Anxiety Villa, Set Piece Show-offs and Passive Aggressive Managers

The Good, Bad and Ugly of an Average Aston Villa Week

You can tell how well Aston Villa’s week has gone by how long it takes me to get the GBU out. I had to wait for a bit this week…

The Good

There’s been moments of good this week. Ollie Watkins’ finish against Crystal Palace, was the finish of a striker acting on instinct, it’s a pity the rest of his week wasn’t as clinical.

There was also a win in the League Cup against a spirited Bolton Wanderers to enjoy. Granted the first half was dire, but when Villa could shake off their anxiety, they performed the way a Premier League team should against League One opposition.

If it hadn’t been for the performances against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, it would have been a routine win. But Aston Villa are anything but routine currently.

Villan of the Week – Douglas Luiz

Despite flopping on his face in the build-up to the Bolton goal, the divisive Brazilian was probably the pick of the bunch this week, due to his spectacular goal from a corner against the Wanderers.

Despite many, including myself, dismissing the goal as just ‘putting the ball on top of the keeper’, as he did against Walsall, a training video from Aston Villa showed that it was a set piece that they worked on.

Douglas Luiz’s Direct Corner Goal.

Fancy that, a set piece that worked…Big up Nanny MacPhee.

The Bad

Where on earth do you start with the defence and midfield in the Crystal Palace game? Anxiety Villa, might become a phrase, because everything, at present, is being conducted as if a gun is held to the players’ heads.

Heavy touches, idiotic decisions and a complete lack of spatial awareness on the pitch can only lead to disaster, and Crystal Palace exploited this without breaking a sweat.

Villa are too wide, not talking to each other, not working in pairs or units, and resemble training dummies without the ball.

With the ball, they still make a decent amount of chances. Against Palace, Buendia, Bailey, Coutinho, Ings and Watkins could have added to Villa’s goal and perhaps changed the game.

They didn’t and even if they had, it wouldn’t have been deserved as Eze, Zaha and the rest of a well-drilled Crystal Palace team, simply made the right decisions in possession and moved the ball into the gaping chasms of space between Villa players.

Villa need to tighten up, smarten up, and in general calm down before things turn really bad.

The Ugly

When Steven Gerrard came in, he said he wanted to create a “no excuses culture”. Well, the time for talk should be over, instead, we have this weird combination of a no-nonsense manager, who acts nonsensically.

The best example is any time he is asked about Emi Buendia.

In a bizarre response, when asked about Bunedia’s starring role against Everton, he proceeded to talk about Leon Bailey.

It’s not dissimilar to how Gareth Southgate spoke about Mason Mount, when he was asked about Jack Grealish not starting for England.

It progressed a stage further after the Bolton game, when Gerrard singled out a simple pass from the misfiring Philippe Coutinho to Danny Ings, that led to Villa’s crucial second goal.

In honesty it was a pass he should have made in the first half but messed it up. Someone of Coutinho’s quality should be threading simple balls into space without effort.

It certainly doesn’t dismiss the theory that Gerrard has his favourites in the Villa squad. But worse, you know he’s under pressure and getting angry.

This is the same Gerrard that was sent off against Manchester United after 38 seconds in 2015. He’s got a temper but now he’s off the pitch, it’s coming out in more passive-aggressive ways.

The ‘look me in the eye’ comment about Mings, the agitation with the press, the bizarre refusals to answer simple questions and the sulking in his dugout.

I’m not for one minute suggesting there is anything wrong with having a temper and being competitive, yet when it starts to cloud your judgement and lead to stubbornness in team selection and an unwillingness to accept another point of view, everyone suffers.

Steven Gerrard has shown, that he can manage a team and get the basics right. Especially before Christmas last season. If he’s too stubborn now, to combine some of those qualities, with his philosophy, then it’ll be an ugly end with no excuses.


Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame

Phil appears on the latest MOMS Podcast


  1. A bit early to talk about getting rid of SG this early! It took Klopp about 3 seasons (6 windows) to get Liverpool playing the way he wanted and to get rid of the dead-wood.

    The players need to show more hunger and know that their places in the team are not guaranteed. They’ve got to fight for their spot. We don’t need no Johnny Big Bollocks regardless of transfer fee paid or wages.

    The new CGI images of Villa Park / Villa Live building / North Stand look quality. NSWE are moving us in the right direction. Apart from the money no-object owners (Man City & Newcastle), I can’t think of too many that we would want to swap with. You only have to look at Man Utd, Small Heath, Coventry etc for terrible owners. I think the owners and Purslow know where they want to get the club to. There may be the odd hiccup along the way.

    I think the long-term aim is to create a “football group” in a similar way to what Man City have done although probably not on the same scale. Villa’s profile should be raised further once they get their MLS franchise (Las Vegas Villans) up and running. A sister (or feeder) club in the USA.

    I saw that avfc.COM is listed for sale. I wonder if NSWE will invest? .COM makes a lot of sense if they are gonna build a global brand for Villa. .COM is known all across the world in every country. .CO.UK less so. Even Small Heath, Leicester etc are .COM!

    I’m a little surprised that Nassef Sawiris hasn’t used his connections more with regard to Villa. He is part owner of Adidas and I thought we would be in Adidas kit by now rather than Castore. Same applies to building the Villa fan base in Egypt / Middle East. A pre-season tour or a winter break training camp out there would raise the Villa profile.

    Anyway, good article.

  2. Personally am a little reluctant to give much credit to a set piece coach who’s best answer to the corner is “go for goal”. Luiz has always been able to hit a dead ball well, saw it when he arrived. And now every goalkeeper will be aware of that, plus with a man on the line (which is less popular these days admittedly) the chance of success of an Olympic goal is lessened. Still though it impressed me when he scored.

    Tactics are as stated above, shambolic. Beale leaving has been spun into the insignificant by the club, but it isn’t. The current manager doesn’t trust his squad. And temper, well it’s almost allowed in a three year old but they would still face some punishment. In a grown man it’s unnacceptable, we as men should be above that infantile emotion Mr. Manager.

    As for passive aggressive, it’s a shame but this is one of the behaviour patterns I see in the UK too often. If I return this will be one of many issues I will have to overcome. Definate sign the current Aston Villa manager is feeling the heat at least.

    Will for sure be watching the home crowd this weekend to get a feel of the mood. To all of you going wish you a safe and great time, with a win to celebrate for the rest of the day. (There’s more hope in the last part than expectation it should be noted)

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