ESPN FC pundit and former footballer Craig Burley has indirectly blamed Aston Villa manager Dean Smith for selecting Danny Drinkwater in their heavy defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.
Drinkwater was responsible for City’s second goal in the 6-1 drubbing as he failed to deal with the ball in his own penalty area and allowed Riyad Mahrez to instantly punish the on-loan Chelsea midfielder for his error. However, speaking on ESPN FC, Burley had sympathy for Drinkwater, claiming that he was clearly not fully fit and criticised the decision to start him against the champions.
He said: “It’s not his fault. It’s tough – he was thrown in, he’s hardly played any football. He’s been on loan, he wasn’t wanted at Chelsea, then he was at Burnley hardly getting any game time, he’s not fit and he’s in against Man City.
“It’s tough to do that. He looked a little foolish and that can happen. From his perspective, I don’t really blame the player. In fact, I would blame the management [for] putting him in. Sometimes you just have one of those days.”
With Villa facing a desperate fight to stay in the top division, their signing of Drinkwater on loan until the end of the season was indeed a sign of striving to replenish the squad in order to survive.
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Perhaps we will only see if Drinkwater’s error was a one-off in the weeks and months to come, though Burley is arguably reasoned in sympathising with the midfielder, who only had 59 minutes of Premier League action to his name prior to Sunday. To expect Drinkwater to hit the ground running and deliver a masterclass against Manchester City sounds like a pretty big ask, especially for a team that need points after dropping into the bottom three at the weekend.
Considering all the troubles Drinkwater has had off the pitch this season, it could be argued that such an error-strewn display wasn’t much of a surprise, though given Villa need all the points they can get to stay up, maybe his inclusion at the weekend was simply a gamble that massively backfired.
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