Guzan is twice as good as Given, Villa need a dominant midfielder and other things I learned from Aston Villa v Norwich
Benteke can score for club after all…
After his debut goal against Swansea City we thought we just might have had the real deal, then the matches against Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham saw Christian Benteke missed a few sitters at critical times, and in an Aston Villa fans mind this means he’s gone from being the saviour to being shit – for there’s obviously no option in between. Perhaps the most frustrating part about this was the fact that he’d put away two goals for Belgium against Scotland and Serbia, and had looked pretty damn good while doing so. Paul Lambert moved Darren Bent back to the bench and started with Gabby Agbonlahor and Benteke up front, and Benteke took his goal brilliantly. Holman’s cross from the left was met with the deftest of touches by Benteke to instantly control eight yards from goal, and then he slotted into the corner with Ruddy diving the wrong way. So how do you judge the big Belgian? Inconsistent seems to be the description I’d side for, but it’s hard work being a fan in the Villa network and trying to reason with some of the extreme views thrown about.
Guzan is twice the goalkeeper Given is
Shay Given has long been lauded as one of the Premier League’s great goalkeepers, but he’s far from it in my opinion. Great shot-stopper, yes. Great goalkeeper, no. Brad Guzan was once again preferred to the Irishman in between the sticks and once again showed why Lambert’s first big decision in charge of Villa; dropping Given at Newcastle earlier in the season, was the correct one. Guzan was in fine form to deny Grant Holt on two occasions, and Wes Hoolahan just before Benteke’s opener. Given could have made those saves I hear you say, perhaps – Given however is nowhere near as commanding from set-pieces or in his all-round goalkeeping play as Guzan is and this for me is a massive difference between the two.
We’re in trouble now; but if we don’t pick up a handful of points in November then we’re going to be right in the thick of it
We need a dominant midfielder
Doesn’t every club? In pre-season, we Villa fans thought Karim El Ahmadi was going to be that very man, but despite being far from awful he’s also been far from amazing. The central midfield duo in today’s game was far too lightweight, even though I rate both El Ahmadi and Fabian Delph, the latter being someone not many Villa fans rate at all. We have nobody in the centre that can truly dictate play and put in a rugged challenge when necessary. In my opinion, Chris Herd can do the latter and Stephen Ireland the former, but we definitely need one player who has both of the qualities. If we play with Delph and El Ahmadi in the centre then we need a third midfielder in there to partner them, which then means either sacrificing width or a striker, something Lambert doesn’t seem keen on! I sense a January signing…
November is going to be one hell of a tough month
Have you seen our fixture list for November? If not, have a look, it’s been giving me nightmares lately. Away at Sunderland, at home to Manchester United, away at Manchester City and then finishing off a busy month with home games against Arsenal and Reading respectively. I had every confidence when I first saw this month’s fixtures that we’d be in a fairly comfortable position by this time, but we aren’t. We’re far from it. By my reckoning we need to pick up at least five points from these five games, which means probably picking up some sort of a result against one of the big three, something we seem completely incapable of lately. We’re in trouble now; but if we don’t pick up a handful of points in November then we’re going to be right in the thick of it.
Bent should have stayed on the bench
After starting with Benteke and Agbonlahor up front, the obvious thought process would be to substitute one of them midway through the second half and bring on Darren Bent. That was the obvious choice until Joe Bennett got sent off after 50 minutes, resulting in Agbonlahor being substituted for Eric Lichaj to return us to a full back four again. We inevitably dropped further back and became more subdued by the full quota Norwich side that had edged a poor first half. Despite this, we had a good option in Benteke to knock the ball up to and from there he could look to hold up play and bring others into the attack, until he was substituted for Bent. I’m not Bent’s biggest critic, but this just wasn’t a game made for him in any sense of the word. We didn’t need a goal, we needed an option up top that would work hard and involve others, and it’s no surprise that as soon as Benteke went off we (somehow) looked even worse than when he was on. Lambert got this decision wrong.
More great Villa reads...
Click here for more stories on Football and Sport
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook