Time for Joe Cole to start?

Joe Cole played for both Villa and Liverpool

Sunday’s bitterly disappointing result against Spurs meant that Villa’s losing streak continued to six games. On a positive note, Andi Weimann finally broke the goalscoring duck the Villans were encountering after not being able to net in the previous six games. The performance on Sunday was generally quite good – it didn’t look like a team that was under pressure, until Christian Benteke’s sending off changed things.

A couple of things stood out about the game. The first point was that Spurs’ Jan Vertonghen should have been sent off for his two-footed challenge on Ashley Westwood. The emphasis on eradicating these types of challenges from the game has been set in stone by the F.A. and typically a two-footed challenge is deemed a red card offence by the referee and he has to send the player off. We’ve seen referees who have been putting this stipulation into practice in the last few seasons, irrespective of intent, but there have been two incidents in the past couple of weeks when this hasn’t happened. West Ham’s Alex Song also lunged at his opponent recently and wasn’t given a red card either.

The second point I wanted to make, and I’m sure a lot of people agree with me here, is that Ryan Mason should also have been punished for his part in the Benteke sending off. Ryan Mason instigated the squabble, first by pushing Christian Benteke in the back and then pushing his head into Benteke’s face in a head-butting motion. What the Belgium international did next was inexcusable and was worthy of a red card as he raised his hand but surely the referee bottled the decision to not send off Ryan Mason as well. By the letter of footballing law, both players should have seen red or both should have received yellow cards. Perhaps if Christian Benteke acted differently by feigning injury and rolling around on the floor after Mason made contact, Mason would have been the one to get sent off. Consistency and referees don’t seem to mix very well.

Now that Christian Benteke will be ruled out for the next three games by suspension, I want to see Andi Weimann given a chance up front with a designated ‘number 10’ type player just behind him – and I want that player to be Joe Cole. A change in the system may be on the cards against West Ham at the weekend but, knowing Paul Lambert, the manager may stick with Gabby Agbonlahor up top with Richardson coming in on the left hand side. I would prefer to see Weimann playing up front, with Agbonlahor, Cole and N’Zogbia behind in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Gabby Agbonlahor fails to track Chadli to score the equaliser
Gabby Agbonlahor fails to track Chadli, who then scored the equaliser

Gabby Agbonlahor has come in for some criticism this week from fans, after he switched off and let Nacer Chadli score Tottenham’s equaliser on Sunday. When a player doesn’t pick up his man on set pieces, he lets the whole team down by not doing his job properly.

Gabby Agbonlahor goes missing for too long and only puts in a very good performance once every five to ten games, which isn’t good enough for a player who has the ability to cause damage to other team’s defences, as we all know. On his day, he can be unplayable and is able to scare defenders with his pace and power but that is the most disappointing thing about Gabby Agbonlahor – he’s shown he can do it consistently about four or five years ago but it’s different now as we only seem to see him at his best once in a blue moon.

In the absence of Benteke, either Gabby Agbonlahor or Andi Weimann will need to step up and take responsibility and, out of the two, Weimann is the one who is showing the passion  and desire to play that role.

If it was up to me, I’d play Joe Cole or even Jack Grealish behind the striker in an effort to make things easier for our strikers. Joe Cole has thrived in that role and is probably the only player in our squad who can unlock a defence with a deft touch or through ball to play our strikers in behind the defence. I would consider dropping Tom Cleverley for Saturday’s match as, although he is neat and tidy on the ball, he just doesn’t seem to do anything with the ball apart from move it on. There’s no direct attacking threat from him and we already have a player who can keep the ball rolling in Ashley Westwood. Unless Lambert tells Cleverely to produce an end product from his play, I feel he’ll just be a ‘nothing’ player – just another body to pass the ball to. We are seriously missing Fabian Delph.

The next couple of games are going to be even tougher and I’m seriously worried as our position in the league sees us only two points from the relegation places. We need points on the board and we need them as soon as possible. At this point in time, I’m really worried about where our next win will come from but I won’t lose faith in this side just yet – we were really good at the start of this season and that was without Vlaar and Benteke so hopefully we can start our revival soon.


  1. Agree about playing a 10 but will Lambert change from 4-3-3 to include Cole or even switch to 4-4-2 ? Villa have effectively used a diamond 4 in mid field in the past but I for one doubt if we have wide players available to give us the width that some fans are calling for . And using 2 at DM limits the players available for attack so 4-3-3 would be the formation of choice for me . So dropping either Westwood or Cleverly might be a choice Lambert has to make if Cole or another is to play in front of them. I’d not play Grealish in that role as he’d be better as one of the 2 wide forwards supporting Weimann as striker . The question though is whether Cole can lay a full 90+ minutes without running out of steam . If not who have we got who could slot in to replace him ? Bacuna possibly Johnson if he’s back in time and he has successfully being playing that role for Chesterfield in recent weeks and is due back at Villa

  2. Disagree about dropping Cleverly, we need continuity so I would play the same team with Bent up front

    Midfield despite mistakes is improving, but we need to see more of an attacking threat.

    Westwood was clean through against Spurs but stupidly Benteke did not release the ball and the chance was gone but better crosses must come in especially from Sissoko, who gets forward with little end product and Gabby is dreadfull so get him to do the laundry or something like that.

    But Lambert is predictable and will play Gabby up front with the same team, Weimann /Zoggy rotating.

    To be fair it would be ok providing we don’t hoof it up as if Benteke was playing.

    Gabby must turn up sooner or later.

    We played 4 4 2 against spurs with Zoggy and Weimann rotating, it was better I felt.

  3. When you look at the team, it’s pretty good and largely positive, but they are not used in a positive way. I’d like to see more of Grealish and Baccuna.

    On a different line the guy that fixed my windows asked me who my favourite manager was and on instinct I said John Gregory – just goes to show you how much we’ve changed in the last ten years.

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