Aston Villa’s Strength in Numbers and Ugly International Call-up Fallout and Future

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

I thought international breaks were meant to be boring? It’s time for the Good, Bad and Ugly.

The Good

Many Villa fans will have looked at the starting line-up against Brentford and wondered if there was some kind of curse over Villa Park.

Under Dean Smith, fans have been used to the odd enigmatic injury update, but the rumblings on social media of McGinn, Mings and Ramsey being missing to add to Sanson, Bailey, Traoré and Trezeguet, had Villa missing seven players that could legitimately start in a strong eleven.

Like anything involving Aston Villa on social media, this turned out to be true.

Take seven players out of the Villa side at any time in living memory, and the result would be a foregone conclusion. 

So leaving the match against Brentford with a point yet still feeling aggrieved at the referee, slack marking and the opposition gamesmanship is a sign of the strength in numbers Villa have in the squad.

Despite not adding any more players in the transfer window and letting fringe players go, Villa are in a much stronger place than they have been for years.

Of course questions remain about the quality of the midfielders, but they need to be given the chance to develop before you replace them with more ‘prospects’, who will need the same allowances. 

Villan of the Week — Anwar El Ghazi

The man who divides opinion like no other in the Villa squad had probably his best game for Villa against Brentford since the last Play-off Final. 

He had the beating of the Brentford defence, he tracked back, used his strength and more than justified his inclusion.

He will play much, much worse and score goals in games.

The Bad 

Football is changing, and it remains to be seen if it is for the better. Reality is becoming a thing of the past.

When figures are used out of context, it paints a false picture of what our eyes tell us. In the last two seasons, the fastest recorded players in-game at Villa were Björn Engels and Trezeguet.

Engels recorded the same speed as Kyle Walker at 36.9 KMPH in Villa’s first season back in the Premier League and was the fourth-fastest player in the league that season.

Now anybody who has watched a Villa match over the last few seasons will tell you that these two players are not known for their pace, yet in a one-off situation they managed to bust a gut and put in a really fast sprint.

Of course, the reality is how they played the rest of the match and season.

The same logic goes into football social media clips and how a viral moment is becoming more defining than reality.

Erling Haaland has 11 goals in 8 games this season for club and country, including two hat-tricks, yet all you see about him in the football press is a social media clip of him smashing in a volley in training that was thrown up for him by the coach.

The volley in training meant nothing compared to the actual goals.

Reality is everything, and it is being eroded in analysis and coverage of the game rather than being enhanced.

This is surprising with the sheer volume of media now devoted to Football.

I want to hear coverage giving unique insights that I wouldn’t see myself. The problem is, all the noise is all centred around the incidents that everyone sees themselves. 

The Ugly

When Aston Villa struck a deal with Emi Martinez and Emi Buendia to join up with the Argentine squad, I was more than a little surprised.

Most people could see the direction of travel for this international break, and heading to red list South America was a situation that most would have wanted to avoid.

Without going into the debate of club over country, the situation itself was such a minefield that the sensible choice was to realise it was too complicated, and the cons would very much outweigh the pros.

Villa look to have taken the approach of a parent letting a child learn from their mistakes. ‘They’ll know better next time’, isn’t a solution; however, it’s a fudge.

In a complex situation like this, the players need to take counsel themselves and weigh up the risks involved.

A good rule of thumb might be, if you or the team representative are accused of falsifying international travel documents, you probably shouldn’t have gone.

The fallout continues as Brazil are now trying to stop players who were banned from travel by their clubs, representing them in the next game.

So while some will say Villa’s approach was a compromise, it’s just kicked the can down the road further for the next set of internationals. 

This is a situation that is only going to increase in years to come. 

Tariq Panja, reporter for the New York Times, was the first to notice the propaganda campaign for a World Cup every two years.

On August 20th, he put out a tweet so that people could keep an eye on the beginnings of the propaganda push and sure enough it has happened.

Players signed up to FIFA’s Legends program, especially those with a connection to the Premier League, have begun promoting the idea en masse, and the latest personality to spearhead it is Arsene Wenger.

This would all appear to be an attempt to win over the English-based fans who were so instrumental in defeating the Super League proposal.

The war between FIFA and UEFA will continue as a biennial World Cup would destroy the European Championships among other events, so the pawns in the game will be players and the rules over international call-ups.

With Villa not taking a strong stance one way or another, the precedent has been set for this ugly situation to repeat itself for years to come.


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