Former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given is widely considered to be one of the top five goalkeepers in the Premier League era, and Paul Lambert took a big risk so early into his managerial reign at Aston Villa by dropping the Irishman and replacing him with a man who few outside the West Midlands or the USA had heard of – Brad Guzan. But the 28 year-old has been superb in between the sticks for the Villains. He marvelously denied Wes Hoolahan minutes before Christian Benteke opened the scoring and he also denied the Irish midfielder in the second half when the Canaries were putting hosts under serious pressure before brilliantly stopping Grant Holt from levelling. There was little he could do about Michael Turner’s inevitable equaliser, but he was Villa’s best player against Fulham last week and was superb again on Saturday. It really isn’t a given that Shay will start now Guzan’s playing so well.
Aston Villa’s Joe Bennett will look back at Saturday’s game with very few fond memories. The youngster was given a torrid time by his Norwich namesake and was dismissed for two careless bookings for a succession of fouls on the Norwich City winger. He is young and learning the game, but at 22, there is no excuse for his second booking. Needlessly tugging at Elliott Bennett and in doing so he gave Chris Hughton’s side a real lift after they started the second period sluggishly. His poor error of judgement swung the game Norwich’s way and the right-back will have to learn from this experience – he cannot afford to make such errors again if he wants a long-term stay in Lambert’s side.
There was once a time, not too long ago, when Aston Villa were talked about potentially gate-crashing the top four, now they will probably settle for finishing outside the bottom four. Lambert’s men were poor and if they replicate Saturday’s performance against most teams in the top flight, they will be punished. Villa and Norwich will both be embroiled in a relegation battle until the last few games of the season if this display is anything to go by. Villa lack any intensity or ideas going forward, whereas City’s defence looked weak and a better side would not have conceded Benteke’s goal – the marking was atrocious. Having beaten Arsenal last week, Norwich would have travelled to face their old boss in buoyant mood and will be the happier of the two with a draw which did not look likely at the break. It was not until Robert Snodgrass came on and Joe Bennett was red carded that they really took the game by the scruff of the neck and managed to dominate the hosts.
If Lambert is going to start one striker at home to Norwich then he will probably avoid using two strikers against most Premier League teams. His preference seems to be Benteke and Darren Bent and even though the Belgian got the opener, Bent should be playing every minute possible for Aston Villa. The 21-yearold’s finish was decent but there is no way Bent would not have scored it – the England striker has an impressive 22 goals in 47 starts for the Midlands side. He came on for Benteke with 21 minutes to go and it was not long enough to get for the substitute to make an impact in the game. Bent was poor against Fulham last week but any striker would have struggled given Villa’s negative tactics – he only touched the ball 20 times in that game so there was little he could do and he deserved to start today. Lambert has made two big calls with picking Guzan over Given and Benteke ahead of Bent, he’s got the former right but certainly not the latter.
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news