Four points from two games in the space of a week looks pretty good on paper, yet Villa somehow managed to both fail to impress in large portions of the 180 minutes whilst also having come oh so close to securing a maximum six-point haul. Here is a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Villa’s last week.
Villa started the Burnley game as well as they have played so far in their dismal campaign. In the opening 10 minutes the play was all Villa’s; we were creating chances, having shots, and causing havoc in the Burnley penalty area.
Arguably the best piece of news from Turf Moor turned out to be the surprise inclusion of Joe Cole for his first league start for the club. After the injury delays which prevented him starting his season in earnest, Cole stamped his claim on a starting spot with an excellent and exciting display, his predatory first goal for Villa merely capping a performance boasting composure, the best link-up play on display at the club all season, and signs of the talent and class of his heyday.
Cole’s signing was a gamble of sorts but there was always hope that he would come up with moments of magic from time to time, and if he can stay fit for the majority of the season, he could move from a useful player to an important one.
Jack Grealish’s introduction as Cole’s replacement was another plus. Whenever he is given a chance the youngster is keen to get on the ball and move the play forward, and he came so close to finding a winner with an injury-time strike.
As for Tuesday night at Palace, a win was desperately needed – regardless of the means – to end the run of nine games without a win, a run stretching back almost three months. Jores Okore and Ciaran Clark, called upon as a partnership in recent times due to the injuries to Ron Vlaar, Philippe Senderos and Nathan Baker, put in an impressive, gutsy display at Selhurst Park to keep out an often-dominant Palace.
Another player dependent on the ominous caveat of whether injury can be avoided, Jores Okore is showing signs he could grow into the centre-back we all want him to be. His mixture of composure on the ball and bullish determination to win the ball could, combined with increasing maturity, see him become a top defender over the next few years.
Carlos Sanchez, so often the subject of criticism over the past few weeks, also stepped up a gear against Palace. The Colombian has hinted he may be starting to adapt to the pace of the Premier League with a far more composed performance than has previously been his benchmark, protecting the back four effectively. His passing and awareness still need work, but confidence will do him the world of good.
The obvious positive from the Palace win was the return of Christian Benteke from suspension. Injury and his Tottenham suspension had conspired to mean Tuesday night’s win was just his fifth appearance of the season, and the win over Palace left fans wondering what might have been had he been available for all 14. He looked up for the battle throughout the game and for his first goal of the season to have been such a fine display of so many of his best attributes is so encouraging for what lies ahead. It’s clear the Belgian is too good for Villa, but if he remains at the club in January and can add significantly to the 35 goals he has scored in 67 starts for the club over the course of the rest of the season, his exit will not be a begrudged one.
Click ‘Next’ below for the Bad and the Ugly