Brad Guzan has become the flag-bearer of the whole club in its current predicament, one of the few players here under the heady heights of Martin O’Neill and the original Lerner feel-good factor. But he has declined year-by-year in recent times and his errors last season and this so far have been bordering on embarrassing to watch.
I personally never rated him as an understudy to Brad Friedel. It’s not a coincidence we’ve conceded so many goals from set plays with him between the sticks – his poor distribution has been an obvious issue for a long time while his clear lack of command of his box started as a worry and is now crippling the team.
The cliché of “a top goalkeeper will save you 12/15 points a season” is being proven, albeit in reverse. The third goal at Sunderland was possibly his final nail in the coffin, and the incident at Wycombe certainly didn’t do him any favours. Despite Mark Bunn’s decent record since coming in for the American (he’s only had eight saves to make in five games), a new goalkeeper has to be a priority.
Although things have arguably improved to a degree in recent weeks, it has largely been the same old story every match. We’ll look promising then a comedy mistake or lack of concentration will cost us a goal. Most of the back four have dropped a clanger at one point or another. Moving Richards to right-back has improved the situation with and Okore seems to make whoever he plays with (Clark or Lescott) better. However all of the mentioned have been low on confidence and form.
As for Kieran Richardson – a Premier League left-back? I’ll just leave that there. Jordan Amavi will come good I’m sure, he will be some player in years to come so I’d definitely stick with the young lad. Unfortunately he isn’t going to be around again until this season is all but done and dusted, so he will either be left cutting his teeth Championship or at another club.
Signing Micah Richards after no regular English football in three years and Joleon Lescott in the twilight of his careers may have proven to be as big a gamble as expecting Ron Vlaar to play more than two matches back-to-back. Essentially the biggest of the missing links is still at the back – I’d usually be conservative and give people a chance, but in reality, it’s conceivable that none of the players back there this season could start in August.
A lack of confidence? A lack of quality? The wrong formation? Who knows? Whatever it is, it isn’t working in the engine room. There are too many passengers again in that midfield.
Yet more signings of unproven players who look to have potential but no end product is crippling the team and they’re all leaving our already lightweight defence horribly exposed, especially when we play against teams with genuine wingers.
The approach of giving the ball to Jack Grealish and seeing what happens worked against the Blues (note – Championship side) but against organised Premier League sides he was unable to make much of an impact before being dropped. Meanwhile, Adama Traore looks a prospect but Rémi Garde clearly doesn’t feel he’s ready. One thing he has is dynamism, which is something that we have desperately lacked since the days of Ashley Young and James Milner.
Idrissa Gueye and Jordan Veretout have come in and looked tidy players, but as can be the case with players from other leagues it has taken them a long time to warm up and even now they can go missing for long periods. I know everyone hates Fabian ‘Benchwarmer’ Delph but it’s glaringly obvious he hasn’t been replaced – we lack a dynamic box-to-box midfielder who will take the game by the scruff of the neck and dominate.
I’ll open this up to comments below – what is out best midfield combination? Be it 4-4-2, 4-3-3 a diamond or whatever, I really don’t know who fits in where? Can Grealish and Gil play in the same team or are they too lightweight? Personally I think not if they have the right guys around them.
Probably the most depressing link of all the missing links. ‘Rudy….Rudyyyyy’ has rung out a few times this season but in recent weeks and months he’s looked so under par. If you put the ball in the six-yard box he’s going to get his head on it. Do we give him that service? Again, that goes back to tactics, formation and midfield personnel (and lack of a proper winger).
The likes of Jordan Ayew work hard for the team and like many of the new guys the fans are all waiting to see if promise and potential will translate into goals.
Either way in the forwards department, goals win games and winning games keeps you up – we’re doing none of that currently.
This season, more than ever, we needed a festive miracle and a January bargain in the sales, which never came. If anything, the club and team are in a worse position than ever before, certainly in the years I’ve been going down to Villa Park.
Can we build a team of players for next season? Remove people like Charles N’Zogbia off the wage bill and bring in players with experience at the level we’re unfortunately going to find ourselves playing at next season, while at the same time developing quality young talent like teams like Southampton did?
Perhaps the biggest missing link, however, is the absence of entertainment value and hope for the future. It’s going to be a depressing final few months of the season, I fear, but then it becomes all about the summer, the rebuilding job which must be undertaken. The club needs to be run well, managed well, and served well by its players if we, the fans, are finally to have something to shout about again next season.
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