Every game is a learning curve. Marking the start of this new column ‘What We Learned As Villa Fans This Week’, here’s what we learnt from the game against Norwich City at Villa Park.
1 – We’re defensively frail.
Remember when FIFA13 came out a few weeks ago? You got it home and played your first game, excited by the prospect of playing some truly wonderful football, taking your chosen side to heights and creating a few future superstars in the process. Yes, we’ve all been there, but there was just one problem – you couldn’t defend for toffee.
All early attempts at keeping your net bulge free were fraught with button bashing, breath-baiting anxiety as time and again the computer found a way through your fragile backline. At times watching Villa defend is exactly like this.
Despite holding out admirably well for most of the second half with only ten men it was only a matter of time before Norwich equalised and if not careful that could become a familiar story this season.
There’s now a mounting injury problem at the back and coupled with the inexperienced players in those positions it makes November fixtures (including Man Utd (H), Man City (A), Arsenal (H) ) seem all the scarier.
2 – Phil Dowd. This guy…he’s not my kinda guy.
On a quiet night, if you listen very carefully you can hear the collective groan of every Villa supporter in Birmingham as they discover that the referee for the upcoming game is none other than Phil – the screwface – Dowd.
The diminutive whistle blower did himself no favours amongst those of a Claret & Blue persuasion when he failed to send Nemanja Vidic off in a certain cup final in 2010 and it’s been a downhill tumble ever since.
You just know that when he’s in charge we’ll get short shrift. At times he may as well just pop on the opposing side’s shirt over his own and this was proved again today. He continuously gave Norwich the benefit of the doubt, ignored several robust challenges on Benteke and the less said about Joe Bennett’s second yellow the better.
3 – ‘McLeishball’
Apparently, if we go a goal down, or lose the lead then all hell breaks lose.
We grew into the game comfortably once we had the lead, but as soon as Bennett saw red we surrendered all hope of trying to add a second. Instead it was backs-to-the-wall defending and a return to hopeful launches into Norwich’s half.
Countless times in the second half, Brad Guzan plucked the ball from the air to then punt the ball down field as though he couldn’t wait to get rid of it. We may still be finding our way but as we all know from last season’s escapades we’ll get nothing unless we build from the back.
4 – Benteke’s back
There’s no question that he can score, he hit two during the international break, but we don’t use him right, because we can’t.
Benteke is at his deadliest when the ball comes from the wings. His goals for Belgium last week came from crosses, as did his well-taken finish against Norwich.
With Albrighton out of form and N’Zogbia apparently not having any form, our choice of wingers is virtually non-existent.
Bneteke may have missed some golden chances but he’s still very raw. He’s no ‘Benteskey’. Remember what the Belgium’s told us in a previous MOMS article , that he’ll most likely miss more than he scores this season but there’s no doubt that with a little time and guidance we’ll have a future star on our hands.
5 – We miss Stephen Warnock
There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a fan of his, but he is an experienced player that we can’t afford to be without at the moment. Joe Bennett showed just how wet behind the ears he is today and as the season moves into a critical period we’ll need experienced bodies to help the younger lads on their way.
The same goes for Richard Dunne. He didn’t exactly cover himself in glory last season but he’s a solid Premier League performer and will provide an added grit once back from injury.
Until new week…
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