The 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday, a second consecutive defeat for Villa, was far more frustrating than the 1-0 home reverse against Manchester United last weekend because of both the lower calibre of opponent (sorry Eagles fans) and the manner in which Villa threw away a point.
With numerous positives still to take from the disappointment, here’s a look at the Good, Bad and Ugly from Selhurst Park.
One of the more notable plus points from the match was the performance of Carlos Sanchez, making his first start of the season. After an inconsistent first season in England in which he took time to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, the Colombian looks as though he could now be blossoming into the player he showed himself to be for his country in the Copa America this summer.
Sanchez impressed during second-half appearances as a substitute against Bournemouth and United, and the midfielder was superb on Saturday. His passing – one of his major weak points throughout last season – was much improved, he appeared composed and controlled on the ball, and his strength is tackling was greatly needed in the centre of the pitch.
Although on show throughout the match, all these attributes were displayed in one first-half move when he won the ball to prevent a Palace counter-attack, shimmied past a defender and fired a decent effort over the bar from range. Touch wood, of course, but he finally seems to be becoming a crucial cog in the spine of the team.
With Ashley Westwood having been quietly superb so far this campaign – Tim Sherwood recently tipped him for an England call-up, although as a quiet midfielder from Villa that’s about as likely as Gabriel Agbonlahor scoring 20 goals this season – and Idriss Gana hinting at the quality which his reputation in France suggested, Sherwood’s first choice central midfield is now staring him in the face.
The other obvious positive was the debut cameo of Adama Traore. The billing that he arrived with and the electrifying nature of his 20 minutes on the pitch suggest that the ex-Barcelona man is one of the most exciting new arrivals at the club in recent memory. Of course, it does not do to overhype a 19-year-old, but the winger must be given more game time in the upcoming weeks as he beds into life in England.
Seeing Jack Grealish back in the fold was also hugely encouraging. Last season’s Villa darling barely featured over the summer and, if you’ll excuse the cliché, he felt rather like a new signing at Selhurst Park. The highlight of his match was probably the superb defence-splitting pass through to Agbonlahor in the first half which should have led to a goal were it not for the fact that the player on the receiving end has all the cutting edge of a marshmallow
[See next page for Villa’s Bad & Ugly]