The Good, Bad and Ugly – Newcastle Away
A week is a long time in football, Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away, or whatever cliche or lyric you find appropriate to process what has been a damaging week for Aston Villa, let’s round it up in the Good, Bad and Ugly and beware, more cliches are ahead.
Not a lot to be honest. At the risk of putting a hex on anything else Villa related, it’s best to just take the good from the game against Newcastle.
Despite going behind early, for periods of the match, Villa showed the same controlling football they had in preseason.
For Moussa Diaby’s debut goal, Douglas Luiz combined with Lucas Digne and Ollie Watkins for the Villa debutante Moussa Diaby to finish a difficult first-time chance.
Even as adversity struck, Villa managed to create decent positions and opportunities. Ollie Watkins and Matty Cash will not be happy with their efforts to convert at crucial points of the match.
Of course, events on and off the pitch in the last week have overshadowed anything good, but with two weeks left in the transfer window, this is not the time for Aston Villa to be feeling sorry for themselves.
The loan deal for Nicolò Zaniolo certainly is an interesting move with potential, if he can live up to his promise, but also be a team player. Let’s hope it is an audition loan with a right to buy, as opposed to a full deal dressed-up as a loan, for FFP purposes.
Villan of the Week – Moussa Diaby
A bright spark in a dismal day in the North East, Diaby took his goal well and was a threat, especially in the first half.
The fact the team imploded in the second is nothing to do with him, and it was vital for him to hit the ground running.
Now Villa will look to find out how to utilise him best in the coming weeks.
If you didn’t have bad luck you’d have none at all. This is what Unai Emery must be thinking.
To lose Emi Buendia, the club’s record signing a few days before the season starts is unlucky, but to lose Tyrone Mings, to the same potential season-ending injury is enough to check if you’ve broken any mirrors recently.
From a player’s point of view, this is devastating for both, who were both likely to play the majority of the season. There will be a period of grieving within the squad and well wishes from all, but unfortunately, the Everton game will come around fast.
Losing to Newcastle in itself was not unexpected, especially when Villa were missing five starters from the previous victory over the Magpies at Villa Park.
Take five first-team regulars out of any team and they will struggle, and perhaps this was lost on some Villa fans, who had been rightly optimistic heading into the season.
Of the five players missing, none of Pau Torres, Moussa Diaby or Youri Tielemans are direct replacements, and that may explain to an extent the capitulation against Newcastle.
Dendoncker, Moreno, Ramsey, Buendia and Ashley Young all started that day, and in terms of playing style, none of them have yet been replaced.
If you now take Tyrone Mings out of the equation, the scenario facing Unai Emery is stark, Villa need to find a different way to play with the new additions until some players are back fit or else all new season optimism could be extinguished quickly.
Yes…the Villa Hawaiian Range
To the match itself, and it doesn’t get any prettier.
Aston Villa were very much the architects of their own downfall, and whether it was naivety or arrogance, the line-up and application weren’t where they needed to be on the pitch.
John McGinn was played out of the position he had previously succeeded in and was nullified to the extent that he only had 23 touches in 63 minutes.
Leon Bailey started the game, despite everyone knowing his strengths and weaknesses. Tracking back, stopping a cross or holding up the ball, just aren’t in his locker, so why play him away at St James’? He was withdrawn at half-time to emphasise it was a mistake to start him.
Then you have the application of some of the players. Boubacar Kamara was distinctly below par, being causal in his marking of Tonali for the first goal, then playing Barnes marginally onside for the fourth goal with a laboured jog back
Trying to clear the ball with one boot missing summed up his day.
Cash was erratic, he again allowed himself to be the man playing the Newcastle players onside for the second goal, albeit with a healthy amount of interference from an offside Dan Burn. Despite that, the worse offence was his open goal miss, where again he tried to hit it as hard as possible when a touch would have made it 3-2.
Watkins’s wasteful finish as Mings was lying injured was the turning point of the match, and for a player of his ability, he simply had to do better. At 2-2 going into the second half, this would have been a different game.
Unai Emery has worked miracles since joining Aston Villa, but he should not be shocked that the flaws in some players still present themselves in the face of adversity.
Hindsight is 20:20, but starting Bailey is on Emery. Digne taking corners instead of Luiz is on Macphee and not having a viable alternative to Cash or Watkins when they are struggling is on the recruitment team.
The injuries to Buendia and Mings would have had a profound mental effect on the squad and that cannot be ignored, but the issues were visible before Mings’s injury.
It was the performance of a team who should have known what was facing them, but clearly didn’t. Maybe the match in the USA that Villa dominated, was the worst preparation for all involved.
It has been an ugly week, but the outlook is still positive overall. Alex Moreno and Jacob Ramsey would transform the current dynamic of the team, and there is still time to get in backup for Watkins and Cash.
The big issue will be how the defence and changing room copes without the presence of Tyrone Mings, and the tenacity of Emi Buendia. To both players, I wish a speedy recovery.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame