I’d love to give some realistic expectations for the game against Tottenham Hotspur here, but to be honest I don’t think many Aston Villa fans actually know what to expect this season. We have definitely shown signs of promise, and for the most part, passion too. Knowing what team will turn up though is a completely different matter, and predicting how we’ll do is turning into a bit of a lottery.
After the 2-0 home win over Swansea City last month, everything was looking rosy and Villa fans were cheerful, until the next game, until Southampton away.
We led 1-0 at half-time thanks to Darren Bent’s first goal of the season, and somehow ended up losing 4-1 - complete capitulation. Then a midweek clash in the newly branded Capital One Cup, away to league champions Manchester City, piece of cake, right?
Well actually, some might argue it turned out that way with a 4-2 win after extra-time. If any successive results could sum up what our season is going to be like, I think Southampton away followed by Manchester City away will be it. Topsy-turvy, a rollercoaster, full of ups and downs, however you want to describe it.
We have definitely shown signs of promise, and for the most part, passion too
There were as many positives as negatives in our season so far, and after last season I welcomed at least having some things to be positive about at last.
Bent may have found his scoring boots again, but rumour has it that he didn’t like being benched against West Bromwich Albion in Villa’s only home league derby this season. Why would he be happy? Then quotes emerged after the game in which Bent had said “I haven’t spoken to him [Lambert] about it, we’ll probably speak sometime this week.” This in media sources translates to “I’m seeking crunch talks with the manager.”
Truth is who wouldn’t be unhappy at being on the bench? I’m not happy if I’m on the bench when I play football, doesn’t mean after one game I seek “crunch-talks” with my manager or want to leave the club, would he really be so unprofessional as to do that? The captaincy issue, where Bent was named stand-in captain in place of the ill club captain Stiliyan Petrov, only to have it taken off him and handed to new signing Ron Vlaar for the Southampton defeat, can’t have helped his happiness though.
I think that he would only have been made a temporary captain while Vlaar adapted in his first few games, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Lambert would have told Bent that he wouldn’t be captain forever. I hope Lambert was that sensible, anyway.
Bent may have found his scoring boots again, but rumour has it that he didn’t like being benched against West Bromwich Albion
I expect Bent to start alongside Gabriel Agbonlahor in Villa’s attack, with Christian Benteke dropping to the bench for this one. Bent did of course come off the bench to salvage a point in that game against West Brom, and showed he only needs a sniff of goal, the whole reason we brought him. It still doesn’t mean that dropping him to the bench was unjustified though in my opinion, he hadn’t done enough in the first few games of the season to start, but he proved his point when asked to.
Gabby showed against City the exact reasons Villa fans can be so frustrated with him, he terrorised their defence, but doesn’t do it often enough. He did offer more of a threat than Benteke in the West Brom game, and I’d be very surprised if Bent and Agbonlahor aren’t up front together for this one.
The best phrase that pops into my mind to describe Benteke so far is “raw talent”. He is a huge physical presence and has showed some fancy skills and neat first touches, and at the same time has showed why he has a lot to work on with some equally poor touches. At least the talent is there, and we’ve seen signs of promise.
Team selection these days is as much of a mystery as the performance we are going to get, and Paul Lambert sure does like to tinker. We now have options all over the pitch, and it’s a big policy of Lambert’s plan to succeed, competition for places keeps people on their toes, not only in the starting team; but also on the subs bench.
We can however now be sure that we will give these sorts of games a good try, win or lose, but Spurs will definitely be no easy task and I’d be more than happy if we can muster a draw, even though one of McLeish’s biggest problems come May 2012 was the amount of draws over the season. Despite all the talk of player uproar, and a poor start to the season, Spurs still sit in fifth place, just two points off second spot. Not that much of a poor start to the season then is it, really.
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