Charles N’Zogbia’s exquisite second-half free-kick proved decisive as Aston Villa recorded a hard-fought victory over West Ham United in Sunday’s Premier League tie.
Christian Benteke’s assured penalty had given Paul Lambert’s side the lead after N’Zogbia’s incisive run was halted by Mark Noble.
Sam Allardyce’s side were given a lifeline after Ashley Westwood’s late own-goal, however the hosts stood firm during a tense finish to record their first league victory in eight attempts.
The FA’s Peter Glynn takes a look at Aston Villa’s prospects for survival.
The sense of relief that greeted Sunday’s final whistle at Villa Park said much about Aston Villa’s current plight.
Wins have been scarce for Paul Lambert’s side and with West Ham’s own form riddled with inconsistency this tie had a pivotal feel for the hosts.
After high-profile cup exits at the hands of Bradford City and Millwall, and an extended winless league run, Lambert has cut an embattled figure.
And although this game will not be filed as a thriller, the Scot should be lifted by the determination and resilience demonstrated. Similar vitality will be essential between now and May.
Creative talent can be treated with suspicion when there is a belief that hard work and graft will provide an escape route. However, in N’Zogbia, Lambert has a sparkle of match-winning talent that may prove vital as Villa plot a course away from the mire of the relegation zone.
The former Newcastle and Wigan Athletic attacker, who was brought to Villa Park for £9.5 million in 2011, was handed a brief to support Benteke from withdrawn positions both centrally and wide. And it was his incision from the right-hand side which altered the balance of this tie.
Here's a practice from The FA's Future Game Philosophy which helps young players develop their ability to make supporting runs:
Wide players who can float inside from wide positions and flash shots and crosses across goal are now a common feature of the modern game, and it was with this method that N’Zogbia came closest to opening the scoring with just over 16 minutes left.
Skipping in from the right, the winger unleashed a rasping left-footd drive which arrowed inches wide of Brad Guzan’s right-hand post.
It proved a warning for what was to follow. Moments later N’Zogbia was again slaloming in from his station on the right of Villa’s attack, only to be halted by the recovering Noble. Benteke clinically finished from 18 yards to open the scoring.
Encouraging wingers to attack an opponent on their inside can, at times, expose defensive weakness. Some full-backs are stronger tackling with their outside foot meaning attackers cutting across opponents can lead to fouls being conceded.
Here's a practice from The FA's Future Game Philosophy which helps young players develop their ability to attack from wide areas:
Minutes after Benteke’s opener, N’Zogbia was given the opportunity to demonstrate another impressive tool in his attacking weaponry. From a free-kick on the edge of the visitors’ box, the French attacker left Hammers’ goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen on his knees as he curled an exquisite left-footed effort into the roof of the visitors’ net.
At this point, it would be unfair to say that the hosts had dominated the tie and Sam Allardyce’s side can count themselves unfortunate not to have taken more from the game. The Hammers started the second-half with greater dynamism and saw a collection of efforts repelled, blocked and collected by Guzan.
Much of the battle was played out in midfield areas and N’Zogbia’s attacking contribution was made possible by the tireless work of Villa’s central duo of Fabian Delph and Westwood.
Neither of Villa’s pairing can be considered physically imposing, but they competed manfully against the visitors' midfield arrangement which regularly included any three of Noble, the impressive Mohamed Diame, Joe Cole or Kevin Nolan.
Where Delph impressed with his close control and ability to wriggle away from opponents, Westwood stood out with his ability to predict and react to second-balls in midfield. The pair proved complementary as they went about their afternoon’s work.
The contributions of Villa’s Delph and West Ham’s Diame underlined the benefit of unleashing attacking thrust from central areas.
Traditionally, young players are encouraged to dribble in wide areas and to move the ball quickly using one or two touches when in central positions.
A central midfield player who can beat players by running with the ball can often prove a surprise to the opposition by opening up important areas of the pitch in the attacking phase. Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere is a perfect exponent of the art.
Here's a practice from The FA's Future Game Philosophy which helps young players develop their ability to attack from central midfield:
West Ham were given a glimmer of an equaliser when Westwood inadvertently deflected Joe Cole’s speculative cross beyond Guzan with minutes remaining.
And although substitute Carlton Cole and Nolan both had late efforts repelled, N’Zogbia’s earlier decisiveness proved enough to help Villa begin to tip-toe away from the bottom three.
Advice for grassroots coaches
- Young players should be encouraged to develop their technical ability to dominate in one versus one situations, possessing a variety of tricks, feints and changes of pace to beat a marker.
- Attacking players should be encouraged to dribble at defenders in and around the penalty box, increasing the opportunity to win penalties and attacking free-kicks.
- Young players must be comfortable attacking opponents on both sides – having the ability to shoot, cross and dribble with both feet. Players with these attributes can create indecision in the mind of the defender who is uncertain as to which way to show an attacker.
- Young midfield players should be encouraged to dribble and run with the ball in central as well as wide areas.
Peter Glynn is the Editorial Manager at St. George's Park and editor of The Boot Room, The FA's Coaching Magazine. Peter is a journalist and has been with The Football Association for five years and holds the UEFA B Licence and The FA Youth Awards 1 and 2.
The Future Game Tactics Column takes a weekly look at the evolution of the modern game, linking to practices from The FA's Future Game philosophy and providing advice and tips for grassroots coaches.
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