Di Matteo Looks For Solution, as Paul Heckingbottom Talks Up Villa

The Villa Appetiser: Barnsley v Aston Villa 2016

It might not have been three points, but Villa passed their first test of the season, and in the end a draw against Newcastle felt like a victory.

Talk of Di Matteo’s position being under threat is far too premature, but there was a sense that a point did lift some of the pressure on the manager.

It’s Villa’s first game this season against a newly-promoted side. While we have the legacy of relegation looming over us, Paul Heckingbottom’s Barnsley seem to be continuing with the momentum that saw them secure promotion at Wembley – as well as winning the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Can we carry on our own momentum from Saturday’s game and get a first away win?

Heckingbottom on Villa

“I hope they’ve sold their allocation so they fill one end and we will get thousands of our lads in as well. It should be great.

“I hope the performances from both teams matches it because then we will have a real high tempo and loud noisy atmosphere.

“I’ve been down there to watch a couple of their games.

“The last time we were at Villa Park I was playing there!

“They’ve got players and staff with lots of experience and quality – and they can score a goal in the blink of an eye.

“Regardless of how well teams play against them, they pose a real goal threat with the players they have on the pitch.

“They’ve got tremendous pace in the team, so again regardless of how they are playing they are a threat on the break and in one-on-one situations.”

Di Matteo on Villa’s recent performances

“I think it was more a question of being more positive on the ball and really controlling the ball better in the second half. I’m trying to find a solution for our team that suits us best and that gives us opportunities to win.

“We’ve drawn a lot of games and we need to be able to transfer those to wins rather than draws.

“We are unbeaten at home and it was a great comeback from the team as well, a great spirit that we showed. I think at the end if there was one team that was going to win it was us.

“We showed it against Forest as well, just that little bit of link at the end that is missing from us to win, so we keep working hard on it and hopefully that win will come soon.”

Barnsley have never beaten Villa at home

Memory Match

13th September 1997 Barnsley 0 Villa 3 

Ehiogu, Draper and Taylor scored during an impressive away victory, the last time we met Barnsley in the league.

Villa – Last five matches at home: W 4, L 1 (including one League One result)

Newcastle– Last five matches away: D 2, L 3 

Villa have failed to beat Newcastle at home during the last five encounters at Villa Park.

One to Watch

Conor Hourihane – The midfielder has already scored three goals this season during Barnsley’s impressive start.

Facts to Sweep Under the Carpet

The strange formation that Di Matteo employed in the first half was a worrying sign that the manager is still not completely sure about how we should be approaching games.

It was a negative approach to the start of the match and but for Newcastle’s wastefulness, we could have been more than 1-0 down after 45 minutes.

Albert Adomah’s role as a wing-back was perhaps the most bizarre decision of the game, though at least he moved further up the field as the game went on.
Sitting just outside the play-off places in 7th and the league’s top scorers, Barnsley have made an excellent start to the season, and already look set to surpass the usual expectation of a newly-promoted side of avoiding relegation.
With McCormack unlikely to feature again on Tuesday, we will have to hope that Gestede carries on his goalscoring form. He sat out much of Saturday’s game so could have a chance to impress, but it will be tough venue to visit in Oakwell.
So far this season, Barnsley have defeated Derby, QPR, and even bettered our home thrashing of Rotherham – winning 4-0!
As well as this, during March of the 1997/98 Premiership (the last time we met in the league) ended with three points to Barnsley…

““The last time we were at Villa Park I was playing there!” – heckingbottom ON VILLA

Why Villa Have Got This Game in the Bag

Football is a funny game and there was an amusing irony in seeing Villa clinch a point with a late equaliser, rather than the customary throwaway of all three.

While a victory would really have kickstarted the season, there were qualities seen in Saturday’s game that suggest better performances are to come.

The fact that Di Matteo changed the formation at half-time was a promising sign that the three at the back formation will not be seen for a while, given how the performance improved during the second period.

With Grealish set to return to the side we’ll also have another player capable of bringing some attacking magic to the game.

While Barnsley started the season well, they have suffered back-to-back defeats to Reading and Brighton, and will be without pair Aidan White and Saidy Janko for Tuesday’s game.

Even the history books look decent for once – Barnsley have never beaten Villa at home (in eight attempts in all competitions). If we get a bit more tenuous, it’s even better.

During the last two times we played away in Barnsley in September (in 1997, and 1971) we won 3-0 and 4-0! That’s got to be a good sign.

If we show the spirit of Saturday’s second half, there’s no reason why we can’t bag our first away win since August 2015.


The next post-Newcastle Episode of the MOMS Podcast