Aston Villa in Pole Position as Relegation Battle Goes Down to the Wire

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Villa in Pole Positon

Since a 3-1 defeat at home to Southampton put them in the bottom three for Christmas Day, Aston Villa have been no strangers to the relegation zone. For every occasional win that saw them bob their head above the cut-off line, there was a thumping defeat to submerge them back into deep trouble.

After managing to escape the drop zone at the start of the year during a run of three defeats, due to the ineffectiveness of their relegation rivals, a fourth loss, a 4-0 defeat to Leicester City, the last Premier League game before the lockdown, left them occupying the relegation zone berth for months.

Once project restart began it seemed that Villa were suck in quicksand and despite improving defensively, lacked any attacking bite to fire themselves out of danger.

After Everton’s late equaliser against Villa at Goodison Park, Villa were seemingly in need of a miracle or two during in the run-in, but the football gods seem surprisingly willing to grant them.

Watford sacking Nigel Pearson with two games to go was an astonishing self-destructive move that signalled to Villa supporters, that the fight for survival might not yet be over. Then little moments that allowed Villa to go into the last game of the season with a favourable goal difference to their rivals happened – not only did Bournemouth see VAR chalk off their injury-time equaliser to Southampton, but then saw the visitors go down the other end to make it 2-0 with seconds to go. Soon after, Manchester City served up a made-to-measure 4-0 win over Watford.

Still, Villa had to take matters into their own hands.

Smith’s Resolve

Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Arsenal was perhaps Dean Smith’s finest moment as Villa’s Head Coach. With others capitulating around them, it was a win that sprung Villa out of the relegation zone at the perfect time. While the restart has felt at times to be a slow burn case of sleepwalking into relegation, Smith kept his squad game and worked relentlessly to get results out of them.

Judging from his team’s efforts earlier in the season, half the battle, would be ironing out the mistakes. While Villa have still made the odd key mistake, they haven’t been costly. Defensively, the team is a lot more sound from better organisation and the emergence of Douglas Luiz shielding and covering it.

Despite a potential morale breaking three consecutive loses to Wolves, Liverpool and Manchester United during the restart period, Smith has found a resolve to keep his players focused and their belief up. The win at Villa Park against the North Londoners and the manner of its execution (Arsenal didn’t register a single shot on target), says a lot about how Smith has managed to put Villa in pole position in the relegation fight now.

They face a tough test against a resurgent West Ham team, and if Villa go down, it will be largely down to ills earlier on in the season.

With the Hammers now safe, after being in serious danger themselves, will they be motivated against Villa?

It matters not, as there’s a pragmatism about Villa now, that you certainly wouldn’t bet against.

In the new bumper episode 110 of the My Old Man Said podcast, the MOMS team discuss the happenings at Villa Park against Arsenal in detail. How Dean Smith managed the victory in-game and the main influences on the game.

We also look at the specific contributions of Douglas Luis, Jack Grealish, Frederick Guilbert and Ezri Konsa. Before discussing the survival picture and what could happen on the last day.


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Episode 110 Notes

Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Arsenal was perhaps Dean Smith’s finest moment so far, as Villa’s Head Coach. With others capitulating around them, it was a win that sprung Villa out of the relegation zone at the perfect time. Now, can they finish the job?

The MOMS team discuss the happenings at Villa Park on Tuesday night and the major players in the vital win, then we discuss the survival picture and what could happen on the last day.

We also look at Watford’s suicide mission in sacking Nigel Pearson two games out, Coventry’s search for a new home and actresses Natalie Portman and Jessica Chastian’s (and friends) football project in Los Angeles.

In Overrated or Underrated? We look back at former Villans Mark Delaney and Charles N’Zogbia.

One game to go folks. Fingers crossed!

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David Michael – @oldmansaid 

Chris Budd – @BUDD_music

Dan Rodgers – @avfc_vilr

Edited/Produced by David Michael


  1. Absolutely agree take it to them from the off, and work on the basis if we can’t win don’t loose so our defence needs to stay focused. Not bothered about Elmo yes a decent crosser but Guilbert is for me a better player faster and stronger so a good replacement. We all know too well our problems are up front but would start Davis and I thing McGinn is due a goal and not my personal favourite but ElGhazi could come on at some stage. I’m hoping we can score two or possibly three goals then with 5 to play go deep. It’s going to be a trial for us fans but it’s all to play for all we can do is hope.

  2. No Elmo for this game but Guilbert is fit as he showed mid week ‘ Think the only real issue is a striker who can score Samatta I’ve no faith in , Despite his miss mid week Davis looks vastly improved but will he get those goals not really seen Vassilev so nothing to go on . Alternatively El Ghazi ‘s secondary position is striker & on a good day can get in the box & score

  3. All 3 clubs want the same on Sunday, firstly a win and 3 points and hopefully the other games to go in their favour we have seen the best and worst from all 3, the best surprisingly in the past three weeks. We have seen our team play really well and win only to follow that up with a pants display, but as I said before the Arsenal game I thought they would all turn up which they did and I agree with Colin suddenly most of the team have stepped up a gear, if only our forwards could do the same. In looking back over the season, one has to accept that we had a massive team building necessity, were not helped by injuries to key players throughout, a lack of concentration in the dying minutes thereby losing games from a winning position and many other individual or VAR!!! errors. But we are still there and need one more massive performance to survive, please, please don’t drop off and attempt to win from our own penalty area, let’s take the game to them play with confidence and deservedly stay up, But I would accept an ugly win. UTV

  4. I wouldn’t have thought it possible but we have improved massively and at least half to the team have taken it to another level, so much so that we can now compete with anyone I’m going to give my personal opinion and I believe we will win at West Ham and I t will be enough to see us through. I seriously can’t see Watford taking anything against Arsenal and I also think Bournemouth will be hard pressed to beat Everton so my prediction for them would be at best a draw. There we are then no guarantees but that’s how I see it panning out. Come on lads no time for complacency stay focussed you’re on a roll, keep it going and don’t let us down.

  5. we can win and still go down. If everton and Arsenal do not do the business and the final day is always a nightmare.As Adrian Chiles said, its the hope that kills you. We must hope and pray, even if we don’t believe in gods of football. Watford and Bournemouth have nothing to lose. the one certainty – Villa have to perform.

    It will be a tense day like no other

    trevor fisher

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