Aston Villa’s Lack of Believers and the Death of Premier League Scouting

Good Bad and Ugly of Aston Villa’s Week

By Phil Shaw

After a bit of a break waiting for something to write about in the good column, lets get the we GBU ball rolling

The Good

The scoreless draw against Leicester wasn’t anything to write about, so here I am writing about it…

That paradox aside, it was vital for Aston Villa not to equal the previous record loss streak of five, just as their ex-manager Dean Smith rides into town with Norwich City.

The narrative from the press, disgruntled fans and social media if five defeats, turned into six would’ve been enough for this season.

Optics are an important thing in Football, and you can bet that Norwich and Dean Smith would’ve been even more motivated to add their piece to Villa’s latest poor run.

As it is, the point at Leicester, makes sure the narrative is that Villa can relegate Norwich with a win on Saturday (and a Burnley win at Watford). The pressure should all be on the Canaries.

The matches against Spurs and the Foxes, were just indicative of Villa’s season. In one game the attack was good, in the other, the defence was. Villa still await a consistent run where both are firing.

Will it arrive in the final few games?

Villan of the Week – Ashley Young

I was tempted to give it to Young just for his scything professional foul on Harry Kane in the Spurs game, but that would have been cynical. 

After all, you aren’t allowed to tackle or foul any more, especially against one of the Super League wannabes. 

Instead, his performance against Leicester City, showed just how valuable he has been this season when needed. Putting his body on the line and frustrating the opposition when required.

The Bad

The first half against Spurs was fantastic to watch, but also typical Villa. 

It’s too easy to say, Villa came up against a World Cup winning goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris, having a good day, who stopped Villa scoring at least four goals before the break.

In the Spurs game, the two efforts from Danny Ings and the header from Ollie Watkins, were poor. 

Against Leicester, Leon Bailey and Philippe Coutinho, both had excellent chances in the first half. 

The strikers were waiting on the ball coming to them, rather than attacking it.

They all drew groans from watching fans.

Contrast these to other efforts from the two games and the crowd reaction.

Against Spurs, Jacob Ramsey did everything right. He drove into the box and smashed it in the place most likely, as retreating defenders were covering the far corner. Only an unbelievable reaction save denied him.

Buendia, against Leicester, almost won it at the death, when he curled just wide from the edge of the box.

Whether the difference can be called conviction, confidence, responsibility, or it’s a combination of all three, it’s what is holding Villa back across the pitch.

Steven Gerrard called it ‘belief’ in his interview with Gary Neville, and that is a good umbrella term for Villa’s problems.

For whatever reason, the Villa players struggle to believe.

They don’t believe they can miss, so they take their eye off the ball, they don’t believe they can score, so they pass on the responsibility, they don’t believe the opposition will shoot from there, so they don’t close them down.

Villa need to change from being reactive on the pitch to proactive. Nothing is being done on instinct.

If the fans watching can tell there is danger, then the players should be able to close it down.

Recently, Brighton Manager Graham Potter complained that fans shouting ‘shoot’ at players was putting them off.

There’s also a reason most football fans feel the need to shout ’shoot, hit it!’ Or something to that effect, with optional profanities.

Football is an emotional sport, and if you’ve watched as much of it as is available currently, then as a fan you know when the time is right to do something.

This season, Villa have just been bad at sensing that time in crucial moments of games.

£20 Villa Home & Away shirts

The Ugly

It will soon be the end of the season and the column inches will be full of transfer gossip.

You would hope that Villa’s scouting department are already hard at work, trying to find the players that will address the shortcomings in the team.

But looking at the league as a whole, does scouting even exist any more in the Premier League?

Before everyone throws the Leicester and Kanté scenario at me, that was seven years ago.

Was any player scouted properly in the last few seasons by a team already in the Premier League, like Kanté?

Villa, improved their scouting network with big money acquisitions like Rob Mackenzie, the man who found Kanté, but are they finding anyone, who fans with a decent footballing knowledge don’t know about?

Spending close to £30m on Leon Bailey isn’t scouting. The idea behind scouting is to get talent at an early bird price.

Ings, Bailey, Buendia, and Chambers, were all known quantities, even though they haven’t always shown it.

Villa, like other established teams, don’t stray too far, despite the rewards of looking outside the established leagues.

West Ham, getting Tomáš Souček, was a rare example, but that was at a time when nothing was expected of them. If they sell Declan Rice in the summer and replace him with an unknown, will the West Ham fans revolt again?

I think scouting only exists outside the bubble of the Premier League, and the ugly thing is, this is down to footballing snobbery.

Fans place a worth on a player by the amount their team spend on them. They can deny it, but it’s fact.

I would love nothing more than Villa to go out in the Summer and buy three players that I didn’t have passing knowledge of, if they were going to solve the weaknesses in the team.

It would make more sense than say spending £60 million on Kalvin Phillips.


Check out the latest podcast show