Monday night’s draw with Southampton at Villa Park made it eight games without a win for Villa. Or, alternatively, Villa are now two games unbeaten. How you feel about the 1-1 draw will probably depend on your general standpoint on the club in recent weeks but here’s an attempt to sort the Good from the Bad from the Ugly of all things Villa in the last week or so.
Before the game had even begun, there was a celebration of the glorious history which couldn’t feel further away from the club’s current situation. A recreation of the gas lamp that four members of the Villa Cross Wesleyan Chapel cricket team purportedly met under in 1874 to discuss the formation of a new football club was unveiled before the game.
Villa are one of the oldest and greatest clubs in English footballing history, and no matter what state the 21st-century Villa are in, that should continue to be celebrated. Adding the lamp to the statue of William McGregor outside the ground was a fitting way to commemorate 140 years since that club’s formation.
To the game itself. Drawing 1-1 against a Southampton side second in the league is actually a pretty decent result, especially when you consider that before Monday’s game the Saints had won 11 matches out of 12 since mid-August and had conceded just five goals all season.
Ok, so Villa’s goal may not have been the most cultured piece of footballing artistry – get Ciaran Clark to lump the ball up for Gabby to chase (rather akin to a dog chasing its own tail in terms of futility a lot of the time) and hope the Southampton defence contrive to give us an opportunity to turn that into a goal. However, Agbonlahor still had a fair amount to do and did it well to end Southampton’s run of 439 Premier League minutes without conceding.
Inattentive Villa fans might never have heard of one of the players chosen at centre-back for the game, and could almost have been forgiven for that being the case. Jores Okore’s 90 minutes on Monday was the first that Villa fans had seen of him for the first team for 14 months, due to a combination of a long-term injury and Paul Lambert’s refusal to pick him until he was the last option.
The Ivory Coast-born Dane put in a solid performance alongside Ciaran Clark as Southampton were restricted to just four shots on target (I say ‘just’ – to Villa these are dizzying heights that we can usually only dream of). While Okore looks as though a prolonged run in the team could be the making of him (finally), Clark was also surprisingly solid against an attack on par with Manchester City’s in terms of goals scored.
In the days since the draw, the recall of Callum Robinson from Preston North End and the loan of Darren Bent to Brighton can only be a good move for the club. Bent consistently offers nothing from the bench and his temporary leave of absence will free up a space on the bench which should be taken on a week-in-week-out basis by either Grealish or Robinson. The latter’s five goals in 11 games for Preston highlights what he may have to offer if given time as a Villa substitute.
[Click ‘Next’ for the Bad & Ugly]