After our turbulent start to the Premier League season, having to negotiate our local rivals in a tricky Capital One Cup tie was no easy feat. Effectively, Birmingham City had nothing to lose. I’m obviously happy that we have beat them and that we are in the hat for the next round, although my overriding emotion is relief.
The way we played against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday was not acceptable; losing the way we did was not what I have come to expect under Tim Sherwood. The first half last night was much the same: we looked devoid of ideas and the way we set ourselves up seemed to do us more harm than the opposition. Thankfully, Sherwood re-adjusted and the introduction of Grealish and Ayew gave us more guile and we started to play better football. After the match, Sherwood alluded to how the first half style was part of the “plan”. I’m a huge Sherwood fan but even I don’t believe that for a second.
Grealish and Ayew changed the game last night. Sherwood deserves credit for his changes having a positive impact, especially after the stick he rightly took after the capitulation against Leicester City. Grealish is a class act but I was particularly pleased for Ayew. He is a player who has, quite ridiculously, been written off by a lot of fans. His critics will point out that his good display came against a Championship side but I felt he offered something that other Aston Villa forwards haven’t recently – movement. He looked sharp and, more importantly, full of confidence. Perhaps his goal for Ghana during the recent international break gave him a confidence boost.
Gestede was the match winner, heading home after another sumptuous Amavi cross. Gestede will no doubt become a cult hero after his goal, as there is no better way to endear yourself to the Villa faithful than with a winner against our biggest rivals. However, I felt Gestede was poor up until his goal. Again, it’s early days so it’s difficult to judge him but he is a funny one, in my opinion. He didn’t look capable of controlling the ball before his goal and everything was bouncing off him. Afterwards, he looked composed and better with the ball. Perhaps it’s a confidence issue but I still think our squad is lacking a goalscorer. Gestede will be useful but I don’t currently see him as the man to lead our line on his own. I don’t think he is a lone striker.
The whole team was better in the second half. Veretout looked busier and Clark had a good second period. Clark is many things but a midfield player is not one of them. It seemed counter productive to ask Clark to play higher up the pitch where he looked uncomfortable and in turn Westwood also ended up less comfortable further up. Is it just me who dislikes seeing managers using players out of position? It’s happened ever since O’Neill persisted with Cuellar at right back and we always seem to have someone playing out of position.
What great scenes for the goal and the final whistle! Jack Grealish is living our dreams and his own. It was written all over his face. Sherwood has been criticised heavily recently but since he’s come to our Club his management of Grealish has been perfect. We have a real talent on our hands and what is even better is that he is someone who genuinely loves the club. In a time when football and footballers get a lot of bad press, it really is brilliant to see a proper Villa fan playing in our first team.
With the League Cup game negotiated, we now look to the Premier League again on Saturday. We need to take something from the game at Anfield, preferably three points. We have a good recent record there but we need to show more nous than we have done in previous away Premier League games post-Bournemouth. The Crystal Palace and Leicester City games were both opportunities for points – and we gifted them to the hosts. That must stop.
Last night was a good night to be a Villa fan – and we needed that feeling after a rough few weeks.