Defeat at Tottenham leaves Villa looking nervously over our shoulders once more. The green shoots of change might be occasionally visible, but this performance contained a plethora of wastefulness up front as well as inexcusable openness at the back.
The match began with Villa living life dangerously, to the extent where Spurs could have found themselves ahead within the opening minute. On two occasions the ball was flashed at pace across Guzan’s goal, providing a clear warning of our opponents style of attack. Villa needed to shore up quickly or risk the match being put to bed in the opening exchanges.
The team did wake up, perhaps having watched these Tottenham chances whistle too close for comfort. Villa became more resilient and passed the ball well. Spurs continued to be dangerous, albeit wasteful from set pieces, but Villa were growing into the game.
Benteke had a speculative drive beaten away by Lloris and Agbonlahor may have committed more when through on goal. Holman rallied as it becoming the norm and El Ahmadi continues to look a real find as well. Questions marks remain over Delph, a battler he might be, but a clumsy lunging challenge earned him another yellow card. Albrighton also saw a lot of the ball but to little effect and continues to frustrate more than he excites.
At the half time whistle both teams went in fairly even. Spurs appeared quite happy having taken the game to a Villa side looking more solid and content on taking chances as they present themselves.
The second half saw Villa continue where they left off as the first drew to a close. The team began brightly, with Agbonlahor feeding Benteke from the left. The Belgian drilled a first time strike into the body of the motionless Lloris. A good move that warranted more than an easy save from the Frenchman.
Benteke had a further golden opportunity minutes later. A cross, this time from the right was weighted perfectly. The former Genk man nodded the ball wastefully wide of the right hand post. Scored? He should have. Hit the target? No excuses not to. All whilst Darren Bent watched from the sidelines.
The game then took on a different look which will no doubt infuriate Paul Lambert. This look was error strewn, complacent and at times outright amateurish.
Defoe, who had been tricky all afternoon was allowed enough time to lay a picnic in the Villa penalty area. Taking the ball down at the far post, he read the match programme cover to cover, before lashing a shot past Guzan. It took a wicked deflection off Caulker. But the defending was awful, just awful.
The Villa heads then dropped. This is a worryingly familiar sight at Villa, easily put down to the previous regimes low morale still lingering, but it is still visible when we go behind. Spurs were not exactly rampant, but equally not under huge pressure from Villa. At no point did the team look like hauling itself quickly back into the fixture.
Delph and Albrighton were removed as the game overtook them. Both need to improve in equal measure or risk being offloaded, there is increasingly less time and pateince for passengers. Holman, once again having ran himself ragged made way for Bannan. Bent and N’Zogbia joined the fracas.
Within seconds the game was over, Lennon bursting on the right at the steady figure of Joe Bennett, before firing low on the run through the fullbacks legs and beating Guzan at the far post. Poor from Villa again.
The match petered out from here, or more likely my attention waned, which is a sad fact to admit.
Joe Bennett picked up what looks to be a potentially nasty injury following a collision with advertising hoardings. The injury was sustained having shepherded Lennon out of play, but resulted in the youngster breaking down and being stretchered away in visible pain. Hopefully the layoff will not be too long, where the only other deputies are Lichaj or currently loaned out Stephen Warnock (Bolton).
As Villa played out the remaining minutes Spurs could have made matters far worse. Following loose play by Clarke whilst on a mazy crazy run, Tottenham burst forward and Guzan saved onto the woodwork. Dempsey also headed wide from 4 yards when it seemed easier to score. Suffice to say, a let off.
It’s easy to get down about what was a poor overall performance but we must look to Fulham in a fortnight. Whether we like it or not Villa are competing with the bottom half of the league, initially for survival given our current form and distinct lack of points. Thus a loss at White Hart Lane, in the grand scheme of things, is not the end of the world. Europe bound we are not, but we must not put ourselves too close to the trap door through deluding ourselves either.
However, with that said, Villa must get out of the habit of gifting teams opportunities to take us apart. Vlaar aside, we look very ropey at the back, to the extent where Richard Dunne will more than likely be given just consideration when fit following his stint on the sidelines. This isn’t to say that Ciaran Clarke isn’t good enough or not ready, but that Dunne may be the timely old head to give some solidity alongside the competent Vlaar.
Also, we must decide upon what our attacking approach is. And be less wasteful having worked so hard to create often limited chances. Dropping Bent, despite his lack of team play, removes our only clinical (and proven) goalscorer from the team. Gabby is is not prolific and Benteke, regardless of his appearance, is essentially a young kid. This is going to be a headache for Lambert, but he must get the balance right, because at the moment, it’s not working.
Fulham away is suddenly an important fixture, not least because we need a positive performance; but we also need the points.