Let's get the big issue out of the way first: a point against Southampton is not a bad result at all. It's not particularly helpful in the big scheme of things, but it's nothing disgraceful. Even if the Saints aren't really as good as their position in the table suggests they are clearly a better team than are Aston Villa (in a way that I still refuse to buy about West Ham). But there were a few things that I didn't get to cover in my instant recap that I almost immediately wished I had. And I've got no overarching thesis for this, so let's get to the bullet points.
- The biggest point of contention amongst writers of this site was who or what was responsible for Nathaniel Clyne's equalizing goal. I say that it was the Darren Bent for Carlos Sanchez while Adam and Alex say that it was Gabby Agbonlahor being an idiot. They'll get their piece in tomorrow or Wednesday, but thinking about this rationally I wonder if we aren't all right?
Because yes, Gabby totally turned his back on Clyne and let him slip into scoring position for that goal. If Gabby marks as he should, there's no goal. But he was put in the position where he had to mark because of the substitution seven minutes earlier. That position is where I would have expected to see Sanchez. Now, God knows if Sanchez would have actually BEEN there, but it's where we'd expect it. Instead, Darren Bent was a non-factor in the defense and Gabby was pushed into having to try and do his best to get back, which we know he's not great at.
Regardless of which stance you take, something went pretty terribly wrong, as something always seems to do. It's getting a bit tiring to know that the stupid mistake is always lurking around the corner.
- Now, a bit more on Bent for Sanchez. One thing I think everyone agrees with is the fact that Villa needed some fresh legs to push back against a Southampton who had found a spine after listlessly roving around the pitch for seventy minutes. Carlos Sanchez was quickly slipping into idiot land and it wasn't a bad move to get him off. But if the goal was to push forward a bit without harming the team, why take off a defensive player for a slow old one who can't defend to save his life?
I'd posit that this is exactly where Jack Grealish should have been used. He provides creativity, flair, speed, and has at least a passing ability at defense. He would bring everything to the pitch that Darren Bent did without the added liability in rear-guard action. It's not that Bent doesn't have a place, but this wasn't a moment that was screaming for a purely offensive substitution. Instead, it should have been someone with balanced play. If I'm Jack Grealish I am wondering how I can sign a new contract with a club that will actually give me some playing time, because he doesn't even get used when the match is calling for him.
- Andi Weimann had the miss of the
day month seasonever. And it came on the heels of very good play! He got the ball, got past a few defenders and began running. I'd like to think he could have kept it up for a 1-on-1 with the already bad Fraser Forster, but perhaps he couldn't. Regardless, he let off the run and passed out to his right. Alright, not a terrible decision.
But then he got the ball back in the box with a clear open path to the goal, swung his foot back, and... launched the ball into space. A goal would've made it 2-0 and would have almost assured Villa of a win. Instead he looked as if he had studied Emile Heskey and determined that he, Andi Weimann, could do the big man one better.
- It's not all bad though! I promise! Jores Okore, fresh from not being ready for the Premier League, put in one of the best shifts we've seen from a defender all season. Second only, perhaps, to Nathan Baker against Liverpool. I had predicted on the podcast that he may look a bit rough since he hasn't played in ages, but I was oh so wrong. Okore looks every bit as phenomenal as those of us calling for him to be used would have expected. He's going to have some tough times, I'd expect. After all, he's young. But if this match was a sign of what we can expect, he should be starting every weekend.
So expect Lambert to never use him again and see the Dane transfer in January.
- Speaking of defenders: Ciaran Clark. He was... good! I'm totally not sure what to think. The preponderance of evidence suggests that this was a fluke, but he looked genuinely good for 90 minutes. Maybe a switch flipped? Give me one more match like this and I may be on board.