Report: Albion (1) v (1) Villa – Draw not enough & crying out for a predatory striker. #avfc #wba

It’s two weeks running that we have outplayed opposition.  Perhaps we should view it as progress?  Despite only securing a solitary point at The Hawthorns, I saw enough to suggest that the coaching under Remi Garde is improving us.  The real thorn in our side?  The absence of a goalscorer of any note.

But…let’s not delude ourselves.  This was a game lacking largely in the mere suggestion of quality.  Garde’s makeshift team has been forged together primarily to stop us getting beaten every week.  Whilst this certainly has improved our results, we are only marginally easier on the eye.

Albion though, were worse.  An insipid display of aimless passages of play, lacking forward purpose or indeed even considering winning the game.  It was a painful display from our hosts.

Putting the banter and rivalries aside, Pulis has moulded a West Brom team that is bordering on unwatchable.  As fans we look forward to facing off against our nearest rivals, the battles, unpredictable outcomes and invariably a victor.  Albion will never go down under Pulis, but they will never be anywhere other than where they are now under his stewardship.

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The first half was messy.  Unforced errors, poor set plays and broken periods where neither side seemed capable of taking the initiative.  Albion’s threats seemed to be centred around dead balls.  Villa had decent opportunities on the break, Ayew proving a capable and willing outlet.

Carles-Gil was the stand-out figure, with an ability to move the ball and himself around the pitch effortlessly.  Arguably Villa’s best chance came after his trickery into the box led to Dawson superbly clearly from underneath the bar.  The lack of a challenge on the centre half perhaps even more telling.

There was also controversy as Ayew was felled whilst looking to retrieve a loose ball.  It looked 50/50 live, but with the benefit of a second viewing, I’ve certainly seen them given.  It marks another week where an official has impacted upon the outcome of our game.  A sad fact for refereeing is that many supporters have become resigned to their incompetence or perhaps cowardice towards making a big call.

However, Villa’s undoing isn’t all about referees, as the second half demonstrated.

If a cross or ball didn’t come from the feet of Gil, then it likely didn’t beat the first man.  Repeatedly passes were was misplaced or was intercepted.  The fact is that Bacuna, Westwood & Gana seem incapable of learning or delivering on a rudimentary footballing skill.

I lost count of the times that a great opportunity developed, only for us to needlessly delay, cut back or simply not produce the goods.

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Our strikers are only as good as the service, but even worse is our inability to convert those chances that do present.

This is the primary reason we didn’t win yesterday, didn’t beat Leicester, didn’t beat West Ham & only a goalkeeping howler secured us 3 points against Crystal Palace.

Garde opted for Kozak, who cut an isolated figure for most of the game.  He was hussled and bussled all afternoon and really struggled to make any sort of impact.  Whilst it wasn’t a surprise to see him withdrawn, a mere swap for Gestede couldn’t address the problem.

Despite this, Gestede fashioned a header wide when he should have done better after a Gil/Westwood combination.  It was a typically disappointing, weak, wasted opportunity.

Gil again crafted a ball across the box out of nothing, begging to be tapped in.  He must despair as he watches our strikers position themselves everywhere but the key goal scoring areas.

Whilst I do feel Garde is ultra conservative in his approach, I temper this against the absolute necessity to make us a solid unit again.  We are harder to beat.

I do also think that he is acutely aware that in our 25 man squad we carry very little goalscoring threat, worsened by the fact we have only one in form creative footballer in Gil.  Looking beyond the recognised strikers, he has neither craft nor goals in any measure.

This therefore, decides most outcomes for us.  Unless the likes of Ayew can do something individually or Gil can make something by himself, we are impotent.

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The away point represents progress in our dreadful season, but against the opposition we faced on the day it was a missed opportunity.  Factor this against neither Newcastle or Sunderland winning, and it looks a poor result in fact.  When we look back over the season, this will be a result circled as being relegation defining.

Our future is perhaps already dictated to us, but unless Garde can be permitted a foray into the transfer market, for even speculative attacking options, I fear more of the same.  We will continue to be unable to effect games we should win & will lose to teams that are more expansive than ourselves.  

It is a template for a meek, white flag waving & frankly embarrassing exit from the Premier League.

Up next is a home tie against Man City in the FA Cup. #yay!