Weekend Review: Rampant Villa obliterate Sunderland with ease. #avfc #safc

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It’s quite staggering how things can change in football.  A mere four Premier League games ago, Villa crashed to defeat away at Hull.  Listless as a team, impotent in attack and error strewn at the back.  Game by game since Sherwood’s appointment, Villa have noticeably improved.  

This culminated on Saturday with the delivery of an absolute battering to Sunderland.  Villa, having dominated the Albion over 180 minutes of football the week before, were more ruthless in 40 minutes of football than many supporters can recall.

Context is important.  Sunderland were and are woeful.  In my examination of the fixture list after the Hull game, this tie was one marked must win.  Equally, I recall thinking that if any team were as bad as Villa, then it was Sunderland.  The difference in a matter of weeks is that Villa have looked to address their problems, whilst Sunderland appear to have become even worse.

It is difficult to forsee Poyet surviving.  He may well live to fight another game, but any manager who presides over a stadium emptying half of football and whom endures abuse like he did in the dugout, is on borrowed time.

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Villa were afforded space and time in the opening exchanges and took the opening few minutes to weigh up our opponents.  It was clear to anyone watching that Delph & Cleverley had the freedom of the north.  They took advantage of this and bossed the game with ease.

The opener brought another welcome goal to the resurgent Benteke.  The exceptional Bacuna surged forward, squaring to the Belgian who coolly side footed home inside the box.  Replays showed a little deflection, but the damage was done.

The second goal was soon to follow.  A hopeful ball down the line from Clark was inexplicably allowed by O’Shea to sail over his head.  Agbonlahor, anticipating the error ran on to finish beyond Pantilimon.  It was a fine finish with further dubious defending and goalkeeping on show.

The third goal meant that many of the locals missed our superb fourth.  Anyway.  It was a classic counter attack, trickery and pace from N’Zogbia brought the play across the half way line, releasing Agbonlahor at the edge of the area.  Gabby ghosted across the box, unchallenged, to finish with ease & precision into the far corner.

A fine goal.

The fourth goal went in and/or the fire alarms went off.  Either way, the Sunderland fans exited on mass.  As many of the media picked up, a few got close to the dugout to vent their fury.  This was over-reported in some quarters as fans trying to “storm” the dugout.  To those of us in the real world, it was a few angry fans, who had shelled out good money, wanting to tell Poyet exactly what they thought.  Rightly so I’d say.

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The goal was further evidence of Lambert’s idiocy.  Bacuna, often deployed merely as right back, delivered a delicious ball onto the head of Benteke.  He duly obliged by bursting the net with an unstoppable header.  Four, nil.  Job done.

What the scoreline doesn’t tell you is that it could have been much worse.  Worse for Sunderland in the sense that Sinclair skied an effort from underneath the bar & the second half was approached like a training game by Villa.  It could so easily have been another Southampton style drubbing for the Black Cats.

And what to say of “new” Villa?

We are by no means out of the woods, but we have made huge strides.  This win looks massive in light of Burnley’s victory over Man City.  It keeps daylight between us and any side that may build some momentum during the final run it.  It’s also reassuring to know we are not the team being “dragged in”, rather, trying to “pull away”.

I’ve read and heard talk of Villa’s greater “tempo”.  I’d agree to some degree, but feel the simple fact we are looking to make chances is the key driver.  The number of shots has skyrocketed.  It’s no surprise to me that as a result we have begun scoring goals.  Football is not a complicated game, afterall.

There are noteworthy improvers in the squad however and in the personnel being used in the team.  N’Zogbia is being deployed to the effect which we saw him carve out a living.  Gone are the dire displays where he would be withdrawn having contributed nothing.  He has purpose again and is hurting the opposition.

Cleverley is unrecognisable.  He still needs to add goals to his game, but his work rate and overall improvement cannot be overlooked.  Bacuna, still blows hot and cold, but is easily one of our most technically skilled players on the ball.  He still needs to be coached and to develop, but is contributing massively when called upon.

Then there is Gabby.  It baffles even now how he managed to keep a shirt for so long under Lambert.  He was that bad.  Weeks would pass without so much as a moment of worth to the team.  Under Sherwood he has rekindled the promise once seen, is scoring and terrorising defences with pace and strength.  Whilst this must be maintained, it is a remarkable turnaround in popularity for a player whom many considered fit for the scrapheap. 

We must of course, maintain this trend.  Swansea (21st March) goes from being a horrible looking fixture a month ago, to one which there is reasonable optimism for winning.  Villa are by no means rehabilitated, but we are on the pathway.

This sits ahead of a tricky run of fixtures, virtually written off under Lambert, but under Sherwood, you never know.  What on earth is going on?  Isn’t it great to be a Villa fan again?

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