Aston Villa 0 Man City 1: Lessons learned as Tevez nets the winner
Aston Villa 0 Man City 1: What lessons did we learn as Roberto Mancini's men edged to victory at Villa Park?
Defensive naivety costs Villa again
With Aston Villa enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the opening 30 minutes, Ciaran Clark’s error undermined a promising start by the home side. The Republic of Ireland international tried to spin away from the approaching Edin Dzeko but slipped and was dispossessed by the striker. With Villa’s defence out of position, the Bosnia-Herzegovina international calmly teed up Carlos Tevez, who made no mistake with his finish after jinking past Brad Guzan. Clark, who has received praise from his manager Paul Lambert in recent weeks, is clearly a talented defender who hasn’t been afforded a gentle Premier League initiation. The 23-year-old is captaining a young side, lacking in crucial top-flight experience, while also learning his trade as a defender. Aside from the mishap, Clark was comfortable handling Tevez as he produced a number of timely blocks to deny the Argentine.
Inconsistent Agbonlahor impresses against Zabaleta
If Aston Villa are to mount a successful battle to beat relegation, Lambert needs one of his most experienced Premier League stars, Gabriel Agbonlahor, to start firing. The 26-year-old averaged 11 goals a season between 2006 and 2010 but that has dropped to a disappointing four strikes in past three campaigns. It’s no surprise that his interim spell as Villa captain lasted a brief six months, with the forward failing to live up to his star billing, perhaps pining for his former team-mate Ashley Young. However, there are signs the Villa youth graduate is rediscovering his best form, albeit from a left-wing position, as he impressed against the Premier League’s best right-back, Pablo Zabaleta. He provided Villa’s only real attacking threat and was unfortunate to be punished for an innocuous challenge on Zabaleta with Agbonlahor clean through. The former Villa skipper had another chance to level when Andreas Weimann’s cross was almost glanced past Joe Hart’s near post. Lambert will need to tease the best out of his experienced striker.
Villa in big trouble now
The omens weren’t good for Villa ahead of City’s visit – the Birmingham outfit had scored just once in five Monday night matches this term. So when Tevez made the breakthrough in the 44th minute, Lambert’s men were left with a near impossible task to rescue a positive result. Christian Benteke was well-marshalled by Matija Nastasic and Kolo Toure, with one particular tussle between the Belgian and Ivorian centre-half a highlight in a game devoid of real chances. No team has scored fewer goals in the second half than Villa this season, and it’s no surprise with the lack of options from the bench to aid a struggling side. Lambert turned to Brett Holman in a bid to unlock City’s rear guard while Mancini could introduce Dzeko and Samir Nasri. Next up for Lambert’s side is back-to-back six-pointers away to Reading and Queens Park Rangers which will define Villa’s season.
Rodwell’s Man City misery continues
Jack Rodwell earned plaudits for a composed performance in a 2-0 victory over Chelsea last weekend, so it was no surprise to see Roberto Mancini stick with the young midfielder for the trip to Villa Park. The 21-year-old’s Citizens career has been hampered by a persistent hamstring injury, limiting Rodwell to 10 appearances since completing a £10m move to Etihad Stadium from Goodison Park in August. Last week, the England international revealed that he had swapped his sports car for a more comfortable jeep and moved closer to Manchester to shorten the commute to training, all in a bid to prevent the problem reoccurring. He made a bright start to City’s clash against Villa and brought the first save from Brad Guzan, with an instinctive left-footed shot. But disaster struck as the youngster massaged his left hamstring following the effort and was forced off after just 25 minutes. Rodwell’s ability is unquestioned but he needs to overcome this injury to really push on with his Premier League career. However, he can take heart from another Merseyside midfielder, Steven Gerrard, who suffered from persistent back and groin injuries in the early part of his career before going on to become one of Liverpool’s all-time greats.