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 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.