Villa draw 1-1 at Brighton. Dave Woodhall says a few things about the game.
The English seaside is an often-overlooked aspect of this sceptr’d isle’s charm. Not when you’re watching the Villa, at Brighton, in January it isn’t.
The formation that was a surprise two weeks ago isn’t a surprise anymore, mainly because there aren’t any alternatives. Jonathan Kodja’s impending departure gives us no recognised forwards able to walk, so our attacking intentions were spearheaded by the deady duo of Anwar El Ghazi and Trezeguet.
That’s not to overly criticise either of them – I still say El Ghazi could be useful playing alongside a target man, while his partner for the afternoon (and please, not much longer) has shown glimpses that there’s a quality player in there. But neither will ever cause a Premier League central defender sleepless nights. Few of our current players would.
And as a result, the game proceeded much in the manner expected. There’s no real lack of effort in the team, they just, for the most part, aren’t good enough. I should add the word ‘yet’ here, because what we do have is potential; most of Saturday’s line-up have shown that they’re capable of improving in time. Which is, of course, the problem because the time Villa have got left is fifteen matches and counting.
Anyway, there was no great shock when Brighton, by far the better team, took the lead and went in at half-time looking comfortable with a one-goal lead that they always seemed capabe of extending. But they didn’t, and then midway through the second half Dean Smith made a rare pro-active substitution, bringing on Douglas Luiz for the anonymous Danny Drinkwater and replacing Trezequet with Indiana Vassilev, making his Premier League debut.
If the game had a script it would have been the debutant with the instant, match-altering impact, but in reality he slotted in well without exactly shining. Instead it was Luiz, another of the ‘shows promise in flashes’ number who made the difference, driving forward and laying off a superb ball for Jack Grealish to hit what wasn’t at that time a particularly deserved equaliser. Is it worth praising Grealish? You may as well say that Brighton in January is cold – it goes without saying.
Villa looked a lot better for the rest of the game, Pepe Reina showing that one of the most important aspects to a keeper’s game is the confidence he inspires in the rest of the team. They coped without much fuss until the final whistle, might have sneaked a winner and live to fight another day. It could have been better but there isn’t a team anywhere who should be too upset at getting a point away to a side above them in the table.
The next few days are going to be important ones. Watford at Villa Park on Tuesday night are annoyingly in form and we can’t afford to let them get further ahead of us. Before then, hopefully, Mbwana Samatta will have completed his shirt-stretching exercises at Bodymoor and be ready to hit the ground running. We also need to make further progress on the list of essential purchases for the rest of the season. Then we can start looking forward with a bit more optimism to the summer, when there will be more than just holidays to think about.