Villa Park woe, clean sheet and injury gloom
We’ve had a league win, a league loss, a cup thrashing and vital injuries since the last MOMS Good, Bad and Ugly look at all things Villa.
The Norwich win was a superb one in terms of the importance of the result and the manner of the victory. The holy grail of the league clean sheet was finally reached, Brad Guzan was magnificent again and Libor Kozák got off to a great start in a Villa shirt, coming on early for Christian Benteke and scoring the only goal of the game to maintain our excellent record at Carrow Road. Ciaran Clark had a successful game having come in to replace the injured Jores Okore, and would help to lessen the club’s defensive problem if he continued to build upon that performance.
The home loss to Newcastle was dreadful in every respect. Dreadful disappointment after the excitement of the return of Premier League football, dreadful result, and most dreadful of all the performance. It was a continuation of Villa’s vital weakness, their inability to dominate and convert teams at home. Villa’s form desperately needs to be sorted out, with three of the club’s next four games being clashes at Villa Park against Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton.
Talking of Spurs, they took us apart again. Being overpowered by an admittedly strong Spurs side is nothing to be ashamed of, but it being so easy was disheartening to see and it’s a disappointment to not replicate our run in the competition last season. Still, there were some positives from team and individual performances – Helenius looked relatively bright, Steer played well apart from one error, and Marc Albrighton was introduced back into the fray.
Injuries. First the devastating blow of Jores Okore, who came with such acclaim and had looked so talented and composed in his opening games, being ruled out for almost the entirety of what was starting to look like a potential revelation of a first season in English football, and now the hammer blow of Christian Benteke missing four to six weeks of our early season, have severely weakened our side. Undoubtedly our most-coveted player and our main goal threat will be absent for the next run of games, and Lambert has to work out how to replace him. Throw Kozák in to play the same role as the Belgian as the lone striker? Play Weimann, Agbonlahor or Helenius up alongside him? Bring in Bowery? The last question doesn’t require an answer.
Helenius looked bright at times in the Spurs defeat, and might be worth considering in a 4-2-3-1 formation, in between Andi and Gabby playing off Kozák.
For Villa to continue hitting the net sufficiently in Benteke’s absence, someone has to step up in his position, Weimann has to start contributing goals to the side again, and Agbonlahor needs to be the focal point of our attacks. For fans to claim one of Villa’s deputy strikers can do Benteke’s job is to kid themselves. Benteke’s a different standard of player in our side, and the team is going to have to be reshuffled in his absence to account for the lack of him on the pitch.
After the Newcastle and Tottenham games, and in the absence of Benteke, it’s not difficult to imagine it being a long, tough ninety minutes against Manchester City at Villa Park on Saturday.
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