What We Learned as Villans After One Point from a Possible Christmas Six

The What We Learnt column analyses the main points of the Villa week on the pitch...

A disappointing point against West Ham at home was followed by a gutless 2-0 defeat to Norwich City. Apart from the misery of watching a failing team, what else did Villans learn as more points were squandered?


The now familiar spectacle of a weak first half followed by a stronger second half summed up the display against West Ham. The 1-1 was a tough result to take although the fact Villa battled back again to earn a point is… well, a few weeks ago it might have been promising. But too many points have vanished and one wasn’t enough to impress anyone still hoping for a miracle turnaround.

Garde was still looking for the first of the 10 wins he predicts the team needs going into this game. The stark truth was he is still waiting to oversee his first as Villa manager…


… and was still waiting after a goal in each half was enough for Norwich to take all the points a few days later. BTW – Garde’s win ratio after eight games is 0%.

Were there glimmers that maybe the team could pull off survival even in defeat? Not really. Ayew might be scoring (an inadequate number) for the team, but his grumping and complaining about elbows-in-the-face that just didn’t happen hardly endear him to referees and his booking was always going to happen.


The flare-up towards the end of the game was counter-productive – the game was over, the chance to prove they weren’t a pushover and had some balls between them had passed. A little bit of handbags and offers to take Norwich players outside for a punch-up seemed somewhere between pantomime and indifference. It made Aston Villa look like the kid who yells down the street at the bully “Oh, yeah? Come on then!” long after the fight is over.


What is Gestede supposed to add to this team given the line-up he is part of? He’s not particularly mobile, but he’s certainly tall enough to impose at set-pieces. He can head in crosses (only coming with any regularity from Alan Hutton at an estimated rate of 1:4 being any good) or match-up with big central defenders, but his threat is obvious and limited until he’s given better service.

He was never going to be Alan McInally and he’s not even as effective as Tony Cascarino without someone feeding him the ball where he needs it.

With Kozak not in contention for whatever reason, and Traore only trusted to put crosses in as time is running out, Ayew is still struggling to find a partner to work with up front. This column suggests the addition of wingers (as suggested previously) and a regular partner other than Gestede could yield results: Pair up Traore with Ayew and put Gil and Grealish on the flanks.


The long-term fear here is that which frustrated fans about Paul Lambert from the start: he seemed to have a formation in mind to play, but not the players to fit into it. Garde’s insistence that Ayew be left up front alone until the team is losing is not getting enough goals. If Ayew and Traore could develop an understanding, would it keep Villa up? At this point, they would have to get 25 goals each, but it might go a long way to convincing both to stay if relegation is inevitable.


Is it possible Brad Guzan has started his last game for Villa? Of course any outsider looking in would target Guzan as a weak link in the chain as he’s been picking the ball out of the back of the net with alarming regularity for many years. As Villa fans, we’ve seen the worst of him – but also witnessed him at his best. He has his flaws, many Bosnich-esque (not a great commander of his area, poor distribution, caught in two minds), but with a strong back four in front of him who can lead by example and take some pressure off by reducing soft goals, he might not necessarily need replacing.

If there’s money to spend this January (and there are arguments for not spending a penny anyway), two central defenders who get along and compliment each other might be a better investment than a goalie. Without that, the mistakes will continue and whoever you want to stick in goal might be a moot point.


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