Villa lose to United, but what’s new?  Optimism. #avfc #mufc

Another defeat to Manchester United?  Yup.  Nothing new there, but, despite Villa’s sluggishness at times, there is cause for optimism at Villa Park.

This was many home supporters first chance to see the “new” Villa side in action.  Plenty of new faces were on show, including the parading of Adama Traore pre-match, who has joined us from Barcelona on a 5 year deal.  

It was a mixed bag overall for me.  I have seen enough so far that convinces me that Villa will now have the right attributes to overcome the bottom third of the Premier League.  This is a massive step forwards for us, where we have been genuinely fortunate to stay up for at least the last 4 years.

The positives?

We started well, looked sharp and eager to take the game by the scruff of the neck.  United took time to find their feet, but found much of their interplay broken up by the excellent Gueye.  Gueye has been the stand-out signing so far and looks on the face of it and more than capable substitute for Fabian Delph.

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Jordan Amavi continues to impress.  Whilst given a sterner test than Bournemouth, it was telling that he made opportunities and passes that weren’t the norm in our previous side.  Amavi will terrorise fullbacks throughout the league, but also looks astute in his defensive duties.  He looks a steal.

Richards continues to grow into his role as Captain at the heart of the defence.  There were a couple of instances where match sharpness and regular games looked lacking, but this will come.  As with Gueye, Richards’ looks a more composed and reliable figure than the outgoing Ron Vlaar.  Positive news indeed.

Our passing game is also coming together.  The fullbacks joining the midfield gives us options, space and with some fine tuning, results.  I don’t think the measure of this will be against teams like Man United, but the movement and inter-play will open up lessor sides.

The negatives?

I think we dropped an absolute clanger in partnering Gabby and Ayew.  

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Gabby has long since passed the years of “promise”.  It baffles me quite how he commands a start, particularly given Gestede’s debut goal and that he and Ayew are so alike.

Ayew had a better game than Bournemouth, but suffered for having to play alongside Gabby.  Gabby is too similar, their runs mirrored one anothers and Agbonlahor just isn’t an intelligent partner to have alongside you.

Whilst Ayew looked better, he tired badly.  Which leads me to Sherwood’s substitution error in removing Sinclair instead of the Ghanaian.  Sinclair had grown into the game and was beginning to show some clever play, it baffled me as to why he was withdrawn, other than if an injury had occurred.

Tiredness was also a visible hindrance on our ability to get back into the game.  Gueye faded after the hour, Veretout looked dead on his feet from 70 minutes along with Ayew.  This was a result of our pressing game, which is a hard feat against a side who can hold the ball all day long, as well as move it from flank to flank with ease.

The final negative has to be the goal.  Whilst technically nice on the eye, it was a static defence that allowed it, along with some frantic diving around thrown in the mix, to allow Januzaj the time to slot in.

Villa had looked similarly lost when an earlier set piece was missed at the far post by Schneiderlin.  We need to be a bit more switched on to runners and movement in and around our own box.

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Looking Forward

There’s no doubt that the picture is improving.  A defeat to United will not define our season and there’s still work to be done in getting us ticking just right.

With players like Gil, Grealish, Adama, Kozak & Okore yet to feature, Sherwood will have options for both approaching games differently, but also changing them.

That was the key last night, we set up wrong up front and lacked the invention to compliment our new midfielders.  The disappointment felt in some quarters may also be owing to how average United looked at times.  Whilst I’d agree that they are a distance from the sides we used to face under Ferguson, they played within themselves for large swathes of the match.

Up next is a tricky away tie at Selhurst Park to face Crystal Palace & the loathsome Alan Pardew.  A point is a must, a win, for me, is not beyond the realms of possibility.  Up the Villa!