December’s Great Aston Villa Surprise, Mings Learning Curve & Goddamn Hipsters

The Good, Bad & Ugly

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 seven years ago on the site…

By Phil Shaw

Showing no signs of a festive overindulgence, Aston Villa are ending 2020 in a fine position, are there any negatives to find in the Good, Bad and Ugly of the week?

The Good

Villa’s squad players. Put simply, there are surprising everyone over the past month. Ever since Anwar El Ghazi, scored the penalty against Wolves, it has lit a fire under them all. 

El Ghazi is driving at the heart of opposition defences. Bertrand Traoré is dancing inside from the left and Kortney Hause has turned into a brick wall at the back. 

It only bodes well, if Villa suffer any more suspensions or injuries, as players are coming in all fired up, to try and be a part of this team. When El Ghazi and Trezeguet started the majority of games last season, you could see there was not only physical fatigue, but mental strain as any under-par performance in a wide position was catastrophic for the team.

Jump forward to this season, and you can see the difference. If El Ghazi has a bad game, Traoré steps up, if Mings gets suspended, it is Hause’s chance to shine and so on. When Barkley, Wesley and Trezeguet are back to full fitness Villa will have a squad that can get them to the end of the season barring major catastrophe because of the level the replacements have been at. 

The level of performance, barring the cup game against Stoke, has been top-notch from the bench, and you can see them all wanting their place in the starting eleven and nobody’s starting place should be taken for granted from 2021 on, a good sign for any top team. 

Sale on Villa training/winter wear below

The Bad

The devastating display against Crystal Palace, did come with one gripe. Tyrone Mings got done by Wilf Zaha. Momentary lapses are unfortunately part of his game. 

Whether it is overconfidence in a clearance, or underestimating the levels of an opponent, Mings has one of these moments in him a game, that overshadows all the excellent work he does. 

Against Palace there were a few examples of this. While not his fault, the chance that fell to Zaha in the opening minutes, caught him on his heels as he first turned and matched Zaha, then underestimated the pace of the Palace talisman.

To Mings’ credit, he got back to pressure the chance, as he always does, yet the slight hesitation was all it took to let Zaha in.

Things got worse when Zaha decided to play dirty. A small dig in the ribs, missed of course by the PGMOL’s chosen referee, had Mings trying to gain a small level of retribution a few seconds later. 

In reality there was nothing in this, but Mings should not underestimate the levels other players will stoop to, to get an advantage in the Premier League. Zaha, reacted as if he had received the biggest slight of his life and the ensuing fracas, brought both yellow cards. After that, it only took one trick and falling the right way for Mings to receive his second yellow. 

There’s no lack of ability in Mings, and he is rightfully an England International, but not realising that the opposition doesn’t always play by the same rules as you, is a weakness, that will be exploited by teams, especially when Villa rattle them.

Chelsea, became irritable and ratty when we threatened them and Manchester United will be the same. 

Mings will need to expect bad behaviour from opponents at all times.

The Ugly

There’s a growing feeling that the traditional top clubs are under threat. Villa, Everton and Leicester are leading the charge this year to replace the under-performers in the traditional top six and the media don’t know how to cope. 

If we leave out Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, who have found a niche by doing actual analysis that hides their Liverpool and United colours and discount Chris Sutton, Robbie Savage and Roy Keane, who are playing contrarian characters you have two types of football personality left. The ex-pro and the expert hipster.

The ex-pro is the most common.

They make errors from lack of research and laziness, trot out easy stereotypes from past seasons and expose their ugly bias from their playing days without making light of it.

There’s nothing wrong with bias, if you do it in the right way. Pundits who acknowledge their previous allegiances and make a joke of it are the ones who identify with the fans and when they set this aside and give reasoned, informed analysis it means more.

Then we have the football hipster or perceived expert. I’d group Rory Smith, Raphael Honigstein, Guillem Balague and others in this. 

The hipster can usually be identified by a strange obsession with Boca Juniors and a resolute defence of Bielsa, Pep, Klopp, Tuchel, Benetiz and other select coaches. 

Teams like Leicester and Villa are their kryptonite. Two British managers who not only recruit better than some of these legends of the game but beat them on regular occasions. They cannot admit that their idols are fallible, and it creates a hypocritical, defensive stance. 

When teams like Villa and Leicester are doing well, but not challenging, it’s fine to do pieces on them, praise their players and their coach. The second the status quo gets rocked, the defensive side comes out. 

These respected football hipsters, should be loving the approach of Brendan Rodgers and Dean Smith, but instead, they come up with reasons why the other teams fail. 

When Leeds United smashed Villa, there was no article about how Villa’s failure to take easy chances cost them the game. When Leicester beat Man City and Spurs, and Villa beat Liverpool and Arsenal, the focus was on the failings of the other teams. 

The requirement of anyone who comments on football, should be an acknowledgement when they get things wrong.

When we lost to Watford away last year, I’d have relieved Dean Smith of his duties. I’ve been proven wrong and no doubt will be again and again. The ugly thing is when people in football can’t hold their hands up and say the same.

Happy New Year and UTV

Follow Phil on Twitter here -> @PRSGAME

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