Aston Villa’s unbeaten yet unspectacular start to the Premier League under Alex McLeish continued with yesterday’s 1-1 draw at Queens Park Rangers, a point which would have been three but for man of the match Richard Dunne’s last-gasp own goal.
Football Burp looks at three Villans who impressed this weekend, three Villans who need to up their game and one Villan who could go either way…
Richard Dunne – Dreadful luck with the own goal but, until that unfortunate deflection, the Irish centre-half had been a major part of what looked set to be a good away win to banish the blues surrounded by Tuesday’s dismal 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Bolton Wanderers. Still, after last season’s travails under Gerard Houllier, Dunne looks to have recaptured the form of his debut season at Villa Park. Now McLeish just needs to decide who partners him.
Barry Bannan – Cool under pressure with the penalty – and in the face of Rio Ferdinand’s attempts to distract him – and unlucky with an excellent free-kick, the young Scot had a tough task at right-midfield covering for the forward foraging Alan Hutton behind him, especially as he was up against the similarly attacking Armand Traore. Superior work rate to fellow rookie Marc Albrighton on Villa’s right-hand side but, as he has shown with some cute balls through to Gabriel Agbonlahor, Bannan does his best work in a central attacking position. However, it will do him no harm to learn his trade in an unfamiliar position for now.
Stephen Ireland – Slowly playing his way back into the kind of form which saw him nominated as Manchester City’s 2008-09 Player of the Year. Again made some good runs which teammates failed to spot, while his ability to pick a pass was yesterday supplemented with the kind of work rate which will win over the Villa Park faithful if he keeps it up. An encouraging performance that should cement his place in the side for next weekend’s home game against Wigan Athletic.
Honourable mentions – Stiliyan Petrov continued to prove his doubters wrong with another solid display, while Stephen Warnock’s all-action showing suggested that his troubles under Houllier are behind him.
Charles N’Zogbia – Still yet to show any kind of sign that he will go on to justify his £9.5 million fee, and raising concern over how little he appears to care about it. The French winger has always been inconsistent, prone to bouts of brilliance and anonymity alike, but there is something worrying about the way moves seem to break down once he gets on the ball. Perhaps a home game against his old side on Saturday will serve as the kick up the jacksy he needs but if there is no sign of improvement then he should be dropped.
James Collins – Always looked to hit it long and made a mistake that led to QPR’s last-gasp equaliser. The former West Ham United man is a similarly last-ditch defender to Dunne but he has been nowhere near as effective as his partner as of late. The return to full training of Carlos Cuellar as a timely one as his presence alongside Dunne would, one for imagine, make for a better blend at the back.
Fabian Delph – The 21 year-old is still relatively inexperienced at the top level and it showed yesterday with some poor distribution. Questions over his suitability for the defensive midfield position have been raised, with some suggesting that he is too lightweight to play in the position for which he is so clearly being groomed. Could well end up making way for Jermaine Jenas, or even young Gary Gardner, if he fails to show more than he has done so far this season, although he turned in a better second half performance when he was allowed more license to roam.
Marc Albrighton – Chose to shoot when he should have played in Andreas Weimann, and generally failed in his twenty-odd minutes as a substitute to show anything to suggest that he’s out of his recent slump. Too early to write him off as another Steven Davis but seems bereft of confidence at the moment. Still, does he deserve bench time any more than N’Zogbia?
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