5 games unbeaten, 2 wins, 2 clean sheets and 5 goals scored, but are we happy yet? The simple answer is no, but it is not an easy answer. In comparison, Leicester came to Villa Park having lost 6 of their previous 7 games.
This was a game Aston Villa had to win, especially after the debacle that was the QPR game. We could not afford to drop any more points from the bottom end clubs, if we are to survive and make some form of progress, These are the games we should be aiming to take all 3 points from.
Following on from Burnley away, the team must have been brimming some form of confidence after keeping a clean sheet (GUZAN! GUZAN!) and taking the points (oooo Christian Benteke!!) to secure us a nice 12th place; it put the team in good stead with the upper hand against our neighbours.
My only major concern before the game started was regarding Wiemann. Not the fact that he wasn’t playing, I was happy with this as he was asking to be dropped for a few games now, but my worry was who Lambert would choose to replace him? Answer – N’Zogbia.
Our starting line up was strong with a nice 4-3-2-1 formation that puts the beast at the tip. First thing to notice was that our midfield was noticeably better, more composed and linked with the exception of N’zogbia. Throughout the game, he seemed to lack any form of passion to play which caused a lot of difficulty for the likes of Hutton who would be supporting on the wing and then find himself in a position where N’zogbia hadn’t moved at all to make space for the ball. This was not a one off occurrence as it continued right up to the point where he finally got substituted in the 76th minute which was perhaps Lamberts only downfall of the game. He took too long to detect the weak point in the game, but he did detect it and Grealish brought a much better dimension to the team. N’zogbia should not start next week against the Albion.
Guzan was unlucky with Leicester’s goal as it took a naughty deflection on the way in, so he was not at fault. Mahrez should have been shut down before the initial shot was released because we gave him way too much space and even then, it went through 3 players before reaching Guzan. This simply was not good enough, but we replied, and replied in style.
Westwood was putting in a man of the match performance. People may have questioned him lately, but this week he came out fighting. His link up play with Benteke was beautiful from the off. They knew exactly where each other were on the pitch and passed it almost too easily between each other; this is something I am excited to see blossom over the rest of the season. Outside of their link up play, Westwoods all around performance and communication was great; the way he instructed Clark before he took the free kick sums this up. The ball in was perfect and the header was well deserved. Clark has been asking to score from a header for a while now and it finally happened. The fight in this youngster has surprised all of us just as much as the resurgence of Hutton. Which brings us nicely….
Something I’ve been banging on about with the return of Benteke is that I don’t want us to become a one man team that relies solely on the beast and although the winning goal was executed from a perfect cross from the Belgian, I was ecstatic to see that other players were scoring (albeit both are defenders). Hutton handled it like a pro, assessing and shooting with a calm composure and I couldn’t help but compare his striking ability to that of Gabby and Wiemann, strange times. Hutton of course got Man of the Match, but it easily could have went to Clark or Westwood had he have stayed on. Having said that, I think the right player was awarded because he has been consistent all season and this game really emphasised his attacking ability.
Leicester played a good game, we just played a better one and they should be very grateful that they have Schmeichel in goal as he outstandingly was the difference between a 2:1 win and a potential 4:1 win.
It was good to see Villa win a game by scoring more than a single goal, especially during a home game where we previously only had 4 goals to our name. You can see an added confidence to the team now that Benteke is back. It allows us to get further up the pitch because you can actually rely on him to get the ball and hold it whilst the runs are made (very evident for the Hutton goal).
Richardson can play an attacking game and everything I have previously said about him was voided by his display. He could have done a lot better in closing down Nugent during Leicester’s final attack because it honestly looked like he gave up and let him run across.
Lambert is finally starting to get the substitute system? I think he made all sub decisions spot on today, the only problem is the timing of those subs should have been earlier, especially in the case of Zog. But when they did come on, they were the right players for that game. Credit where credit is due.
Gabby’s presence is ever needed regardless of whether he scores or not. He applies a lot of pressure and in most cases, the defence just can’t handle his speed. Going back to our 2nd goal, he played a major part in bringing the ball half way up the pitch and holding it before making the Benteke pass. Great link up between the strikers and an even better ball to Hutton.
All in all, it shows that when the team plays, they play well together and can provide scoring opportunities for each other. Lambert needs to work on the ideal person to start over N’zog and make those subs a little earlier to ensure we keep the pressure going but overall, this is an improvement and begs a lot of questions when certain players return from injury.
The January Window
I’m bringing up the window because I think it plays a part in this game. We won the game, yes, but it wasn’t as convincing as it should have been and the weak links are still apparent.
As strong as Cissokho is, I feel that a better left back would be in order because Cissokho doesn’t offer what Hutton offers on the right. He struggles going forward and although his crosses improved this week, he still isn’t spot on. I’d like to see some cover brought in here and have even wondered whether Lowton could play left back as he offers a lot more going forward?
Would love to hear all the suggestions on the transfer window but let’s try and keep all comments in line with the game and as usual, you can always submit your opinions to us rather than comment. We like the different views and encourage the opinions.