A 0-0 draw away at Fulham is far from a poor result but the game itself was somewhat of a non-starter for Villa, with fitness and formations clearly still an issue.
Alex McLeish’s attacking looking line up included Bent, Heskey, Agbonlahor and N’Zogbia, with the former leading the line but it proved to be a far from attacking display. One would assume that McLeish would have been hoping for a fluid system in behind Bent, with the 3 other attacking influences switching places, but it never really came to fruition.
Whether the Scot’s decision to field 3 strikers was led by his determination not to be viewed as a pessimistic coach by the Villa fans remains unknown, but a lack of balance in the side didn’t serve to help matters. Albrighton’s introduction for the largely ineffective N’Zogbia restored a bit of shape to the side but proved too little too late and the game fizzled out as fitness levels diminished.
Stephen Warnock’s influence from left-back coupled by the tendency of Heskey and Agbonlahor to float to that flank saw 44% of Villa’s attacks come from the left. Compare this with 33% from Charles N’Zogbia’s right side and it is clear to see that the Frenchman was not as involved as he, McLeish and the fans would have liked him to be. The decision to play Delph and Petrov as holding midfielders saw just 23% of the team’s attacks come from central positions.
While playing three in behind a lone striker may suggest an emphasis on width, Villa lacked any significant threat from wide, with a look at WhoScored.com’s player map showing that Luke Young offered the most width, while Bent, Heskey, Agbonlahor and N’Zogbia all remained too central. Both Delph and Petrov were camped in their own half for much of the game, attributing to Villa’s lack of a creative force from central areas, although it should be said that Delph impressed in the first half in particular.
Players to Impress
Shay Given – On a man of the match winning debut, new keeper Shay Given made a total of 5 saves in the match, 3 from Bobby Zamora and 2 from Andy Johnson, with 4 of those coming in a second half in which Villa faltered. Compare this to the meagre 1 save that Mark Schwarzer had to make, a routine one at that, and it is clear to see that Villa lacked firepower.
Stephen Warnock – On his return to competitive action Stephen Warnock produced a commendable display to prove his worth to the side. More involved than any other Villa player, Warnock had 76 touches, 10 more than any other Villan, and made a team high of 46 passes with an 82% success rate. Defensively he managed another team high of 7 interceptions as well as 4 clearances and 1 block, while Young on the other flank made 1, 0 and 0 in the same regards.
Fabian Delph – Youngster Fabian Delph was something of a surprise inclusion over Jean Makoun but proved McLeish’s faith to be correct, in the first half in particular. He made 45 passes, just 1 fewer than Warnock’s leading figure, but had a superb accuracy of 89%. He also attempted 2 crosses (1 accurate) and 5 long balls (3 accurate) compared to Petrov’s 0 completed from the same number of attempts. As well as making 1 key pass he chipped in with 2 tackles and 2 interceptions in a defensive sense.
Charles N’Zogbia – A rather uninspiring debut from Charles N’Zogbia proved a lack of match sharpness as of yet, though the new signing did show glimpses of his true ability. Assumptions that he did not get in the game enough are proven by the fact that he had just 37 touches in his time on the pitch, only lone striker Bent had less. He also made the second fewest passes, above the same man, with 20 and a 75% completion rate. He did however, attempt a team high of 6 crosses, though only 2 were accurate, and completed a joint team high of 2 key passes.
Darren Bent / Gabby Agbonlahor – With many expecting a 4-4-2 formation once the team sheet was released, the attacking hopes were pinned on Bent and Agbonlahor. Although the former had a goal disallowed, neither player even attempted a shot, let alone on target, with Heskey’s 2 efforts leading the way. Better service is certainly an issue but a lack of confidence to attack at pace was also evident and will need to be addressed before the Blackburn game.
- Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs Aston Villa – Prediction, Team News, Line-ups
- Huge Test for Emery – Aston Villa Predicted Lineup and Preview vs Tottenham Hotspur
- Aston Villa eye Europa Conference League success after impressive 2022-23 season
- Aston Villa forward Cameron Archer set to join Sheffield United in £18.5m deal
- Aston Villa in July: Four preseason fixtures as Emery aims for another excellent season
- Aston Villa make formal offer to sign Villarreal star Pau Torres
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Brighton & Hove Albion – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Preview: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United – prediction, team news, line-ups
- Aston Villa in April: Next seven Premier League fixtures
- Manchester City vs Aston Villa Preview – Prediction & Potential line-ups