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As frustrating as it may have been, there was a lot to like about the way Aston Villa played against West Brom on Sunday.
Brad Guzan: Really couldn't do anything to stop Shane Long's goal, made a few good stops, was his typical, commanding self. Very glad to see that he kept his place after letting in 4 against Southampton.
Matthew Lowton: Did what he needed to do defensively for the most part, but was missing in action on a counter or two. Was a bit less effective going forward than in past games. Still, it says a lot about how good Lowton has been that such a solid performance would be considered a bit below par.
Ron Vlaar: Hard to fault Vlaar for his clearance that went straight to Shane Long and into the net, but was out of position in the earlier stages of the move to give the West Brom striker a lane. Still, it was the only real mistake Vlaar made on the day and was his usual dominant self the rest of the game. Also made a pretty fancy attacking run, and centerbacks making attacking runs is one of my favorite things ever.
Ciaran Clark: Shares a similar amount of blame as Vlaar for West Brom's goal, but was just as solid the rest of the day. Also committed the greatest foul of all time, basically tossing James Morrisson to the ground like a sack of flour.
Joe Bennett: Once again, the kid looked good. Doesn't look quite as solid as Eric Lichaj defensively but would appear to provide a significant upgrade in the attack. Went quite close with a free kick from a very tough angle, which was surprising and encouraging to see. Paul Lambert seems to know how to spot a decent young fullback.
Karim El Ahmadi: I'm pretty close to registering IsKarimElAhmadiStillBossingTheHellOutOfTheMidfield.com.
Fabian Delph: I think I might be beginning to come around to the idea of Delph in a double pivot in games that call for one. It's a surprise, but the kid has shown some real promise this season. Nothing spectacular, but that role doesn't necessarily call for anything spectacular. As a destroyer and a pressure-release valve, Delph looks good.
Marc Albrighton: Seeing Marc play so well in this game just warmed my heart. He is so loveable, and I don't think there's anyone I want to see succeed more than him. He had a really good game, and while that's not proof that he's taken a step forward or anything, it made me really happy.
Gabby Agbonlahor: Not as effective in this game as he was against Manchester City, but still put in a good shift. Gabby is so, so dangerous in that free role behind the striker, and I'm going to be torn once Ireland returns from injury.
Brett Holman: Arguably Villa's best attacking player on the day. Holman has been a bit up-and-down this year, but when he's on his game he's pretty dangerous. Holman's strengths are in his positional awareness, ability to read the game, and tireless motor; if those three things are combined effectively, he's going to be tough to handle.
Christian Benteke: This was the first below-par performance from the big man, but even on a day that he was clearly off his game he was a handful for West Brom's central defenders. When you're as big, strong, and fast as Benteke, you can have a rough day and still cause problems. Still, might have played himself out of the starting XI against Spurs.
Darren Bent: Scored the equalizer, very nearly scored the winner. Not much more you can ask for.
Barry Bannan: Didn't have the time to make a huge impact, but did well while he was on the pitch. With all of the competition for places in the midfield he's not going to start every game, but he's clearly an important player for this team.
Charles N'Zogbia: Looked lively after coming on, right on the heels of an excellent performance against City. If he's turning the corner, wow is that ever neat.