The irony was delicious. Listening to angry Stoke fans as Villa players wasted time holding on to a precious 3 points. How many seasons have we endured them taking forty seconds over a goal kick? Thirty seconds for a throw in? Cheat City tried every trick in the book. The most hilarious was Bardsley throwing an elbow in Weimann’s face then throwing himself to the ground. Or seven minutes later when Pieters fooled referee Johnson into a foul after a perfectly good tackle on the defender.
Pieters, himself once again fouled non-stop as he did in the corresponding fixture last season, again without punishment. N’Zonzi somehow avoided a yellow card for a two footed challenge that was at least as bad as Westwood’s on him.
Enough of my ongoing, growing loathing of Stoke and on to the positive. Villa was magnificent! Lining up with 6 returning players from last season, 3 new players and 2 members of the bomb squad. The stand out players from each grouping were Vlaar in left central defence for the returners, Senderos eventually nudged out the impressive Cissokho and Hutton for the bomb squad.
It was first time in a while that Villa has had complete games from both the left and right back positions. The cetre backs bailed out Guzan a lot. Guzan was fine in goal, he was rarely tested, but his kicking amd ball control had the Villa fans and Roy Keane on edge all game.
Villa played 4-2-3-1 with Gabby the lone forward and Weimann on the left side of midfield and N’Zogbia on the right, with Richardson playing slightly more on the right of centre.
Villa’s goal came when Weimann had found his way to the right side in a forwards position. N’Zogbia made a lovely turn, but ran into trouble. The ball squirted across goal and the Austrian mis-controlled his first touch. Luckily poor defensive play by Stephen Ireland among others combined to give WEIMANN a second chance and he buried it.
It summed up the difference in the two teams. Stoke tried to play as the home team bossing midfield, but they always left Diouff isolated upfront and rarely had more than 1 player in the box. Villa countered and tried to control once they got possession and always tried to get numbers in the box.
Stoke will improve. Artaunovich, who controlled Villa at Villa Park last season never got the hang of Hutton, he’ll have better days and Hughes will soon figure out that Sidwell and Adam are better than Whelan in midfield. Bojan will need to learn he has no real time in the prem. But, the defence was a shambles and that is unStoke like.
Villa fans got to see Jack Grealish. It took him 6 or 7 minutes to touch the ball. He won a header against Bardsley. Grealish looked great on the ball, but his distribution looked like an outsider that is worried about making a mistake. His first pass outside to Cissokho wasn’t well paced, but was okay and the right ball. His second after a lovely run was all wrong. He had Bacuna tearing into the area on the right, wide open, but again chose the outside left. Delph made the most of a bad ball and it fell to Bacuna who should have passed to Richardson, but flew a shot into the crowd.
Grealish’s third run, he should have kept going. He made a nice burst to get ahead of the defenders, but again fed the ball down the left. He should have just gone for it and try to manufacture a shot.
As feisty as Villa played, it would be great to see another hard tackling player like Sanchez toughen us up even more. I would like to see him slide into Delph’s place, let Fabian move to Richardson’s area and Richardson take Weimann’s left position and Weimann relegate Gabby to the bench.
In the end Villa played out a superb final ten minutes that just killed off the game. A three point turn around on last season and they have to feel good to get a point out of Newcastle which again would be an improvement on last season.
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