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Friday, 30 November 2012

Aston Villa: Can Villa raise their game against the weaker teams?


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The three points against Reading on Tuesday night for Aston Villa were absolutely huge. The win has seen Villa begin the early stages of reeling in the likes of Sunderland, Wigan, Norwich and surprisingly Newcastle.

A win against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday and Stoke City next weekend would really see Villa move up the table and give the side plenty of confidence going into the quarter-final of the League Cup against Norwich, on December 12.

That’s three huge games for Villa, which even at this early stage of the campaign could realistically make or break their season.

Although the win over Reading was huge the performance was not the greatest. Cheering like mad after a 1-0 win, at home, against Reading, in November is perhaps a sorry sign of the times.

Villa celebrate v readingWhen the first half whistle blew Villa fans were again left scratching their heads, wondering why on earth the team could raise their game against the like of Manchester United and Arsenal, but when a team of Reading’s quality came along, the standard of passing, movement and urgency completely dropped?

It’s been the same all season against the mid-table and lower league clubs. Villa just can’t see to maintain their performance levels against the sides rubbing shoulders with them in the league.

Is it because the team’s too nervous? Is it because the side feels the need to relax after playing the stronger sides? Is it because lower league sides play more defensively meaning Villa have to break them down?

Whatever it is, the result is the same. Win, lose or draw the fans go home frustrated because they know the team could comfortably beat such sides if only they played their own game with a bit of confidence.

Don’t get me started on throw-ins. I’d love to know how many times we have put ourselves on the back foot from one of our own throw-ins.

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom. Villa did win and we did score from a corner – that’s right, Villa scored from a corner, for the first time in more than a year.

The crosses Barry Bannan whipped in were of the highest quality against Reading, which was just as well really because his passing was terrible. Christian Benteke looked like he had to get on the end of one and sure enough he planted one brilliantly in the bottom corner.

Perhaps the win was all that was needed and maybe Villa will play with a bit more movement and confidence during their next few games.

The issue with Darren Bent is obviously still hanging over the side and whether Charles N’Zogbia, Stephen Ireland, Richard Dunne, Shay Given, or any of the high earning, senior players get back into the starting line-up will be interesting to see.

I doubt they will to be honest and it’s questionable whether they would make that much of a difference. It seems manager Paul Lambert has seen something in those players he doesn’t like, or at least doesn’t agree with. 

It may be as simple as believing it was those players who should have stepped up last season and kept Villa out of trouble, when the side came far too close to getting relegated.

Hopefully this new-look, young side will kick on for the next few games and play with the same intensity, passion, belief and even freedom they play with when the big boys come to Villa Park.

The away performances still need a lot of work so picking up points at home, particularly against the sides nearer the bottom, is going to be vital.

QPR away and Stoke at home come next. Here’s hoping Villa can up their game once again.

Calling all Villa fans: How confident are you of Villa getting three points against QPR and Stoke City? Have you seen enough from the Villans to convince you that they can stay up? What would you do with Darren Bent? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth

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