GBU – Top Half Comes and Goes as Playing from the Back gets Exposed

The Good, Bad and Ugly – Leicester City Lessons

For a brief moment against Leicester City, Aston Villa fans could allow themselves to glance at the Premier League table as it stood. They sat above both Liverpool and Chelsea and in the top half, with only a few minutes left in the first half.

Villa fans should know better…

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The Good

There’s easy content for the bad section, but what shouldn’t be overlooked is the good performances in the Leicester City defeat.

With the ball, that was one of the most creative home performances of the season with 19 efforts at goal.

Emi Buendia managed to finally orchestrate a game and was at the heart of anything that Aston Villa did well. Alex Moreno also showed the other fullbacks what being involved in attacks means, with penetrating runs to the dead ball line.

Of course, all of this ultimately was in vain, but it should be a caveat against the criticism of the rest of the performance.

Villan of the Week – Ollie Watkins

This is mostly down to that first goal. The rest of his performance was what people come to expect from Watkins, hard-working, pressing defenders and chasing lost causes.

The first goal is what Aston Villa need from Watkins. Fast reactions to be first to the rebound from the crossbar and an improvised finish of a confident striker.

If Watkins can balance teamwork and selfishness, he will get double figures again this season.

The Bad

It would be very easy to launch into a full-blown rant about the stupidity of playing it out from the back, but that would be as one-dimensional as a Leeds United press.

You need to analyse Villa’s problems in the same way that Leicester analysed Aston Villa and come up with something more nuanced.

Against the Foxes, Boubacar Kamara tried his usual step between two players and got robbed of possession in his own box. As far as critical errors in playing out from the back go, that was really it for the match.

The other three horrendous goals conceded didn’t lead directly from being caught playing out from the back.

Despite this many are willing to abandon it. It doesn’t need to be scrapped, it needs filtering.

At the moment, the Aston Villa players are 100% committed to making this work every time. They need to learn where the point of no return is in a move. When Kamara realised he was under pressure, there was a window where he could have released the ball.

Instead of this, Kamara continued the tactic which had worked so well against Leeds and thought he could waltz his way out of trouble.

It cost him and Aston Villa the momentum and you could argue any chance of control in the match. After conceding that equaliser, the players lost their heads and were in too big a panic to rectify the situation.

The team had shown before that they can absorb a mistake, as they did when Luiz was caught against Brighton, but this was more a performance like the one against Manchester United in the League Cup.

One mistake was quickly followed by three more.

Mings and Digne were sleeping for Leicester’s second, Kamara was isolated and despite a hint of a foul, playing too risky a game for their third, and Moreno got his feet tied up for the fourth.

Against Brighton, the mistake focused the team for the remainder of the match. Here, like United, it multiplied into more mistakes.

Unai Emery will need to work out what happened in their mentality and make sure any further mistakes are galvanising rather than terminal.

The Ugly

Manchester City, who of course are Aston Villa’s next opponents.

The Premier League isn’t exactly the cradle of morality in the sporting world, and I’d imagine that many clubs have issues they wouldn’t like examined by the Premier League, but the difference with the Manchester City example is the alleged scale.

From the charges brought by the Premier League after a four-year investigation, they stand accused of cooking their FFP books since the 2009-10 season. To put that into context, this was the season Villa lost the League Cup final to Manchester United and the FA Cup Semi-Final to Chelsea.

In a purely Villa context, think of how much has happened since then.

Imagine you had that amount of time to strengthen your side, whilst allegedly dodging the rules the rest of the teams had to stand by.

If it is proven, it has given Manchester City the platform to become self-sustainable. They are now an elite-level club with more than elite-level players and a thriving academy that keeps recent balance sheets under control.

It is challenging to avoid tribalism when something like this comes up as everyone will remember something Manchester City have done on their team during this time period.

Whether it’s buying Gareth Barry, James Milner, Fabian Delph, and Jack Grealish, or their wins on the pitch, the opportunity to prematurely stick the boot in now will lead to ugly scenes.

When to get angry will be if City are found guilty and the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. They may have built an empire on a false economy, so the punishment should be something that shakes their foundations.

Something Villa will hope to do on the pitch in their next game.


Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame

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