A lot has happened since my last column. On the whole it is mostly positive. The performances have been pretty good with a credible draw against Arsenal, and then grinding out a win on short rest against Reading.
Other than the second halves against Manchester City and Southampton, the effort has been consistent most of the season. The players have fought for the shirt and haven’t dropped their heads. We have not been subjected to one of the many a abject, no-show, timid, capitulations that we were last season. Even when starved of possession, the players have tried to express themselves and attack. The club may currently be only in 16th, but you would have to be a malingerer to think the club is not better off than it was if not a year ago, then at least nine months ago.
The team’s effort and endeavor has not lead to as many goals and chances as one would hope. Against Arsenal, Villa more than held their own in the territory battle as Matt illustrated, but they did appear to knock the ball around a bit and couldn’t break down the Arsenal defense. The manager’s team selection has favored graft over craft in recent weeks. While the Villa midfield did well pressing Arsenal, and it was hard to fault any of their performances, Steven Ireland who was an unused substitute is the type of player who could have created the decisive chance.
It is hard to argue with results and results appear to be finally going Villa’s way. This is a team of gifted, yet imperfect players. I still think the team is going to need contributions from Ireland, Charles N’Zogbia, and whoever replaces Darren Bent to bring that extra bit of quality, even if it is at the expense of graft.
Make no mistake, Bent is gone. The only reason why the club hasn’t proclaimed as much is to not weaken their bargaining position more than it already is. I still don’t understand why he isn’t at least named on the bench. The only scenario where Jordan Bowery is brought on is in garbage time like against City, or if Benteke is hurt. At least Bent gives the manager the option to change tactics, or give the attack a different look. I imagine Bent must either be completely tanking in training, or there was some ugly incident behind the scenes.
As for one silly, yet predictable transfer rumor that will never happen I wouldn’t take Stewart Downing back even if he reenacted the Walk to Canossa from Anfield to Villa Park. The club should use any money raised to bring in a replacement striker that can push the strikers we already have, maybe a player with a different style who can give the manager options, and one who will be ready to contribute right away. Hopefully the club will be further up the table by the time that happens. I don’t see why they won’t be.