So here we are, revisiting the old narrative of ‘Villa play reasonably well before shooting themselves in the foot to lose the game’. For me, things went downhill from the moment that Sanchez was hauled off the field on 69 minutes. Yes Adama Traore came on, as he should have done, but surely a more like-for-like swap with the completely ineffective Agbonlahor would have been a better bet?
Far be it for me to want to second-guess Sherwood, but Sanchez’s removal was detrimental to the team, as taking off your primary ball-winner in a match is always likely to be. The Colombian is now at a stage where he needs Tim to place faith in him to see out a match – it’s the only way Sanchez’s development in English football can continue.
Although Sanchez’s absence weakened Villa’s position, both of Palace’s goals were preventable to say the least, and Villa should have been walking away from London with a point at minimum to reward a decent performance. Scott Dann may have been fouling Ciaran Clark for the opener (well, Scott Dann was fouling Ciaran Clark for the opener) but Clark, who had had a pretty good game up until that point, cannot allow himself to be dominated like that in his own penalty area from a set-piece.
If the first goal was careless, the second was slapstick. Although we can’t be tempted to start thinking that Jordan Amavi isn’t to be blamed for anything just because he has impressed so far, Brad Guzan was more to blame in this instance. To roll it out from an opposition corner before Palace’s players have retreated may show ambition in catching them on the break, but it also puts the defender you give the ball too under unnecessary pressure late in the game.
Part of the cause of the goal, and a general issue that really needs addressing, is that it’s pretty obvious Guzan knows that his kicking is the worst part of his game and so he has a tendency to be wary of his own distribution downfield, instead looking to roll the ball out at every opportunity. It’s a tendency that can be useful from time to time, but can also go badly wrong as it did on Saturday.
It takes some doing to beat Palace’s winner in the ‘Ugly’ stakes, but one man has managed to do it. I’ve been thinking long and hard about it, and I really haven’t known many strikers more profligate than Gabby Agbonlahor has been for the last few years. Not only did he produce a shocking touch to waste Grealish’s marvellous through ball, he passed the ball to Palace ‘keeper Alex McCarthy when one-on-one instead of, I don’t know, testing him, and just generally continued to be a poor use of a starting place.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Agbonlahor, and I have to admit I do still like it when his name is on the scoresheet. However, Gabby may be fast as f*** but the honest truth is that pace isn’t really an asset if you don’t do anything with it.
He’s just not good enough, and it’s time for the 28-year-old’s role to shift to a pacey substitute brought on to stretch games in the final third of the match when it is needed.
Sherwood seems to have a great deal of faith in him – faith which is, unfortunately, pretty unwarranted at the moment – and there is a worry that Agbonlahor being club captain could prove problematic, as it could lead Tim into the mindset of the forward being undroppable. The reality is that Agbonlahor’s time as a regular starter in the Villa line-up needs to be drawn to a conclusion.
After years of struggling to find players to play in creative roles, the club now have better options in Grealish, Traore, Scott Sinclair, Carles Gil and Jordan Ayew, and it’s time to start using them.
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