Bent leaves, McLeish returns and Villa land Emirates glory
Finally, after weeks of fervent anticipation, the glitz and glamour of the Premier League has exploded into all of our lives again. Aston Villa kicked off the 2013 / 2014 season with a surprising 1 – 3 away win at the Emirates Stadium against Arsenal in an exciting and energetic match that had the pundits ripping up their betting slips. The result was not totally unexpected considering how Paul Lambert’s men finished the 2012 / 2013 season, but there is a difference between being cautiously optimistic of a result and coming away with all three points, so kudos to Lambert and his boys for getting the job done. Here’s what we learnt this week….
Darren Bent believes in a dignified exit
Aston Villa’s prolific marksman and Premier League hot-shot Darren Bent left the club this week on a season long loan move to Fulham. I for one, am bored of hearing about the ‘feelings’ of Wayne Rooney and Gareth Bale and I am glad that while they were letting all their emotions hang out, Darren Bent was giving nothing away. I guess you could call that being professional. Darren tweeted his thanks as he left the club on Friday,
Thank you Darren, for your goals and also, yes, your professionalism. Appreciated.
Gabby can win a match on his own
There’s a feeling amongst some of Gabby’s most loyal fans that other Villa fans give him a hard time and get on his back. I don’t go along with this view. Most Villa fans I speak to believe that Gabby that can be a world beater on his day, and they only chivvy him along because they know what the kid can do. Gabby’s run for Villa’s first goal against Arsenal was astonishing. It was almost as if Gabby thought, “Right, we’re going to score now” as he picked up the ball and belted off towards Arsenal’s goal, slaloming past Arsenal defenders along the way. Just as pleasing to see was Gabby firing up the away fans as he pumped his first and yelled, “C’mon!” I’m not really a fan of his ear-cuffing or ‘shhhhh’ celebration, so it was good to see the player with a smile on his face and enjoying his game again. Great for Villa….and England.
Alex McLeish has big Cojones
Crowds of eager Villa fans traveled to London by train on Saturday for the trip to Arsenal with enthusiastic hopes for the new season. Many of these fans were bursting with excitement, probably hadn’t slept the night before and had stomachs churning with nerves. As Villa fans settled down in their train seats deciding whether to get a coffee, or whether it would be too early or impolite to open a can of lager, a visage they vaguely remembered came walking towards the train door with a grin on his face. It can’t be???? Yes, it really was former Villa manager Alex McLeish hopping onto a train full of Villans on their way to Arsenal. I certainly hope that on the return trip fans reminded McLeish of this pearl of wisdom he gave when his Villa side lost 3 – 0 away to Arsenal, “You can’t expect to go to elite clubs and win….” OK Alex…..
Villa have two attacking full backs
Gone are the days when Martin O’Neill played four centre-backs along the back four. Paul Lambert, being the hipster that he is, has fielded two full-backs whose attacking abilities far out-weigh their defensive abilities. Matthew Lowton had an unusually quiet game against Arsenal, but Antonio Luna showed what he could do in the final third of the pitch, as he raced clear on the counter attack and finished smartly for his debut goal. One shot. One shot on target. One goal. Luna has landed in the Premier League in spectacular style. Vamos Villa!
Villa can play better
It was a great result against Arsenal. Just the start the team needed. Grit, determination, courage to come back into the game once Arsenal had taken the lead, but the fact is this group of players are capable of better.
Whilst there were outstanding individual performances for Villa against Arsenal, such as Gabby, Delph, Clark and El Ahmadi, it wasn’t Villa’s most fluent performance so far under Paul Lambert. Villa were excellent at closing down Arsenal, pressing the ball, making clearances and counter attacking with pace, but the boys missed the opportunity to score more goals when Villa’s final pass went astray too often. The front three of Benteke (57 % pass accuracy), Gabby (70% pass accuracy) and Weimann (75% pass accuracy) can all do better, and have done better, at keeping the ball.
I’m sure that Paul Lambert will be working hard on counter attacking drills in training to make sure that Villa sharpen the effectiveness of these attacks, as Lambert’s squad has a richness of talent in this area. Villa have the pace, strength and finishing ability to really kill teams on the counter attack but against teams like Chelsea, Villa will have less opportunity to hit Chelsea on the break, and the boys must therefore take a great deal of care with the ball.
Lets hope the positivity from the game at Arsenal carries the boys through in what will be a difficult away game against Jose’s mega bucks stars. UTV
My Old Man Said (MOMS) is an award-winning football blog & podcast. MOMS is also on the National Council of the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) and has been to Parliament, the Premier League offices and beyond in addressing supporter issues. UTV