I’ve been pretty angry with The Villa lately. I've watched a team seemingly in an irreversible plunge to the Championship. An owner that won’t fork out £3 million for a Man City player that could be a solid investment *and* help avoid the drop. A manager that has his heart set on a tactical system that doesn’t suit the squad at his disposal. Players performing far below their proven level. A lack of accountability and a club being driven in totally the wrong direction.
I still think we’ll be in a massive fight for our lives in the league - on course for 38 points with Arsenal and Chelsea up next. Gulp. I'm not naïve enough to get carried away by one good day but there was little to be disappointed with on Sunday.
One Moment: I’ve got choices!
The first key moment of the day was the announcement that Fabian Delph signed a new contract until 2019. Uhhhh…totally out of the blue! When the BIG PLAYER NEWS announcement was lined up for 2:50, speculation around Vlaar, Cleverley, Scott Sinclair and others gathered pace on social media. I didn’t seriously believe it would be Delph. In fact, half an hour earlier I convinced myself and the twitterverse that we’d seen the last of him in a Villa shirt! Not in the squad despite no mention of injury, not rested because he’d had 3 games off and Lambert was taking the cup seriously. Available for any cup competition another club might want to field him in having sat out Orient and Blackpool. All the hallmarks of an imminent departure. I've never been more wrong. From this to this in 39 minutes!
Fantastic news for Villa from a business and football point of view. With champions league clubs sniffing around I didn’t even entertain the thought he would stay beyond the summer. We love you Fabian.
OH MY GOD HE DID NOT JUST DO THAT
I missed the first half picking up my broken laptop. So I’m going to skip to the part where the game started to really open up. Instead of retreating into our shell, we actually went punch for punch with the opposition. That led to an excellent counter, Benteke to Bacuna to Gil to…wow. Great first touch. Delicate touch inside the defender. He took it so early but with such power and it’s an absolute stunner. As I grow increasingly irate with Paul Lambert regarding his ability to get the best out of his squad, I am also increasingly impressed with the work he and his minions pull off in the market. Still early days but Carles Gil looks a player with quality at a low price, much like Sanchez.
Game management - the clincher and the defensive wall
Our second goal was also excellent, a flowing move with several good decisions from players in possession finished by the excellent Weimann. Andi deserved it for a strong performance and that moment killed the game. See this is the the thing. When the other team score first we’re in trouble. When we score first we’re very difficult to overturn, particularly if we've got 2. Bournemouth scored a late consolation from a typically tidy move, but there was never any real danger of a comeback with captain Ciaran Maldini marshalling the defence. Sorry, Ciaran Clark. It’s difficult to tell these days. Another brilliantly assured performance from him, an increasingly impressive partnership with Okore. If Vlaar goes I’d consider giving Clark the armband permanently.
My love for the cup has been rekindled. What an incredible weekend - special credit to Bradford and Middlesbrough for making it a memorable 4th round. We’re in the hat with several of the big guns already out. An opportunity for glory? There are at least 4 better teams still in the competition but you never know.
A huge fight awaits us on our return to the league, but right now I’m a much happier Villa fan than I was last week. Funny what a goal or two can do for you!