Carles Gil will rightly take the plaudits after our FA Cup victory against Bournemouth. The little Spaniard lit up Villa park with a stunning goal on Sunday, following on from his exciting cameo against Liverpool eight days earlier. It was brilliant to see Andi Weimann back on the score sheet as well. His goal and contribution were perhaps overlooked a little given the impact of Gil. Nevertheless, even in the Liverpool game there were signs that Weimann looked quite refreshed. I thought his link up play with Gil was noteworthy in that second half and boded well.
Our number ten is a player who has come in for a lot of criticism this season and last. An academy graduate who was superb in Paul Lambert’s maiden season, he was seen to have lost form and found his ability and work rate questioned by Villa fans at times. The Austrian doesn’t always possess the perfect first touch nor has his shooting always been perfect but his work rate this season in particular has not been in doubt, in my opinion.
There has been a myth that Weimann’s decreased productivity has come from playing out wide. Naturally, Weimann is not a wide player but in 2012-2013 his position didn’t stop him contributing goals. In 2012-13 we played with attacking verve and looked dangerous going forward, especially in the second half of that season. Weimann was getting in and around the box from a wide position, drifting into play and becoming a firm fans’ favourite. Then came a bizarre change in playing style and Weimann suffered.
After Lambert’s first season, playing wide for Villa no longer meant attacking with purpose and linking up with Christian Benteke. Playing wide for Villa seemed, a lot of the time, to be about being a second full back – a thankless task but one that Weimann got on with. His form suffered: if he got a chance he would snatch at it, knowing that he probably wouldn’t get another one all game. Weimann’s stock dipped. Social media abuse followed: even when he scored two vitally important goals against Hull last season to keep us up, he was criticised for cupping his ears at the Villa fans. It may have been a silly way to celebrate but, after a season of toil in a poor side, I could understand why he did it.
Weimann managed to bag three goals in the early months of this season but, once again, he was failing to influence games and was spending more time defending than attacking. In the second halves of the last two games, the players in general appear to have come out of their shells a bit, looking like they have a bit more purpose when going forward. Weimann’s finish on Sunday was a throwback to the player of 2012-2013 who put some wonderful goals past David De Gea, Pepe Reina and Simon Mignolet to mention but a few.
I have often defended Weimann, especially this season, and you could sense his relief at scoring again in his post-match interview with AVTV.
Carles Gil is clearly a very gifted footballer, the type that we have lacked for years, and the fans are rightly excited. Without burdening the ex-Valencia man with too much pressure, the players should be excited too.
Weimann has looked more alive alongside Gil. Playing Gil out wide on the right also opens up space for Alan Hutton on the overlap. Hutton has probably been one of our greatest threats going forward this season and it was the Scot who assisted Weimann on Sunday. With Gil looking tidy and Hutton getting more space, this should lead to more chances for the likes of Weimann. When he is confident playing in an attacking team, he has proven he can finish.
I firmly believe that we have a really good player in Weimann. People will write him off and disagree with me because he has not met expectations following his breakthrough season but I really believe that tactics and style have hindered him. I see him as being the main victim of the regression at Villa Park over the last eighteen months. With Lambert believing that the style is changing for the better, I hope that Andi Weimann can regain his standing with the Villa fans and prove people wrong.