Whether it was undeserved or not, it was a case of two points lost as a draw turned into a defeat at Selhurst Park on Saturday. With a new-look line-up, what can Villa fans learned from a pretty uninspired performance that still yielded glimpses of future glory?
OH (DEAR) GABBY GABBY
There’s not much love left for Gabby Agbonlahor after a showing which has become the norm for a few seasons. He pulled away from the defenders, half-rounded the keeper then hit his shot far too close and it was blocked (for one of just two team shots on target). And that was his best effort.
When his right foot took the ball off his left foot before he could cross it, even he must have thought he wouldn’t be coming out for the second half. But he played a full 90 minutes plus injury time despite offering very little with the game on the line.
Let’s compare him to Dwight Gayle, who came on for Palace at half-time and completely changed the game. He added pace, a predatory instinct, assisted on the goal that wasn’t for Palace and scared the Villa defenders. Like Gabby used to do in 2009. Sadly either Agbonlahor can’t do it anymore, or (as has been the case all of his career) his confidence is shot and he just needs to hit a scoring streak of goals to turn his season around. After all, Sherwood kept him out there as the team chased the game. Maybe he sees something the man in the street doesn’t.
Far be it for a fan to pretend he has more tactical savvy than Tim Sherwood, but to sub Carlos Sanchez out (who was probably having the best game he’s had a long while in a Villa shirt) instead of Gabby for Traore seems, with hindsight, to be a little… rash.
Vice captain or not, most fans would agree his place in the team given his form, touch, confidence and seemingly his level of ability, is on the bench. At best.
WE ALL ADORE TRAORE
Adama Traore is “one for the future” said Tim. “Development project” he added. Then in his 20 minute-or-so debut he looked like just the player we were looking for to lift the fans post-Benteke.
“No fear at all” said Sherwood. “I will make sure he gets the right opportunities” he added. His impact matched that of Gayle’s for Palace – and exceeded it. On his first couple of touches he got smothered but when he pulled away leaving defenders for dead and got a lucky bounce that led to the equaliser, well, it was quite the debut.
In a 4-4-2 or alongside Gestede (with Grealish, Sinclair or Gil on the other side) we have a forward line full of creativity, speed, strength and chances. The sooner Tim figures out his best XI might not be part of a 433 or a 4411 (although it might be!) the better.
Tolerate him or hate him, Leadro Bacuna is staying at Villa Park for the foreseeable future. Sherwood has taken him aside and shown him films of “How To Be The Right Back We Want” at the expense of Alan Hutton, who knows how to do it and with Richards helping him out rather than Concrete Ron could be doing a better job than Bacuna is right now.
And now he’s got a new 5-year-deal out of it. It probably contained a pay rise too because Lambert signed him for next to nothing not knowing what to do with him and playing him at right back out of necessity (and because he broke up with Matt Lowton).
But fans can’t be serious in saying he’s the right back of the future when the team must, must, must stop the rot this season – or Sherwood will have achieved nothing.
A 17th place finish this year, with his hand-picked transfer signings in place, will be Lambert all over again. Palace are a good attacking side and with attacking options up the wazoo on paper, Villa are still managing just a handful of good chances per game – and the defense is still making mistakes that cost us games (looking at you for now, Amavi, but you’ve done an awful lot of good stuff before today’s blip). Bacuna is the weakest link defensively in the back four. End of. And he’s got a five-year-contract out of it.
HOW DOES OUR GARDNER GROW?
The other contract deal signed this week that would have caught fans attention was that of Gary Gardner. Since making his debut in 2011 he has made just 16 appearances in a Villa shirt and 42 appearances on loan. Most recently he scored four in a race for promotion with Nottingham Forest and the fans there thought he was great.
But with his history of injuries (he’s out injured now…), Sherwood opting for a three man midfield that picks itself right now (with others ahead of him on the bench), when during that five years are the fans going to see how he’s come on for themselves?
Yes, he’s only 23, but was this contract a commitment to his potential and a promise to get him into the first team? Or a way to block him for leaving for free in case he turns out to be a usable, English (important) player, that could make it good somewhere else where he could start every week? Once fit, he really needs to kick-on this season.
Follow Adam on Twitter – @
Follow MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid