Premier League bias, ranty Hutton and is Roy Hodgson blind?
It has been a rather dull week for everyone associated with Aston Villa football club. Just as we were beginning to get into the swing of a new Premier League season, the September international break cuts in to ruin everyone’s fun. This week saw the end of the summer transfer window and there was time for Villa fans to take stock, chill out and count down the days until the next Premier League game. Here’s what we learnt this week….
The Truth Hurts
Paul Lambert was punished for his remarks made in relation to Kevin Friend’s inept performance in the match against Chelsea on Friday. Previously, Anthony Taylor was dropped from the referee’s list after he made three big calls against Arsenal at the Emirates where Villa triumphed 3 – 1. At Stamford Bridge, Kevin Friend made three big calls against Villa in favour of Chelsea and his performance was widely criticised by pundits on TV programmes such as Goals on Sunday. Kevin Friend was not dropped from the referee’s list, however, and Paul Lambert was subsequently fined £8,000. The message is clear. If you make a big call against one of the ‘big six’ teams then you are punished. If you make several big calls in favour of a ‘big six‘ team then you are not punished. Even Richard Scudamore once admitted that the big clubs stranglehold on the league is ‘good’ for selling TV deals in the Far East. Great. I’m pleased that the Premier League’s corporate interests are better served by the elite clubs maintaining their hegemony! Villa are in no mood to accept the status quo however as we saw against Arsenal and Paul Lambert had a message of his own….. Aston Villa are a big club who will not accept being ‘done‘ by referee’s.
Roy Overlooks Gabby
Unsurprisingly, the England squad contained no Villa player again this time. Roy Hodgson shares Paul Lambert’s fondness for wing forwards such as Walcott and Wellbeck, but Hodgson doesn’t share a mutual love for Gabby Agbonlahor. Last year, fan favourite Gabby had his best season in a claret and blue shirt for years and he has started the 2013 / 2014 campaign in sparkling form. Gabby contributed 9 goals and 3 assists in 2012 / 2013 season and the development in his all round game could be seen through an improved pass accuracy rate of 81%. In previous seasons Gabby found his team mates less regularly with a 72% and 67% pass success rate which would suggest that Gabby is now maturely nicely in his mid-twenties. If the England manager is indeed selecting players on form, you would think that Gabby’s effectiveness in the wing forward position would earn him a call up to the England squad. Give him another look Roy….
Nigel Wows The Proms
One of Villa’s favourite sons, Nigel Kennedy, treated the nation to a spine-tingling performance of Vaughan Willams’ Lark Ascending on the last night of the Proms on Saturday night. The eccentric musical genius always has Villa in his heart, and he took things one stage further on Saturday night by arriving on-stage in a Gabby Agbonlahor shirt as he played an energetic rendition of Hungarian Dances. I’m not quite sure whether Kennedy’s Villa shirt was appreciated by the Tunbridge Wells twin-set and pearls crowd, but Nigel was well received all the same. Paul Lambert, if he was watching, will be hoping that he can extract a similarly sweet tune out of his 2013 / 2014 Aston Villa squad.
Villa’s new Czechoslovakian striker Libor Kozak arrived at the club this week to a somewhat muted welcome from fans. The general apathy was more to do with the fact that he wasn’t an attacking midfielder rather than any personal objection to the 24-year-old striker himself. Lambert chose to spend £5-7m on a target man with the squad already boasting Benteke, Bowery and the tall but less imposing Nicklas Helenius. If fans were scratching their heads with Kozak’s addition then Lambert was quick to provide an explanation for disgruntled punters, “He’ll take the burden off Christian and he’ll add to what we’ve got.”
From a personal point of view I am very disappointed. Number 10 is my favourite position on the pitch and Villa haven’t had a player in that mould really since Paul Merson left the club 11 years ago in 2002. Alex Tonev has been hailed as a talented and creative player, but so far all we have seen from Tonev are a few self-indulgent shots at goal from range. Like any bunch of new players we need to give the new players time to show their skills, but I do hope that we are not waiting 12 years for an attacking midfielder.
Bannan Joins Palace
Barry Bannan has finally found a new home as he joined old boss Ian Holloway at Crystal Palace last Monday. Villa’s Scottish midfielder, after a heavy night on the tiles, probably feared that he’d woken up in Gulliver’s Travels Land of the Giants when Helenius and Kozak arrived at the club this summer. The diminutive midfielder was eager to secure a move away, and following rumours linking him to Blackburn and Blackpool, he finally settled on Crystal Palace. I, for one, am happy that Bannan has joined Palace, as I think they have some good players. In Jedinak, Palace have a solid brute of a player who sits in the front of the back four which means that Bannan will have freedom to enjoy the ball further up the pitch. I’m interested to see how Bannan links up with Jose Campana and I can see Bannan working well in a midfield alongside Jedinak and Campana. Regardless of whether you like or dislike Barry Bannan, he has a lot of natural ability and I hope he makes the most of his career away from the club.
Alan Hutton took aim at Paul Lambert this week as he vented his frustration at being unable to secure a loan move away from Aston Villa. According to Hutton, he had three loan opportunities with Spanish teams available to him but Villa were unable to agree terms with the clubs concerned. Last season Hutton secured a move to Mallorca, which was no doubt a bum deal financially for Villa as Mallorca would not have contributed much towards Hutton’s £30 – 40k weekly wages. The club’s idea must have been to get the player in the shop window in the hope that another team would either offer to buy him this summer, or contribute a larger amount towards his loan deal in the final season. Neither scenario appears to have happened and Aston Villa are not a charity. Hutton could have easily solved the situation by cancelling his contract at Villa, which would have been gladly accepted, but he chose to take home his final years wages instead. Be honest Alan!