Despite losing to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, I still saw more than enough evidence that Tim Sherwood is on to something with this team. The game was quite an exciting one, with a few decent chances falling to both sides, although the Eagles ultimately got the better chance and won the game late on.
The first half was fairly open, with the Villa boys playing some great stuff. The Villans definitely had the better chances and made the most of their possession.
Unfortunately, Agbonlahor squandered the best chance of the match: when he was put through on goal, his tame, powerless shot was directed straight at the goalkeeper. Agbonlahor has received a lot of criticism this week – and rightly so. This is not entirely because of the lack of effort: it’s just that fans feel that he has an obvious lack of conviction and does not have the quality required of either a striker or a wide player. As he missed that chance, I couldn’t help but think that in the past he has put away chances that were much harder than that one.
Looking at the positives, the team seemed to show fluidity and confidence in possession. Jack Grealish’s re-introduction into the starting XI only enhanced his reputation, as fans enjoyed his effervescent display. Confidence oozes from Grealish when he’s on the ball and he’s able to control the ball in tight situations, as well as throw defenders off with a quick shoulder drop.
Jordan Veretout dropped to the bench this week as his acclimatisation to the Premier League continues. Carlos Sanchez was re-introduced to the starting line-up and, after Grealish, he was the stand-out performance. He was dynamic in midfield, proving energetic and a menace throughout the game to keep Cabaye quiet. Along with Idrissa Gueye, the midfielder was able to nullify Crystal Palace´s threat through the middle.
It proved to be up front where we struggled again. It wasn’t because we didn’t create any chances but we struggled to utilise Rudy Gestede in the box. When the chance came, it eventually fell to the wrong man in Gabby Agbonlahor, a player who is currently not in form.
The moment that Villa fans were waiting for finally arrived in the second half, when the youngster Adama Traore made his senior début appearance for Aston Villa. His first few touches were poor, as he gave the ball away with two poor touches. What followed was an example of exactly what we wanted to see from the £8 million man: he received the ball near the half-way line and turned towards Jason Puncheon. After some nifty footwork, he ran on the inside and challenged Puncheon to a one-on-one foot race. There was only one winner in that run and Traore left the Palace midfielder in his wake. Next it was Papa Souare’s turn to learn just how quick Traore actually is. The former Barcelona man blitzed past the full-back and ran to the byline, where he sent the ball towards the six-yard box. Fortunately for Villa, his cross took a deflection off Souare and went past the flailing goalkeeper.
Unfortunately, it was a mistake from Jordan Amavi that led to the Eagles scoring the winner late on to clinch all three points but the fact remains that Selhurst Park is an extremely hard place to go to get points and we pushed Pardew´s players all the way and really made them earn those points. Alan Pardew was also very complimentary about Villa and Tim Sherwood, also claiming that Adama Traore was the quickest players he has seen. That’s a very big compliment when you consider he manages players like Yannick Bolasie and Wifred Zaha, who are both extemely quick wingers.
Expectations may have been dampened by the previous disastrous four or five seasons but now I’m actually seeing progress after a massive overhaul this summer. The squad is young and some of the new additions will make mistakes, as we saw this week. However, learning and overcoming those mistakes is all part of the process. This squad of players will grow with each other and, in time, will go on to do better things for Aston Villan so let´s have a little patience.