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Instant reaction to Villa's surprisingly gutting loss to Manchester City

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Aston Villa played an absolutely great match for 81 minutes, and then it unraveled. Nothing to be too upset over, though.

Ian Walton

Well that's a rough way to lose a match. Aston Villa spent 81 minutes and 45 second being the equal to Manchester City, and then gave up a wonder goal to Yaya Toure because he wasn't quite well enough marked. But we'll get to that in a moment. The takeaway from today's match shouldn't be being upset because Villa lost, it should be happiness that Villa looked, again, able to hold their own.

A late illness scratch to Gabby Agbonlahor moved Andi Weimann into position as the lone striker to start the match, and Villa played every bit as defensively as you'd expect given that information and the fact that they were playing Manchester City. But the defense worked fairly well, and when they didn't they got quite lucky. That's a good recipe for a defense, and it was helped by Brad Guzan having a stellar day.

Christian Benteke came on in the second half, and while he didn't score, he made his presence felt. City had to adjust to him being on the pitch, and he looked to be pretty darn fit. It's hard to judge how he's doing based on what we saw, but at least we're not discouraged.

The one discouraging thing today was the poor decision-making by the attack. Numerous counter-attacks were undone by an inability to pass or shoot. Andi Weimann and Kieran Richardson both saw great chances go begging when they couldn't get a solid boot on the ball. And Charles N'Zogbia and Fabian Delph both tried shooting when a pass would have been better. Andi has the ability to be great, but he's got to start playing with more confidence. Richardson's was a mistake that's pretty dumb, but I don't expect much from him. N'Zobgia played like an idiot all day. And Delph's mistake was the first genuinely stupid one I've seen from him all year.

As for the defense, they were pretty solid today. Both goals came as the result of 1) absolutely superb finishing that, once the shot was taken, would've been impossible to defend and 2) giving the scorer perhaps half a yard too much room just before the shot. When you're playing as defensively as are Villa, you can afford to come up to the ball and pressure. Learn that, and suddenly this is a 0-0 draw that we're all happy about.

But what really struck me, as I pour out my disjointed instantaneous thoughts, is that Villa looked like a squad who could handle the pressure of City without being embarrassed. Just as they did against Arsenal, and just as they did last week against Chelsea. This is a wildly different Villa than we've seen for the past few years. Imagine this midfield, especially with Tom Cleverley, Fabian Delph, and Ashley Westwood, against a weaker side (hi, QPR!). Imagine this team with Vlaar in the back and Benteke playing a full 90.