The Good, Bad and Ugly – Post Manchester City Away
The Etihad Stadium is referred to as the ‘Emptyhad’ because of a lack of Cityzens. It should be because Aston Villa always leave there empty-handed.
The good is quite simple, Villa got out of that match with a pulse. With a fired-up City, missing Tyrone Mings and going three goals down at half-time, literally any scoreline was not out of the realms of possibility.
Instead, Villa got their act together, cut out the mistakes and managed to do some damage to their hosts.
Bright cameo’s from Philippe Coutinho and Jhon Duran almost gave City something to think about before being denied by the fingertips of Ederson and the crossbar. Fine margins again.
It was crucial that Aston Villa weren’t on the end of a pasting in the second half, as the damage to the frail confidence of the squad would not have been an ideal warm-up for playing Arsenal next.
Villan of the Week – Ollie Watkins
If your team loses, make sure you still score. That’s a motto all strikers should live by. While it is preferable for the team to win, your striker continuing a scoring run at least keeps their confidence up for their next outing.
Watkins had one chance and took it well. This made it 34 goals and 11 assists in 100 appearances for Villa. So he’s a one-in-three man. Exactly what a striker at the top level needs to be.
With Tyrone Mings an unforeseen absentee, there was an air of inevitability about the result. When Rodri headed in within five minutes there was an air of certainty.
Rodri scored because Mings wasn’t there to meet the cross, it’s as simple as that. Mings meets the danger, the rest mop up the second ball, but only having one ‘danger meeter’ isn’t good enough.
Why can nobody else fulfil the same role as Mings? Even in his brief appearances at the start of the season, Diego Carlos failed to meet the danger vs Bournemouth.
It’s a common theme that runs through the Villa side when things go badly, they are just too passive. You want to get the players and give them a proverbial shake to wake up.
This attitude has led to Villa only winning one game out of the last eleven that Mings has missed. How hard can it be to scout another player willing to anticipate the unexpected?
This should be one of the first characteristics the scouting team are looking for, basic anticipation, because with the exception of Mings, anticipation at Aston Villa doesn’t seem to exist.
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The days when Jack Grealish used to feature in the upper sections of this column are long gone.
Instead, his penalty-winning exploits get a brief mention here.
Of course, fans become tribal when a player sells their soul and joins a team that is facing 100 charges of financial doping from the Premier League, but the ugly truth is that it didn’t matter who the player conning the gormless PGMOL referee was.
Modern football says if you get touched in the box, go down. It’s ugly, but it’s the way of the world now. It doesn’t say get into the box and engineer contact by leaving your back leg in an unnatural position in the hope someone brushes past it.
That’s what happened, and there would need to be a cricketing snick-o-meter to see if there was contact.
I don’t care that it was Jack Grealish, it could have been any one of the cookie-cutter, personality devoid, disciples of Pep Guardiola that were in the City team that day, the incident just wasn’t enough to warrant a penalty.
It’s no wonder City fans feel people are ganging up on them, when they get decisions like that on the same weekend a referee ‘forgot’ to draw offside lines and cost their rivals Arsenal two points.
It’s the same City fans that put up a banner supporting a lawyer at the match. Seriously, the working-class rags-to-riches game of football and a group of fans show their support for a Lord and King’s Counsellor…
Football is an ugly mess and if a day of reckoning doesn’t come for the whole of the League, then incidents like the penalty will continue to be accepted and celebrated by whoever benefits from them rather than admit the truth.
Like when goal-line technology failed at Villa Park against Sheffield United, it happened, the ball crossed the line but wasn’t given, Grealish dived and it was given.
It changes nothing about the event, but at least fans can come out of it with their dignity attached instead of some ugly defence and denial of what happened before your eyes.