Another nervy second half but three points in the bag and a step closer to safety. What can Aston Villa fans take from a rough-and-tumble game against David Cameron’s other favourite team?
THE WORD IS OUT
Cleverley and Grealish are marked men. West Ham hard men Morgan Amilfatano and Alex Song took it in turns to kick lumps out of the rising talents in the Villa midfield and while there seems very unlikely Tom Cleverley will move elsewhere and an accepted bid for Jack Grealish is even more improbable, Southampton and Burnley will be advised to pay them similar close attention as would teams next season.
Cleverley has won over the fans in a way very few players have. After making very little impact under Paul Lambert. Tim Sherwood has brought out the best in him and after he signs his new contract with Villa and gets his England recall there’s every chance his shirt will be a top seller in the club shop – something nobody could see coming in his first few weeks.
Assuming Grealish negotiates a new squad number next season, this year’s number 40 shirt could become a collector’s item after he lights up Wembley – again.
THE FISHY GIL SITUATION
If you invested money in a Carles Gil shirt, you have our sympathy. But who could blame you?
Shay Given came in for Brad Guzan after the latter had a stinker. He’s now keeping his place. Why isn’t Gil given that chance after two performances from N’Zogbia that had their moments but were ultimately unproductive?
N’Zogbia has been improving since Lambert left, but the tight West Ham game screamed out for the tricky Spaniard to either start or come off the bench and slow things down or draw some attention away from the other midfielders. Assuming Gabby starts when he’s fully fit, that means N’Zogbia and presumably Weimann are ahead of Gil in the pecking order to play in one of the wider forward positions.
Perhaps a rotation policy? To allow for form, rest (especially next year when we’re in Europe and defending our FA Cup) would be sensible. To not fancy a player, not offer much of an explanation and leave fans confused over why what looked to be a real talent is now not even making the bench is Sherwood’s only real fan/man-management faux pas.
LEFT BACK THEN LEFT OUT?
Kieran Richardson isn’t expected to be the permanent solution at left back. But to his credit he’s making the most of his chance. If he ends up with an FA Cup winners medal at left back for Villa, he’ll be in situation he never could have imagined back in August.
He’s enthusiastic and seems from the outside to be a popular, affable member of the team. And his versatility isn’t questioned. Ideally, keeping him on (with the assumption he signed a cheap-as-chips contract) when a natural left-back is signed would be smart. But like his counterpart at right-back, Leandro Bacuna, he doesn’t look comfortable and his defensive lapses outnumber his really solid moves at the back.
SAINT NECESSARILY SO
A win against Southampton and Villa are safe regardless of what happens elsewhere. Since the Saints seem to already be on the beach, Villa will be confident. If Hull lose their down, and if Newcastle lose their next game, even a point for Villa would be very handy, giving them a three-point and at least a +5 goal difference advantage going into the last day. And with Sunderland and Leicester playing each other next, it would be surprising not to see Villa safe next weekend.
It’s not the dream way to end the season still sniffing for points with two games to go, but safety secured before the Burnley game would mean a lot to the long-suffering fans ahead of the trip to the Cup Final. At the end of the day, fans should take it and move on.
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