Westwood's Pass Mastery & Villa's Concrete Defence Deserved More From Arsenal
The point gained by Aston Villa in the 0-0 home draw with Arsenal was enough to see them rise out of the relegation zone, but it’s another game where they have performed well and not taken maximum points.
There are more positives than negatives though, one of which being that Villa gained only their third clean sheet all season. Also worth noting is the ability to keep up the pressing and good work in the second half, going against the usual trend this season with it being well documented that Villa would be fifth in the table if Premier League games finished after 45 minutes. I can’t help but think that this game was there for the taking though and rather than a point gained, it’s two points dropped.
Ashley Westwood put in another brilliant performance and after doubting his ability initially, based on what I saw in an early performance, I’m now a massive fan. He’s not the sort of player who will make the headlines and actually if he isn’t noticed by most that probably means he’s having a good game. No Aaron Ramsey style Hollywood passes from him, just simple balls designed to keep possession ticking over.
With a 91% pass success rate it’s hard not to see what he delivers. I can remember when he joined from Crewe Alexandra that he likened his style of play to that of Michael Carrick, no arguments from me there judging by the first third of the season. I can see him becoming a key-player for us as he fits and understands the philosophy that Lambert prefers tactically. He and his deeper midfield partner Barry Bannan have forged an impressive partnership over the last few games and seem to understand each other well and work well together.
The position of attacking midfielder in the trio however seems up for grabs, with some Jekyll and Hyde performances from Stephen Ireland so far this season – and Karim El Ahmadi hardly had the best game of his Villa career today. Newly voted Australian Player of the Year for 2012 Brett Holman is a better fit in my eyes and he showed his ability today with a 30-yard rocket which Wojciech Szczesny tipped onto the crossbar; and seeing a long-range effort on target by Holman isn’t an unusual sight. Not to mention his work rate seems to be a cut above everybody else in the team at times, something that has endeared him to Villa fans everywhere already.
With the injury to Ron Vlaar early in the second half, I like most other Villa fans was fearful for our chances. After all a back four of Enda Stevens, Ciaran Clark, Matthew Lowton and Eric Lichaj would have been almost unheard of this time six months ago and massively lacks Premier League experience. Lowton however showed his ever-improving class by stepping into Concrete Ron’s position and helping secure a clean sheet – he has been another of the promising batch of youngsters we have seen reward Paul Lambert for putting faith in them.
Arsenal weren’t at their best today and perhaps if they had been on top form then the result would have been different, but Villa’s pressing and harrying of their opponents when out of possession was everything you expect out of players as a fan, but so often it doesn’t happen. It’s another one of Lambert’s introduced policies that seems to be progressing well and will continue to get better with time, and it’s nice to see such things happen.
I’ve said it before a hundred times and I’ll say it again, this rebuild will take time and patience and the odd thrashing but it’s necessary and Lambert is more than capable of doing it.
It was important for Villa to gain at least a point today so that they have something to build on for the game against Reading next week, a little bit of confidence will go a long way. Just as important is getting a win when Reading visit Villa Park on Tuesday night; too many times this season we’ve performed well against a more difficult opponent and then thrown away all of that good work by just not turning up against the sort of teams we should be beating, and no offence to Reading as I don’t expect an easy game but at home it’s a game they are expected to win.
With different expectations comes a different mind-set though; while a spirited performance may have been enough to keep the fans happy against Arsenal – three points will be expected on Tuesday and I hope this doesn’t affect the players’ performance.