Just when you thought with 10 minutes to go, Villa had a sniff of snatching at least a point, City’s quality eventually paid off, taking advantage of rare lapses in Villa’s organised backline.
Yes, defeat was perhaps inevitable and the game was ultimately won by the millions spent on the City team, but at least Aston Villa fans got their money’s worth in terms of commitment and fight from their team.
In many ways the game was metaphoric of the football trying to withstand the influence of money destroying its soul, but in the end, you just know cash will rule the modern game, as it did eventually at Villa Park.
Still, as we go into the second international break of the season, here’s five reasons for Aston Villa fans to be cheerful…
1. Earn your points in B6
The bottom line is even a top 4 money-bags team should be made to earn their points at Villa Park, and Manchester City at least had to do that. It’s a small consolation, but potential promise for the future.
In the last two seasons pretty much any team could turn up at Villa Park and take three points off Villa. In short, it had become an embarrassment. Make that a serious embarrassment, unequaled in the history of the club. So more fight is welcome.
Ironically, Villa managed to beat Manchester City last season at Villa Park, but maybe this latest performance was better in some ways, even if the result wasn’t. Last season City missed many chances and simply threw the game away with their wreckless gun-ho attacking. It was obvious their approach his time was more considered, thus they were a tougher nut to crack.
For the first 80 minutes at least, Villa were up to the task. They showed the application and endeavor to compete despite being under-strength. While both Benteke and Vlaar didn’t start, the cruelest blow was perhaps Gabby’s withdrawal through illness shortly before the game. Love him or hate him, against such teams, when Villa are under the cosh, Gabby’s pace and power gives you an outlet that can drag any defence around and open space for others. Certainly N’Zogbia would have benefited from Gabby playing yesterday.
Still, bottom-line, City knew they were in a game and their manager even stated it was their best performance of the season so far.
2. Respectable start of improvement
When the fixtures came out and the consecutive run of games against last year’s top 5 came up so early in the campaign, there was a real possibility of Villa’s confidence being knocked for six before the team got up and running this season. To be up in the top half after completing games against the top 4 in our first seven fixtures is a very decent start.
Also, if Benteke and Vlaar were going to miss games then they might as well be games Villa were given little chance to win anyway (the fact they beat Liverpool is a big bonus) . Both Benteke and Vlaar should be ready to start for Villa after the international break, so it will now be interesting to see what this Villa team can do, now the toughest period of the season is out of the way.
3. Baker is cooking
Baker put in a man of the match shift akin to his performance against Liverpool. I haven’t been a big fan of Baker’s inability to read the game at times and his propensity to switch off (see Costa header in Chelsea game), but there’s no doubting his commitment and bravery to the cause. Villa potentially now have a decent pool of centre-backs. Baker certainly could be a decent third centre-back in a three-man defence once Vlaar is back, if Lambert wants to revert to that system for the tougher games.
4. Lampard didn’t score
Lampard has scored more goals against Villa than any other league team. 13 to be exact. When he came on as a sub for City, the game had ‘Lampard winner’ written all over it. I actually prefer to be beaten 2-0 without him scoring, than 1-0 with him scoring! Still, that maybe the last time we see Lampard grace Villa Park. Certainly he’s proven to be one of the best footballers of the Premier League era. He also comes across as a decent enough guy. We salute him and wish him all the best in New York.
5. The bleeding obvious
If I’m saving the best to last, you can probably guess what it’s going to be. Obvious really. Benteke is back. When you have a team that has only managed 10 shots on target in seven games, his return couldn’t come at a better time. He may be a little slow to get going, but at least his fear factor is back for opposition teams. Lets hope Villa don’t just hump it up to him all the time. There’s much more to him than that.
Ron Vlaar is also reported to be back after the international break. Lets hope so, but I’ll believe it when I see it!
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Many thanks and enjoy the international break!