Monday evening’s lone Championship fixture saw Newcastle return to the table’s summit with a 2-0 home victory over Aston Villa.
The visiting side have been struggling all season. Despite being relegated with Newcastle last year they are nearer the basement of the division; with around half of their opponent’s current point tally.
Here are three things we learnt from a tense 90 minutes…
Aston Villa can’t defend corners
Steve Bruce’s team had comfortably matched Rafael Benitez’s men throughout a dull first half. Before scoring in the 42nd minute Newcastle hadn’t mustered a shot on target.
Villa hadn’t tested Darlow either, but were close to reaching half-time level, and had increased frustration levels inside an anxious St James’ park.
The visitors’ promising performance was thrown away when switching off before a corner, which Matt Ritchie took short. Jonjo Shelvey returned the ball to Ritchie, who launched it into the area. Aleksandar Mitrovic kept the attack alive between two failed clearances from Mile Jedinak, before Yoan Gouffran stabbed the ball home.
The 2nd goal was another example of how not to defend set pieces. Newcastle played a corner towards the near post, which Henri Lansbury cleared for a second corner. Somehow Shelvey was allowed to play an almost identical corner, without Villa defenders reacting. Captain Jamaal Lascelles sent the ball towards goal and, what should have been a routine block on the post by Lansbury, became a comical own-goal off the woodwork.
Birkir Bjarnason highlights Steve Bruce error by shackling Messi and co
The Icelandic midfielder put in an exceptional performance at the World Cup this weekend.
Two years ago saw Iceland midfielder Birkir Bjarnason first come to Europe’s attention with some excellent performances in the European Championships. Now, he is doing the same thing on the world stage.
The 30-year-old midfielder put in an exceptional performance for his country this weekend as they drew 1-1 with Argentina. He delivered a brilliant man-marking exercise on Lionel Messi which kept the Barcelona hero quiet for much of the 90 minutes.
The Aston Villa star was the talk of Twitter with his crunching challenges and relentless pressure telling on the Argentina superstars. Pictures comparing him to Thor abounded.
What this performance also showed is how big a mistake Aston Villa boss Steve Bruce made in the Championship play-off final.
Bjarnason was left on the bench by Bruce for the biggest game of Villa’s season. Bjarnason is a big game player. He has played in the Champions League and Europa League with Basel and in numerous crunch fixtures with Iceland. Leaving a player of this magnitude on the bench v Fulham was a massive error and it was highlighted yesterday afternoon as he shackled the Albiceleste.
Bjarnason turned his Villa career around after nearly leaving in January and wants to stay next season, despite the play-off snub. However, with the World Cup a massive showcase more performances like this will see him hit the radar of other teams.
Given Aston Villa’s current financial situation a handsome offer for the midfielder would be accepted.
But if not, ‘Thor’ could play a huge role in keeping Aston Villa competitive next season.
Jack Grealish could become next Dele Alli at Tottenham under Mauricio Pochettino
Tottenham are in pursuit of the Championship talent.
Tottenham Hotspur are said to have offered £15 million for Aston Villa’s midfield prodigy Jack Grealish this week, according reports from Sky Sports, and the Englishman would be well equipped for success under Mauricio Pochettino.
The club are said to be vying for another attacking talent to improve the supply line for Harry Kane, but many were surprised by Spurs’ decision to venture into the lower divisions in search of talent.
However, Pochettino has made a name for himself with developing young players, last time notably producing the Tottenham and England regular we all rave about today, Dele Alli.
The Argentine delved into League One for the first time in six years to secure the midfielder’s signature from MK Dons in 2015, and it’s safe to say he made a brilliant decision three-years on.
Grealish is clearly developing year by year, and his time in the Championship has improved his game significantly. In-fact, Villa have won 58% of games that the 22-year-old started, compared to 48% without.
He models his game around creating openings for teammates in the final third, which is why Pochettino and co are so interested this summer. His 83.7% pass succession in the opposition half was among the best in the division, bettering the likes of Championship Player of the Season, Ryan Sessegnon.
It’s evident from his natural ability, and confidence in possession that Grealish has an incredible amount of potential, and if one man is capable of unlocking it, it’s Pochettino.
The Argentine has a knack for developing players in their ideal positions, accommodating them in the right tactical set-up with the right teammates around them, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Grealish in the starting lineup for both club and country three years down the line should he join.
Financially the deal is also a bonus, as other attacking targets are being touted for fees far in excess of £18 million and Grealish could be considered a bargain in the near future.
Aston Villa should accept Jack Grealish offer, if Cameron Carter-Vickers comes the other way
Aston Villa may have to sell their star man this summer but should bring in an exchange player to build on.
It is being reported that Tottenham Hotspur are set to offer Aston Villa a £15 million take-it-or-leave-it offer for their star playmaker Jack Grealish. The Sun claims Daniel Levy is ready to test the financial worries at Villa Park, by making the move as a one-time offer.
Of course, Villa were hoping for much more in the sale of Grealish. Their star young talent, previous reports have put his asking price at around £40 million.
But considering their current financial woes, it will be hard for Villa not to accept the bid. However, given their current situation, Aston Villa should only accept a £15 million bid on one condition. It involves the addition of a player into the Tottenham deal as an exchange.
The player in question is Cameron Carter-Vickers. The American talent had two loan spells in the Championship last term, with Sheffield United and Ipswich Town. His future at Spurs once looked promising, but whether he has a long-term Spurs career now seems to be up in the air.
Aston Villa need a new centre-back. With John Terry and Chris Samba leaving, James Chester’s future in doubt and Axel Tuanzebe’s loan move finishing only the injured and out-of-favour Tommy Elphick remains.
Bringing in a player like Carter-Vickers would be one step toward the club’s rebuilding process. His wages would be manageable and he would fill a definite hole in the team.
Letting Grealish go is going to be hard for Aston Villa. Judging by recent reports, it seems the club is in serious financial peril. Eventually, the playmaker has to go and if they can get £15 million and a player to build the future on, it is a deal they might have to snap up.
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