Sunday’s defeat to Tottenham Hotspur provided more evidence regarding the areas that need strengthening during this transfer window.
The players battled hard for the duration but were ultimately outclassed by the better quality of a second string Spurs’ team which could probably survive as a Premiership team..
Things didn’t look promising from the start. The team sent out to battle had a combined six goals between them, with Grealish having amassed the most with three. The main striker was Agbonlahor, whose last goal came almost two years ago. He has barely threatened an effort on goal since. He has had his struggles off the field but he looks a distant shadow of the player who used to terrify defences in tandem with Ashley Young during the Martin O’Neill era.
This isn’t an article slating Agbonlahor. I still wish he would find his form and hope he can do the business again sooner rather than later. I will always have a soft spot for him as a local lad and a Villa fan coming through the youth system – it’s what we as fans love to see.
As managers are always keen to point out, the first line of defence starts with the strikers. The minimum effort a striker should be offering is to close down defenders and making a nuisance of himself by not making it easy to play out from the back. Yet, too often, we saw Agbonlahor jogging towards opposition players and allowing Pochettino’s players to pass the ball around him. It made me think of Shane Long, a player not blessed with the greatest technical ability or goal-scoring prolificacy. Long instead runs around all game at high intensity, chasing lost causes and not giving defenders a moment’s peace. It left me wondering why Agbonlahor is not doing the same. Is he still over-weight and unfit? Has he lost confidence or does he simply have little desire to play these days? The quickest way he can get back into the supporters’ good books is to start being a menace again and to work his socks off.
Adomah and Grealish both showed moments of class, as they have done all season. However, we need to see more goals and assists from both of them. Too often, Grealish was caught in possession as he waltzed around the White Hart Lane pitch thinking he had all the time in the world. More end product is needed from both of these players if we are to make any positive headway in January. Sunday’s game was a stark reminder of how much we need Kodjia and that Bruce needs to address his absence.
Ross McCormack plays best as the man behind the main striker in a 4-4-2 but, with a lightweight midfield and only one natural winger, this formation cannot be used by Bruce. This means that until reinforcements are brought in, we won’t see the best (or much) of McCormack, who is a player blessed with undoubted ability at this level.
With Wolves lying in wait on Saturday, I hope Bruce can bring in players to bolster the ranks and strengthen the first team. Otherwise, our season could end in disappointment.