A glance at the Premier League table and you will see Villa occupy 6th place having gone unbeaten in their first 5 games under Alex McLeish. A great start right? Not really. While becoming hard to beat is never a bad thing and is certainly an improvement on last season, a look at Villa’s fixtures suggests they should have done better.
Alex McLeish’s start to his tenure at the club couldn’t have been kinder in terms of fixtures and all started reasonably well. A decent away point at Fulham was backed up by a comfortable home win over Blackburn and all was rosy. One could also suggest that McLeish had done well to earn a draw at Everton despite being dominated in the game, but draws against Wolves and Newcastle at home standout as clear points dropped and such results will tell come the end of the season.
Villa now face a buoyant QPR side away from home after the newly promoted side went to Wolves and picked up a comprehensive 3-0 win with new signings bedding in nicely. A victory at Loftus Road will be tough meaning a win over Wigan could be paramount as Villa’s fixture list builds up to a nightmare crescendo come the end of the year.
When I say a victory over Wigan is paramount I don’t mean in terms of the club’s safety in the league. I think Villa will survive without any issues this time around but the fans don’t accept poor displays and results at home and nor should they if it becomes a regular occurrence. The headline “Drawing, drawing Villa” is something the supporters more than anyone are desperate to avoid and although a points a point; at home the viewpoint should be two points dropped, not one gained.
After a decent start against Newcastle saw an early opener from an in form Gabby Agbonlahor, undoubtedly a highlight of the season thus far, Villa should have kicked on and got the second and would have done so were it not for an awful miss from Darren Bent. Hindsight counts for nothing but IF he had scored you would have to agree with McLeish’s opinion that we would have probably gone on to win the game.
However, IFs are never enough and Villa struggled to control the tie as it went on, with Newcastle earning their point through Leon Best. The visitors might have had all 3 were it not for another great performance from Shay Given, with a flying save to deny the impressive Yohan Cabaye a highlight in another super performance. The aforementioned Cabaye and Tiote overran Petrov and Delph in midfield, taking 214 touches between them with a combined average pass accuracy of over 87%. In comparison Petrov and Delph had just 101 touches between them, with a pass accuracy of just under 80%.
The midfield area is still an unresolved issue, and McLeish will be hoping it is one the arrival of Jermaine Jenas can solve, though that remains to be seen. Warnock was superb in defence in my opinion and would just get my vote for man of the match over Given, though the two players roles in the game is indicative of the fact that we are still not performing in an attacking sense. N’Zogbia and Bent were abject once again, which is a worry, with Agbonlahor carrying almost all of villa’s goal threat thus far.
Overall there is still plenty of work to be done but defensive improvements remain a positive. Now the task is to build on that solid platform and the form of N’Zogbia and Bent will be vital to that, with both failing to impress thus far.
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