaginative midfield runs out of ideas. Even when his supply is punt or hoof towards him, he still looks a threat and manages to make something out of nothing. This is invaluable in a team lacking a sprinkling of creativity.
Sunday saw Jack Grealish given a full 30 minutes to prove his worth to Lambert. He certainly did not disappoint. Calm and cultured on the ball, he looked willing to hold defenders up and take them on. The most pleasing part of his game was his delivery, especially from corners. He put two of the best crosses I have seen from the Holte End from a claret and blue player in a very long time. I would be inclined to throw the local lad in against Tesco F.C. on Saturday if I was Lambert, just to see how he handles the pressure of a derby and see if he can produce from the start.
The most pleasing part of Sunday’s victory however, was the mentality of the players. The game was a full-blooded affair following the horrible tackle on Westwood, typified by the beauty of a tackle from Clark which sent the ball and Ulloa (almost) into the stands. A Lambert team of old might have lost their heads and crumbled in the face of such a contest, but this game they didn’t. The team kept their composure and stood up like men to the task, but still had the presence of mind to keep the ball and create chances. It was a really refreshing change to see.
Just a side note before going on to the Star Players – I am convinced that Ashley Westwood would have been top of the pile in terms of the Aston Villa Star Player of the Week if it weren’t for that horrible tackle which forced him off. He was orchestrating the game perfectly and his range of passing was sublime. He will be severely missed over the next four weeks.
Stat of the Week – Hutton’s goal in front of the Holte End was the first at that famous old end since Grant ‘The Pieman’ Holt netted in April.
[Click ‘Next’ for the Aston Villa Star Players of the Week]