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Monday thoughts - New Villa frustrates in familiar ways

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The first of a new series of reports on Villa matches, taking a less serious view.

Steve Bardens/Getty Images

There arrives a point sooner or later in the season for every fan when the heat of rage and frustration burns away the misty illusions of the pre-season.

Villa fans reached that point on Saturday, when the best player of the previous two games and one of the club's brightest prospects made a howling error to give away the point that they'd only just miraculously been granted against Crystal Palace.

The Villans started off pinioning the Eagles' wings effectively, as Alan Pardew's attacking unit flew lopsidedly down the left wing, taking turns to bash their beaks against the surprisingly sturdy Leandro Bacuna.

On the other side of the pitch, Jack Grealish, recovered from injury and Mediterranean revels , strolled back into the game and started pinging passes like he was in a lazy park kickabout while the Palace right-back wondered what he'd said to piss off his teammates before the match.

However Gabby Abgonlahor was the ghost at the feast again, the reminder of Villa's enduring mediocrity, and rapidly becoming the least popular club record goalscorer in Premier League history.

His movement brought back memories of his 2008-era ravaging best. His final touch vomited all over those memories to remind us of our inevitable fate as a physical wreck of our former selves.  Surging into a one on one with the goalkeeper in a situation that screamed for him to open his body and strike it with his left, Gabby contorted his shoulders and lamely poked the ball towards the keeper with his right. A man in a constant struggle with his own body, when slipped in behind by Grealish and trying to pass it with his left, he still made contact with his right for the ball to bobble harmlessly away.

At half-time, Pardew was struck by the tactical possibilities of using both wings of the pitch and rejigged his side. Tim Sherwood, perhaps influenced by his casual polo shirt, took a relaxed view of the situation and Palace promptly put the ball in the net. It was disallowed as the referee and linesman played a quick game of "who touched it where" Cluedo  but the klaxons were sounding.

Last season, Tim Sherwood built a cannily balanced three-man central midfield to save the club from relegation last year, making a mockery of the idea of him as a throwback 4-4-2 zealot who denies the existence of the holding midfielder.

So of course on Saturday he decided to pull off Sánchez who had been marshalling the central midfield,  against one of the most dangerous counter-attacking teams in the league right at the moment they were beginning to threaten, to go to the kind of "4-4-2 and get it to the nippy winger" that your Sunday pub team relies on.

A minute later Palace had scored from a corner, product of a rapid counter slicing through the middle of the pitch.

Then along came Adama Traoré to instantly set himself impossible expectations. Receiving the ball in space, he accelerated like a cheetah, brushed Jason Puncheon off with a nudge of his surprisingly huge shoulders before tapping an innocuous ball in which bounced off the unfortunate Souaré past the keeper. A moment which could mark the birth of a Villa legend or at the very least feature in a bunch of YouTube videos of all his "skills, dribbles, goals".

Having had such instant success with the "get it to the nippy winger" tactic you might have assumed it would be repeated, but instead Villa felt the pull of a primal instinct to lump it to the big man and the game was set for a unremarkable end.

Then Bacuna, Guzan and Amavi pulled off a little comedy routine and Bakary Sako launched his own career as a Crystal Palace legend and/or YouTube highlights compilation, while Villa fans contemplated the prospect of another frustrating season.  Plus ça change.

Random thoughts:

- Even if Gabby did not deserve to be dropped for his performance, his facial hair would be reason enough.

- In contrast, Sánchez and Gestede provide a pleasingly strong Afro game.

- Seriously Tim, a polo shirt? You lost the sartorial battle to Alan Pardew and the game followed.

- Bakary Sako and Adama Traoré are both built like absolute tanks for wingers.