Missed Opportunities

R24Shirt1Well, I’m making good progress in this Aston Villa save, and I’ve now reached the end of October, so it’s update time again. In the last update, you saw that we finished the month 12th -again – in the Premier League, and had happily gone out of the League Cup to Tottenham 1-0 in extra time. We’d had an up and down month in the league, beating Newcastle 3-0, before losing to Palace and bouncing back to salvage a draw against Leicester. However, we had also lost one of our best players to injury along the way in Jack Grealish. He would be out for 3 weeks with a twisted knee, and we would have to make do without him for the majority of October. This really left striker Jordan Ayew as the only player I really felt could win us a match. However, we did find that Ashley Westwood was the English – not Welsh – Xavi, playing so well in midfield that he’s retained his position even with the return of Veretout.

Our fixtures this month were Stoke (sitting 3rd in the league by kick off), Bournemouth, Norwich and Manchester United. Not an easy month, but for sure there were chances to pick up points, particularly against Bournemouth and Norwich.

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The month as a whole was classic Villa (at least so far for me) really. We opened the month with an outstanding performance against Stoke, tearing them apart with goals from Jordan Ayew and Carles Gil. Ayew scored the first after Gil managed to slip the ball into him in the six yard box, and our top striker – by a country mile – had no trouble tucking it into the corner. Gil scored the second late on when we capitalised on a poor clearance which fell to Gil, and he smashed it straight into the top corner to give us the 2-0 win. Considering Stoke were 3rd in the league coming into the game, I was absolutely chuffed with this result.

Of course, we’re Villa, and we came crashing back down to earth after the international break with a terrible 1-0 home defeat to Bournemouth, where we simply didn’t turn up. Callum Wilson gave our defence – which still looks shaky – serious problems, and the 4-1-4-1 did nothing for us in attack. I brought on Falcinelli and switched to the 4-4-2 late on, and we created a few extra chances – perhaps suggesting to me there’s a few teams I can allow us to be more open against – but in the end, we didn’t really deserve anything from the game. What really didn’t help was Joleon Lescott being an absolute plank and getting himself sent off for a second yellow 6 minutes after they scored. It was all uphill from there.

Next up, Norwich at Carrow Road. Norwich were 9th going into the game, doing very well on the back of wing play from Nathan Redmond, who thus far has been one of the league’s best players. As a result, I switched the WB-S at left back back to a FB-S to prevent any space being left behind him for Redmond to exploit. It certainly worked, with Redmond being subbed off at half time after doing nothing, and we took the lead after Ashley ‘Xavi’ Westwood played a lovely one-two with Ayew and clattered the ball past Ruddy to give us the lead. However, in what is starting to become a theme, we couldn’t hold on with Norwich really flooding forward, and Patrick Bamford equalised in the 83rd minute, latching on to a hopeful pass by Tettey and calmly finishing past Guzan. Sigh. Lost points for sure. Just to compound things, Carles Gil went down with an injury in the 23rd minute. Shin splints, and he would be out for 3-4 months, or 5-6 weeks should I pay for a specialist. With how important Gil has been this season from the right flank, I need him back as soon as possible. He’ll see a specialist, thank you.

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.10.55

For heaven’s sake.

The last game of the month was not what we needed. United visiting Villa Park. We were 14th going into the game, and in serious danger of slipping down the table if we’d lost the game. Gladly, it was the good – ok, decent – Aston Villa that turned up, and we actually took the lead through Jack Grealish, cutting inside to meet a Carlos Sanchez through ball, and we went into the half time break 1-0 up against 3rd placed Manchester United. I told the lads to keep their concentration, but the lead didn’t last long, and in the 53rd minute Ashley Young lumped a cross into the box, meeting Rooney’s run from deep, and United were level again. Fortunately, we managed to hold onto the point, but again I had the feeling it could have been so much more. Apart from Rooney’s goal, United didn’t create anything – art imitating life? Still, if you’d offered me a draw with United, I’d have taken it. We just can’t keep throwing points away.

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Grealish puts us 1-0 up against Manchester United.

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I’m also at the point where I’m starting to really consider where (if Mr. Lerner will let me) I’m going to make any moves in the January transfer window. My feeling – simply from watching the highlights in game – is that the defense is the area that is in most need of upgrading, with the midfield doing decently well, and Jordan Ayew doing fantastically upfront, with Falcinelli as backup.

My first port of call is to see where we’re leaking goals from. On the left you can see where our opposition are assisting from, and it appears our right flank is the weak link. This will of course need further investigation, but my initial reaction is that Leandro Bacuna at right back is the issue. With only 9 for tackling and a few other weak attributes, this would make sense. However, it could also be that the crosses are coming from there, but they’re not being dealt with properly by our centre backs. I’m going to analyse this further in the coming months, and see where I need to invest in a few months time. Either way, I do think I’ll be looking at bringing in either a right back or a centre back in January.

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So, we finish the month of October still in 12th place. I think we’ve just decided this is where we’re finishing and it’s where we’re going to stay. Still, I’m more than happy with 12th place, and when you look at the teams around us like Liverpool, Southampton and Man City, we can’t be doing that badly eh? Next month is a very quiet month in the Premier League, as we face Spurs, Everton, and West Brom in the West Midland Derby. Spurs and Everton should be very tough games (2nd and 6th respectively), but I really fancy us to take 3 points against West Brom, who are currently sat in the relegation zone in 19th. Hopefully we can at least take those 3 points, and then move into the really important month of December, with 6 games to play over Christmas and New Year. No leftovers for us.

So until then, thank you very much for reading another Aston Villa update. I hope you’re enjoying reading this save, and as always, if you have any questions or comments to make regarding the save or the side, then please feel free to ask in the comments section, or contact me on Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you again.

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Alexandra Aspey

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