Villa crash to defeat, gift 3 points to the Foxes & raise many questions in the process. #avfc #lcfc

All was merry and joyous when Carles-Gil finished delightfully past Kasper Schmeichel on 63 minutes.  Villa had cruised comfortably into a 2-0 lead away from home.  And then, we conspired to deliver a 30 minute showing of professional ineptitude, ensuring that we lost all 3 points.  

It’s not the end of the world, but it raises some very serious questions about the decision making both on and off the field.


This disappointment of the manner of the loss is moderately offset against what I felt was a superb first half showing.  This makes matters all the more frustrating as we should have been going in at the break 3-0 leaders.

We regularly found luck down both flanks, Amavi/Grealish/Sinclair linked well.  Carles-Gil was both and intelligent and a willing runner on the right.  It was encouraging that we caused Leicester problems, but we didn’t seize the initiative until Grealish scored his first league goal.

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After a bit of penalty area ping pong, Richards bravely challenged, absorbing a strong tackle himself in the process, which released the ball to Jack.  Grealish, expertly curled his effort into the net to put us deservedly in front.  Cue a bizarre Sherwood straddling celebration.

Deservedly winning, but regrettably we had also spurned two great opportunities earlier in the half. 

Agbonlahor, released down the centre left channel appeared caught in two minds whether to shoot or cross.  Opting to play the cross perhaps a stride of two later than anyone would want, it forced Sinclair into a back post chase, rather than a simple slot in finish.  Sinclair on another day may have turned it in, but, Gabby did nothing to help him do this.  A glorious, wasted opportunity.

Grealish was also a guilty party after fine work from Gil allowed him to pick a spot.  Instead, the 20 year old tamely side footed an effort straight at the ‘keeper.  Whilst he made amends later in the half, such chances have to be taken at the very highest level and this isn’t the first time Jack has looked indecisive in front of goal.

Villa went in at half time having been largely impressive, controlling the game and looking dangerous going forward.  Leicester had done very little to demonstrate any sort of threat or ability to contain our front four.  What could possibly go wrong?

Things were decidedly different in the second half.  We were not afforded anything like the space as in the first and Leicester had visibly stepped up the pitch to give us something to think about.  We didn’t seem to do anything about this whatsoever.

The opening 15 minutes of the half also started to show some defensive frailties rearing their heads.

Bacuna endured a torrid time for not the first time this season.  Turned inside and out repeatedly, he was lucky not to concede a penalty when Vardy was felled.  It made for uneasy viewing.  I personally find Bacuna a skillful, decent footballer.  He is not however, in any universe, a right fullback.  Sherwood is just going to have to accept this sooner rather than later, or we will be undone game after game & Leandro will be a broken man.

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Richards and Lescott appears to be a work in progress as well.  I was impressed with both at various moments – but there were too many occasions where either had been stretched way out of position.  We were also repeatedly out-thought by Mahrez, who for all his talent, didn’t have to work hard for the ball, space or a pass.  We weren’t tight enough or wise to his ghosting between the open pitch.

So when Gil finished superbly to make it 2-0 it seemed like the best response to a period of building pressure.  The Spaniard has been used sparingly by Sherwood and his performance at Leicester raises more questions about exactly why that is.  Gil appears to have heeded the calls for a work rate when he hasn’t got the ball, but this mustn’t detract from his ability, which has to be considered one of the finer at the club.

Another question is why he was withdrawn having scored what should have been the match winner?  And why for a player in Ayew who seems bereft of confidence or the ability to turn a game?  Whilst we were winning 2-0, we were not cruising.  It made no sense then, even less now.  Ayew, was completely anonymous just when we couldn’t afford it.

When Westwood was unfortunate in not keeping out de Laet’s effort, there was a sense of inevitability creeping in.  The ground was rocking and Mahrez had the freedom of Leicester to do his bidding.  Why wasn’t Sanchez put not more than a yard away from the Algerian?  It was tactically so, so naive.  The word should either come from the bench or any senior player on the pitch could have made the call.  Painful.

Vardy’s goal to equalise featured the already mentioned defensive disarray.  Our failure to hold the ball allowed a straighforward square cross to be prodded home.  It was as poor a conceded goal to hit our net in a long time, and we’ve seen many in the last 5 years.  The defence looked like a foursome that barely knew one another, let alone perform as a protective unit.

And the winner.  We all knew it was coming.  No amount of our pathetic feigning injury, drawn out throw ins and marathon length goal kicks was going to stop the inevitable balls up.

To confuse matters further, Sherwood saw fit to introduce Hutton and Gestede.  Hutton looked all at sea from the outset, introduced into the chaos of a deep freekick to defend.  Gestede must wonder what his role is.  The lad needs some help up there and trip to the barbers.

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Mahrez was again the provider, floating a defendable ball across the backline between the centre halves and goalkeeper.  Dyer, to his credit, took the full force of 3 players to head in the goal.  But…he had absolutely not right to it.  

I will be controversial and ignore the fact that Mahrez had been allowed to put the ball in the first place.  It shouldn’t have happened, but it did and the defence had to face up to what was befalling them.  When it becomes apparent that the ball is exactly where you don’t want it to be dropping, but, your goalkeeper is on top of it, then he must win the contest.

Brad Guzan is an international goalkeeper, facing off against a diminutive player in the form of Dyer.  Dyer isn’t facing the goal.  Guzan has a full view of the situation, the ball, the player.  He was absolutely nowhere.  Late, clumsy in the challenge made & it cost us a point.  Which at that moment we would certainly have taken.

Sherwood’s distraught interviews after the game are reassuring only in the sense that it’s good to see it bothers him.  However, his decisions, not only confined to today’s defeat, often leave me scratching my head.  I don’t want us to be predictable by any means, but we must start to apply some logic and brains to our tactics.

Take the fact that Gabby immediately returns to the team ahead of both strikers acquired in the summer; its a serious cause for concern.  Even more worrying is that not one of them appears to have a modicum of form.

Up next is a really, really uncomfortable looking fixture against the Albion at Villa Park.  Whilst it is certainly more a derby than Leicester, it now carries the “must win” feeling with it.  It doesn’t match the necessity of last seasons billing, but defeat would start to lay the ground for an incredibly difficult season indeed.  And all because we couldn’t use our heads in the final 30 minutes at Leicester.

The importance of us affirming our stature with the Albion is significant having driven that home to hem twice in a week last season.  However, stature is only retained through repeated, sustained and punishing dominance of your rivals.  

I fully expect and demand that we not only win this match, but that we use it as a springboard to get our season going.  And frankly, I’m bored of looking over my shoulder.  Up The Villa.