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Player Match Ratings: One step backwards and a reality check!


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We had the opportunity to win a fourth game on the trot yesterday, to win three league games in a row for the first time in 5 years and to win two successive home games for the first time in a year. We had arrived buoyed by our recent performances and with perhaps too high a level of expectation. But those records have stood for a while for a reason and Tim Sherwood had warned us that there might be days like this when he took over.


Swansea had the better of the first half yesterday and we were relieved still to be level at the break. We seldom produce a good level of performance throughout a game but of late have had one good half that has made amends for a below par one.


We were better in the second half but the improvement from one half to another was not as striking as it has been during our recent improved run. We did make some chances but so did Swansea and the law of averages tell us that Gomis would inevitably convert one of several opportunities that he had. The biggest surprise was that Gomis took until the 87th minute to do so. We had looked more likely than not to hold onto the point that would have edged us nearer safety when Swansea as did Stoke a month ago hit us with a cruel late blow that there was no coming back from.


We now need to take the international break as an opportunity to get some of our many injured players and we can now add Benteke along with Cleverley to that list fit for the run-in. I think two more home wins might just prove enough to see us safe from the four we have coming up of which two are 6-pointers. Three wins would give us 37 points and that should be what we aim to get. Yesterday’s game however proved that we cannot take getting home wins for granted. But we should start as favourites against QPR and Burnley and have a decent shot at getting a minimum of a point against Everton and West Ham. But Villa are still a work in progress and if the new boss does manage to keep us up given how low we were when he came in then that will represent a significant achievement.       


My player ratings from a game during which neither Robert Madley nor his assistants did anything to assist our cause by producing one of if not the most one sided referring performance that I have ever witnessed at Villa Park are:


Brad Guzan – 7 – Made a close range save with his leg from a Gomis effort after 6 minutes and kept out a shot at his near post from the same player 18 minutes later. Failed to hold a 36th minute Sigurdsson free kick that he palmed into the path of Routledge whose shot was cleared off the line by Clark. He then hit Gomis with an attempted clearance on 41 minutes that thankfully bounced wide towards Okore who was fouled by Gomis as he challenged for the ball.


Brad tipped a Sigurdsson free kick over the bar on 53 minutes which had gone over the wall but had been placed too near to him to cause us any major concern. He also denied the Swans a second in stoppage time when he blocked a shot from Routledge who had ran from the half way line into our box. He had his worrying moments but these were outweighed for me by his saves that kept us in the game.                                                                   


Leandro Bacuna – 4 – Leo struggled when defending particularly in coping with Montero who outpaced him all too easily before finding Gomis for their winner. He also failed to produce anything like the service to our strikers that he did at Sunderland. This was a disappointing overall display.                            


Ciaran Clark – 8 – MOTM - Did not put a foot wrong yesterday and it was tough on him that he was just unable to win the race with Gomis to Montero’s cross that led to their winner. He really looks like an established international central defender now and did well to hold what is a makeshift defence together for much of this game. Ciaran did very well to block an on-target shot from Gomis on 74 minutes that had threatened to put them ahead having already got one off the goal line.   


Jores Okore – 7 – Another solid defensive performance.                            


Alan Hutton – 6 – Alan was played out of position on his return from suspension due to our lack of defensive options through injury. This was particularly noticeable when he got forward but needed to work the ball to his other foot to get crosses over. Alan was solid enough at the back and worked hard as he always does for us.                     


Charles N’Zogbia – 7 – Charles ran well at defenders and showed just how effective he can be as a winger when his confidence is as high as it currently is. We missed his runs when he was substituted on 68 minutes and it was therefore surprising that we did not go for Gil to replace him who would have been a more like-for-like replacement.       


Tom Cleverley - 6 – Replaced due to injury on 25 minutes and we missed him in the middle.                                        


Fabian Delph – 8 – Another very solid midfield performance. Fab found time on the ball, rarely lost it and played some dangerous balls forward. If only his shots were on target more often. He did force a near post save from Fabianski on 34 minutes after Sinclair had done well to find him and he won a vital 77th minute challenge that would otherwise have left an opponent with just Guzan to beat. Made a threatening run towards goal on 84 minutes but his shot went well over the crossbar.               


Scott Sinclair – 6 – The ball just refused to run for him yesterday and although he clearly wanted to get one over on his former club he did not bring his shooting boots with him. He was just unable to stretch enough to get a touch to a cross from Gabby that then ran behind Benteke on 69 minutes and then pulled a shot wide of the post having been fed on the edge of the box by Delph. Scott had a shot gathered by Fabianski at his near post on 79 minutes and riffled an 89th minute volley over the bar which hit the far stanchion behind the net after Delph had found him well.        


Gabriel Agbonlahor – 5 – This was some way off the displays he has produced in his last couple of games for us. He was lacking in service but he also seemed to lack the commitment, energy and goal threat he has shown us of late. This was a frustrating return to the Gabby we have become accustomed to seeing at Villa Park for most of this season and he really does need to maintain the levels he has now shown he is capable of on a more consistent basis.


Had a golden opportunity to give us the lead on 59 minutes when a Benteke header from a Hutton cross fell to him. But instead of hitting the ball with his right he waited what seemed an age to work it onto his left foot which gave defenders time to set themselves for the shot that was to come that was deflected over the bar to safety off Taylor. He also had the last chance of the game during stoppage time but he did not get enough on his header from a Westwood corner that went harmlessly wide of the post.   


Christian Benteke – 5 – Another player who lacked service yesterday. Nevertheless Christian can be more of a headache for defenders than this and he was too easily kept quiet before he left the field due to injury which may well have had some impact on this performance.       




Carlos Sánchez – 5 – Replaced Cleverley on 25 minutes. He remains some way off the performance level he was producing a few months ago and the improved performances he had shown up until the Arsenal debacle.


Ashley Westwood – 6 - Replaced N’Zogbia on 68 minutes. Ash did well enough following his introduction and solidified our midfield.


Andreas Weimann – 5 - Replaced Benteke on 75 minutes and made little impact on the game during the time he had available to do so.    


Stay up the Villa!

John Lewis

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