Aston Villa's stuttering start creates new problems for Sherwood

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A second disappointing defeat in a row for Aston Villa. Sadly that has become something that many Villa fans have become accustomed to.

The defeat to Crystal Palace for Villa away at Selhurst Park follows the home defeat to Manchester United a week earlier. Here, we take a look at some of the important Villa lessons we learned from Saturday's Premier League match. 

The Good

The return of Jack Grealish.

Many fans will agree Villa have lacked a creative force going forward in the first two games against Bournemouth and Manchester United. Up stepped Jack Grealish, back in the squad for the first time since picking up an injury in pre-season.


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And boy was he a breath of fresh air going forward. His menacing runs and skillful use of the ball caused problem all day for the Palace defence. Sadly, Villa failed to find a finishing edge in the final third.

 The debut of Adama Traore.

Dear Premier League, meet Adama.

One substitute appearance, one run, one goal. More or less. Granted, it was an own goal but it was Traore's explosive introduction and dangerous run which led to it. For the brief 20 or so minutes Traore was on the field, he tormented and tore the Crystal Palace defence apart.

Just ask Pape Souare, the Palace left back who scored the own goal and picked up a yellow card after being forced into a panicky challenge to deal with Traore's pure talent. 

The Bad

Time runs out for Gabby Agbonlahor.

A terrible pass from deep by the Crystal Palace defence is intercepted by the impressive Ashley Westwood, who plays an immaculate pass through to Agbonlahor, his blistering pace left everyone else in the dust. Now through on goal and put into a one-on-one situation, he shoots...but it was a tame effort. 

Many Villa fans have become increasingly impatient with the club legend's rapidly declining form (and to some extent, significance) but his performance on Saturday against Crystal Palace may just prove to be the final straw.

Unable to connect with any of Rudy Gestede's knock ons and an inability to provide a cutting edge in attack, Gabby looked as lost and confused as he'd been for the last couple of seasons. His inability to convert the opportunity mentioned in the paragraph above sums up his form at the moment. 

Though I am myself a Gabby fan, I too believe that it would do him and the club a world of good if Sherwood dropped him to the bench in the next match and started Scott Sinclair or new signing Jordan Ayew. 

The Eternally Mind Boggling

Tim Sherwood's substitutions

There have been many critics of Sherwood's lack of tactical prowess and that somewhat showed in the manner he used the substitutions on Saturday. Taking off Carlos Sanchez, who was by far the best Aston Villa player on the pitch, proved costly as Crystal Palace soon won themselves a corner with which they opened the scoring. 

However, personally, I do admit that I could see the reasoning behind the substitution. At that point, Crystal Palace were on the up and increasingly pushing forward with relentless guile. With a starting midfield three of Westwood, Sanchez and new boy Idrissa Gueye, Sherwood might have been forgiven to believe that switching out one of the three defensive minded midfielders for the more attacking Adama Traore would have been a good idea. And depending on how you look at it, the decision eventually paid dividends with Adama's run forcing an equaliser for Villa. 

So the question remains: was it a stroke of masterclass tactics by Tim that were ruined by an individual error in the end? Or was it straight up shambolic decision making by the gaffer?

Despite all that's been said however, the future (at this point in time) remains bright for Aston Villa, especially with Carles Gil on the brink of a return to first team football.

If Sherwood could somehow play Grealish, Traore and Gil in the same team, Villa might just find more joy going forward. And once the newer members of the squad gel and Gabby gets himself sorted, who knows what Villa might be capable of? 

But for now, it's Notts County next for Villa in the Capital One Cup and it will be interesting to see if Sherwood's addressed some of these issues by then.

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Gabriel Agbonlahor
Aston Villa
Premier League

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