Five things learned from Aston Villa's defeat to Crystal Palace

Aston Villa

A late strike from Bakary Sako saw Tim Sherwood's side fall to a 2-1 loss in Saturday's clash at Selhurst Park.

No summer hangover for Grealish

If fans had any concerns about Jack Grealish suffering from the dreaded second season syndrome after his ‘eventful’ summer, Saturday’s performance seemed to suggest that they need not worry.

Starting at the tip of the midfield diamond, the fit-again 19-year-old picked up right where he left off last term, looking like Villa’s main attacking threat with his precise passing, direct running and excellent movement in the attacking third.

He may not have been able to inspire his boyhood club to the result they wanted on the afternoon but, after a thoroughly encouraging season debut, it looks like the claret and blue faithful can look forward to him taking another big step forward this season.

Traore shows his promise on debut

Saturday’s 2-1 defeat also marked the arrival of Villa’s latest teenage sensation, and he managed to make quite an impression too.

After playing 90 minutes in Monday’s Under-21s match against Derby County, new boy Adama Traore was named among the substitutes at Selhust Park and, within eight minutes of his 69th-minute introduction for Carlos Sanchez, showcased the talent that saw him labelled one of Barcelona’s top prospects.

Embarking on a marauding run from the half-way line, the 19-year-old winger blazed past two Palace defenders before forcing Pape Souare to deflect his shot into his own net for the equaliser.

Tim Sherwood had suggested on Friday that the £7 million man may not be involved as much in the first-team to begin with as some are expecting but, if his Premier League debut was anything to go by, then it’s going to be very hard for the Villa boss to keep him on the sidelines.

But Gabby shows the end may be near

With every game, it’s getting harder and harder to defend Gabby Agbonlahor.

After struggling through Villa’s opening two games of the season, the long-serving striker was once again off the boil in the match at Selhurst Park, missing a glaring first-half chance and otherwise proving a virtual passenger.

How he wasn’t substituted on the afternoon is a mystery, but it’s even more puzzling why he’s still starting at this point given both his form and the other options at Sherwood’s disposal.

The 28-year-old front man simply looks bereft of confidence at the moment and, considering it’s been five years since he last scored more than 10 goals in a Premier League campaign, you have to wonder whether the dynamic Gabby of old is now gone for good.

Another goalscorer, please

Though you’d have argued that Villa needed to bring in another striker even before Agbonlahor’s poor start to the season, his recent displays have certainly highlighted how much Sherwood’s side is lacking in the goalscoring department.

While it’s obviously hoped that the likes of Grealish, Traore, Rudy Gestede, Carles Gil, Jordan Ayew, Scott Sinclair and Libor Kozak will all chip in with a few over the course of the season, none of them have a proven top-flight track record and, if there’s one thing Christian Benteke proved during his spell at Villa Park, it’s that a bottom-half side needs an established finisher to survive.

Finding such a player at this point in the transfer window isn’t going to be easy but, with Queens Park Rangers hitman Charlie Austin still on the market, Sherwood should be doing all he can to try to convince Randy Lerner to get his chequebook out again.

No shame in the result

At the same time, let's step back and take a look at Saturday's result from the bigger picture.

Villa fans are understandably frustrated after a second straight defeat but it’s important to stress that a narrow loss at Palace, who some think could sneak a European spot this season, is far from a disaster for a team that finished in 17th-place last term.

After all the comings and goings at the club over the summer, it was always going to take time for Sherwood’s new look side to gel and their performance at Selhurst Park was not without positives thanks to Grealish and Traore in particular.

Losing in either Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup clash with Notts County or next weekend’s home game against Sunderland would rightfully set alarm bells ringing but, for now, supporters shouldn’t be panicking – especially if more reinforcements arrive.

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