In isolation a point against Newcastle, especially considering recent form and the performance in the first half, isn’t a bad thing at all. Taking the bigger picture into account, firing a blank against Ipswich and rescuing a point against Newcastle does little to lift Villa up the table. A full haul of points from these games may have lifted not just our position in the table but spirits around the club. Wins are a must.
Going The Distance
Some consolation can be taken from Villa’s entertaining and forward thinking approach to the end of the Newcastle game but the fact remains that the team STILL doesn’t seem to realise that football matches are 90 minutes long. For the rest of the season, Villa have been switching off at the end of games and dropping points. In our most recent game Villa flipped their characteristic bad habit by starting the game awfully only to finally show up late in the game.
Seeing Villa attack and create chances is what we all want, but knowing we can do it makes our regular insistence on sitting back and switching off all the more frustrating. The Ipswich game was thoroughly forgettable as was much of Villa’s performance on Saturday. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that Villa will secure automatic promotion, so how about delivering on some of that entertainment we’ve craved for years now?
Attack is Villa’s best form of defence at the moment. It is the area of the team where we have the most depth. Villa’s best spells have come on the front foot and all of this terms misery has come from Villa sitting back and allowing too much pressure on our limited midfield and the back four.
Di Matteo worries me. While he has learned certain lessons, such as the fact that having five strikers on the pitch doesn’t provide much balance, the Italian still struggles to motivate the players and prepare adequate for 90 minutes of football. Coming from behind shows a glimmer of the character the team needs, but the frankly embarrassing start to the game and failure to capitalise on previous leads raises serious questions over Di Matteo’s control and understanding of the players at his disposal.
Slow Progress or No Progress?
Despite Villa not quite clicking of late they are in a position to take a few key opportunities. Villa have had encouraging spells in games only to have the wind taken out of their sails by conceding late, morale destroying, goals. Villa’s woeful start against Newcastle was unacceptable but the late goal in Villa’s favour should give a boost in confidence to the team that can be carried into the next game.
Luckily the wait for the next game is nice and short and a win on Tuesday really would give a feeling of momentum finally gathering. Tuesday’s game will also indicate whether Di Matteo’s claret and blue army has been finding their feet, or simply going through the motions.
Another opportunity that must be taken, and managed wisely, is the inclusion of Rushian Hepburn-Murphy. The youngster is a real talent and rather than being left in the reserves should be given a bigger role in the squad. Even if this continues to be off the bench to begin with developing and holding onto academy talent like is vital in rebuilding the identity of the club among the players.
Hepburn-Murphy is quick, talented, and eager. Having him working and training alongside the like-minded Jonathan Kodjia could be a great example of how games should be approached not just for the youngster but for the squad as a whole.
I have mixed feelings about Jordan Ayew. He is a part of last season’s failures and all of his positives seem to be counterbalanced by less savoury traits. His flair and directness often comes alongside indiscipline and greediness. His attacking talents and forward thinking excite, but his final decision making often frustrates in equal measure.
Despite some imbalances in attitude and approach Ayew does possess an unpredictability and drive that could be key in unlocking stubborn teams, if utilised correctly. It’s clear from that being played more centrally is what best suits Ayew and from the start or the bench this must continue.
There is no doubt that this season is yet to live up to our hopes but with McCormack, Gestede, Kodjia, Ayew, and Murphy, Villa have the tools to approach games in a way that best suits breaking down different opponents.
I have a feeling that once Villa take a few chances and put a couple of wins on the board that the floodgates could open. Hopefully that will begin on Tuesday at Barnsley. Failure to do so may see another gate beginning to creak open for RDM, the exit from Villa Park.
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