If you're looking for seething vitriol and hatred after yet another goalless loss, you'll have to look elsewhere. The reasons are twofold: 1) I'm tired of being relentlessly negative, and 2) I actually genuinely believe that Aston Villa looked much improved today. Yes, it was an 0-2 affair that saw a few dumb mistakes made. Yes there were still problems finishing. Yes Tom Cleverley was pretty terrible (as was Gabby Agbonlahor). But it wasn't an overall terrible performance. Here are the raw numbers:
Paul Lambert sent his team out today to play in something of a hybrid of the early season style and the possession-oriented play we've seen lately. It was obvious from the outset that the goal was to get the ball into the final third. As has become de rigueur lately, that movement didn't lead to goals, but there was a clear attacking intent that has been absent for more than a month now.
Alan Hutton continued excelling, starting a number of the Villa attacks and generally looking as eager to move up as he was to defend. The problem was that there was no link between him and the box. Tom Cleverley wasn't doing anything to help and that created some issues. But in the second half, when Carles Gil replaced Cleverley and Andi Weimann took over for Ashley Westwood, we suddenly saw a wildly re-invigorated team.
Gil was everything we were told he was. Fantastic positioning, constantly looking to create, and laughable on his one scoring opportunity. I'm totally okay with that. He's here to create, not to score. Actually, I'm more than okay with it. If the ~30 minutes we saw from Gil today are what we'll normally get, he was a fantastic investment.
A lot of people will be unhappy because Villa had a chance to tie the match at 1-1 when Nathan Baker absolutely whiffed on a ball in the box that should've been a goal. Or they'll be unhappy because some poor marking by Jores Okore (perhaps thinking that the defense were playing Fabio Borini offside?) led to the first goal. Or Fabian Delph's giveaway led to the second. And those are all entirely legitimate reasons to be unhappy. This still was a club who looked as if they couldn't score if the opposition literally disappeared from the pitch. In reality, there was probably more bad than good.
But good heavens, for 15-20 minutes there after Gil came on, we saw what this team could do. Add in a left winger to take the place of quite-possibly-dead Gabby Agbonlahor so that the attack can work on both sides and this team looks like it could be very good. So after more than a month without a win in the league, I'm going to take the upside here. Play like we did in the second half and Bournemouth should be an easy task next weekend. Onwards we go.