Aston Villa’s Peak Performance, Powerhause and Guerrilla Warfare

Good, Bad & Ugly of Villa Success

With Aston Villa’s fortunes more good and less ugly nowadays, MOMS podcast contributor Phil Shaw resurrects ‘The Good, Bad & Ugly’, an old favourite MOMS column that started over eight years ago on the site…

By Phil Shaw

Before we begin, excuse me a moment while I crack my knuckles and remember the sight of Bruno Fernandes’ penalty kick one last time… It’s the Good, Bad and Ugly of the week.

The Good

It’s hard not to be self-indulgent and talk about how good it feels to beat Manchester United again. There’s been periods over the last decade where Villa fans wondered if it would happen again.

Well, now it has, so onto the next one.

As Dean Smith said, the performance against Manchester United was the most pleasing part. 

A system of 3-5-2, that has only had a few weeks to bed-in, completely nullified not only Cristiano Ronaldo, but the rest of the attacking quality in United’s ranks.

From the early period of the match, it was clear that, like Chelsea, Villa were on the same level as Manchester United. 

Openings flowed at both ends and had it not been for some questionable finishing from Targett, Watkins and Konsa for Villa and Pogba and Greenwood for United, a fair half-time score would have been 2-3 to Villa.

However, the Second Half is where you saw the potential for this Villa side. In previous matches against United, Villa were normally able to get their noses in front, before snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

At Old Trafford, it was entirely different. If anything, Villa became stronger and braver as the game went on. United failed to generate a second half chance from open play as good as any they did in the first, while Villa continued to carve them out.

This, rather than the fanfare for finally beating United, is what needs to be quietly celebrated. 

Villa are getting the mental side of things right, and now they need to follow it through and see where it takes them.

Villan of the Week — Kortney Hause 

Not just for the United game, but in carrying on his form from the Chelsea League Cup game, he was brilliant again.

For someone who the ’50p head’ quip could be levelled at in previous matches, Hause placed a perfect header into the top corner to give David De Gea no chance. 

The fact that he could do nothing about the penalty he conceded minutes later just added to his day, when it turned out OK.

Axel Tuanzebe will do well to win his place back.

The Bad

A draw on Saturday would have been a bad result. Despite the history, to come away with anything besides three points, having performed like that, would have been poor, and it nearly happened.

On another day, the obligatory Manchester United penalty would have been scored and Villa would have been cast aside as ‘plucky’ and other patronising terms.

Deserved wins against the Greedy Sky Six are what needs to become the norm for Villa, and Dean Smith only needs to beat Man City for the whole set in the past year.

The whining by the Manchester United players, their manager, their fans in the ground and hiding in plain sight in the written media at a loss to Villa of all teams is indicative of challenging the establishment.

There are no easy games in the Premier League, yet for years the Sky Six have been enabled by everyone to act like there are. 

If you, as a player, are told by everyone that Aston Villa have no right beating Manchester United, then you are going to act like a spoiled brat when the unthinkable happens. 

If United had snatched a point against Villa, the whole thing could’ve been swept under the carpet. Luckily, for everyone, Bruno must have been practicing NFL field goals instead of penalties all week.

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The Ugly

When Emi Martinez, started playing mind games with Fernandes and Ronaldo, some people were always going to say it was ugly.

It was, in fact, just adapting to modern football. 

When you have referees favouring the bigger teams, media fawning over the bigger teams and the authorities letting them off with trying to form The Super League, then I’m afraid it’s time for guerrilla warfare.

I’m sick of being the gallant loser. When Vidic hacked down Agbonlahor in the 2010 League Cup Final, Villa were content with the penalty.

They should have been demanding that Vidic was correctly sent off, yet they let Phil Dowd off the hook at just the penalty.

I think the PGMOL has long been unfit for purpose and has been mentioned more than anything else in the Ugly section for good reason.

Mike Dean, is not the pantomime villain some make him out to be, yet he made a glaring error in not sending off Harry Maguire for a foul on John McGinn when he was the last man.

Dean was protected by VAR instead of being corrected to avoid upsetting United, and subsequently the incident was mysteriously absent from all media coverage for the rest of the week.

To his credit, McGinn, did protest his case, but when you are playing against this level of unconscious bias and enablement towards the top teams, why should you not use any means necessary to fight back?

Martinez didn’t break any rules by goading the United players, he just let them know some home truths, and it was about time someone did.

When you look at the finances, the media bias, the PGMOL’s attitude to the top six and more, the dice are loaded against the rest of the Premier League.

This isn’t the game of the 50’s and 60’s, and don’t pretend those gentlemen players wouldn’t have ended a career with a tackle to get the win.

The modern-day battles are as much in the heads of the players as on the pitches.

Gamesmanship and your ability to deal with it are more telling attributes for players than XG will ever be in the modern game. 

It’s not ugly, it’s playing by the rules of modern sport.


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