The 2-0 home victory over Wigan was exactly what Villains were asking for. The club turned in a performance and got the deserved result. It was quite encouraging to see the positive momentum from the 2nd half against QPR carry over. After the international break Aston Villa’s soft start to the campaign comes to an abrupt end at Eastlands against Manchester City.
If the club could somehow escape with a win that could really build off of the momentum from the Wigan game. Attendance is still lingering around the 30,000 mark, a huge away win could energize the fan base and bring fans back to Villa Park. Win or lose I couldn’t agree with Matt Turvey more that Villa need to come out and if not play expansive, attack minded football don’t bunker down either. Assuming everybody is fit McLeish should field the same XI he did against Wigan. Darren Bent and Gabby Agbonlahor are starting to develop a formidable partnership. When Villa don’t have posession Gabby is dropping deeper to allow Bent to exploit channels in the opponent’s defense.
If Villa stay with this system the key man is Steven Ireland. Against Wigan he showed some nice touches and looked lively early on. Around the 20 minute mark he scuffed a shot from the edge of the box and from there lost confidence until he left with yet another injury. If the team is going to play without wingers they have to create chances through the middle. Barry Bannan made several nice passes and has looked dangerous on set pieces, but Ireland in the more advanced role needs to be able to make dangerous runs into the box and deliver that dangerous pass in the final third. Against Wigan as Ireland lost confidence, the team resorted to long balls. This works against relegation fodder at home but they can’t just hoof the ball and expect to get results against the bigger sides like City.
The other midfielder who has been a little disappointing has been Fabian Delph. He works his tail off and hasn’t been terrible, but he does have lapses and his passing hasn’t been consistent enough. At the moment there are no obvious candidates to take his spot. I suppose if McLeish wanted to add some steel to the midfield Cieran Clark could play in front of the back four with Petrov in a slightly more advanced role. The team would also benefit by having Clark’s passing ability in the side. While Clark did fill in at midfield last year it’s not his natural position and he is coming off injury. A Clark/Petrov midfield duo would also be wanting for pace. If fit I would like to see him get a run-out with the first team. As solid as Dunne, Collins, and the rest of the defense have been the club does have trouble building attacks from the back as neither Dunne nor Collins are comfortable on the ball or in distribution.
These are relatively small issues. Villa are sitting in 7th and have been showing signs of improvement. Everybody at the club has had nothing but positive things to say about the club and the manager. Gabby is on the form of his life and is oozing confidence. Darren Bent scored his first goal in front of the Holte End and can now go into the England camp not having to worry about a goal drought for his club. Barry Bannan has done everything he can do to cement his place in the 1st XI as he has gained in experience. Good times appear they may be around the corner after all, but there are dark clouds on the horizon in the Northwest. Let’s hope the goodship Aston Villa can weather the storm.