By Adam Keeble
After one point from six, when we had all been hoping for at least three, what can Villa fans take from the disappointment at Old Trafford and the goalfest at Villa Park against fellow strugglers QPR?
BETTER TO BE GOOD THAN LUCKY…
It’s not much of a lesson to find out that Manchester United are a better team than us. The Villa attacks were stifled and regardless of their “struggles” since Fergie retired, United are a team used to winning, often by grinding out wins, and have a stature that will attract the world’s best talents. Villa, on the other hand, are on the back of seasons of genuine relegation struggle, are a team used to losing and can turn wins or draws into defeats in the blink of an eye.
Benteke’s goal rattled them at the end, but once they added a third it was considered a pretty routine victory for them. Tactically, perhaps you can question Sherwood’s decisions but that’s easy after the final whistle. He had a patched-up squad regardless of the status of this particular Manchester United team and a draw would have been a great, undeserved result on the day.
BETTER TO BE LUCKY THAN GOOD…
The QPR game was a much brighter experience. At home with Sherwood fancying his chances, he put out a team that should have won. Individual mistakes will cost you though, and if QPR got the breaks on their rare attacks, Villa shot themselves in the foot in a nervy performance at the back.
Did Villa fans really learn anything this column alone hasn’t considered from some of the performances? Bacuna can’t defend and it shouldn’t be his job anyway. Richardson should only be used on the pitch when we are down to barer bones than we were on Tuesday. Guzan’s judgement can waver in games. Vlaar is not going to play the ball out of the back as often or with as much culture as Okore. Clark would benefit from a regular defensive partner. Lowton should be held in higher esteem. Sanchez might be able to break up opposition attacks but he’s there to help them start another one with his stray passing.
More optimistically, fans would have seen an enthusiastic Tom Cleverley put in one of his best games in a season where expectations of him have never risen much above average. A comparison to Andy Townsend wouldn’t be out of place for his efforts against QPR. All of Benteke’s goals were sweet but his second and third were a demonstration of his finesse and precision. And Jack Grealish’s first start proves he can influence a game and if not for Rob Green’s shinguards, he could have had a goal on his first start in the team.
After Gil was dropped from the squad vs QPR, fans are more unified in their frustration with Sherwood over his absence than any other issue. He could have come in for Gabby at half time. He could have come on for Grealish instead of Cole for 20 minutes. He could have come on instead of N’Zogbia for the last ten minutes and added time. And yes, it’s hindsight, but he certainly couldn’t have done worse than either one.
Perhaps Sherwood prefers the similar Grealish? Perhaps Gil is sulking in practice, but to imply he’s a luxury player and then including Bacuna in the starting line-up is a bit rich. Is it because to play him and see him do well would credit his predecessor with a rare adept signing?
These are the facts we know: he’s healthy, skilled, fast, wants to the ball, surely up to the demands of the English game by now, and not even being considered for the bench apparently (unless he was supposed to be on the bench but nicked off when he found out he wasn’t starting). Is he more icing on the cake than Bacuna? That’s debatable.
Spurs on Saturday will be big. Any kind of result would be massive (to quote a former Villa manager) especially if other results go our way. It would also be a pleasant way to head into the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool (or as the media will call them, Stevie G and 10 other fellows).
Semi-finals should be enjoyed and another similar performance from Benteke against Spurs (and some very different performances from some of our defenders… or some different defenders) would send as to Wembley with more uplift than a wonder bra.
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