The Good Bad and Ugly of Villa Life Post Forest
Another game another three points for Unai Emery’s upwardly mobile Villans who now sit in sixth place in the league in April.
Well, the game wasn’t good. Nottingham Forest and their zero press approach to the match was successful in keeping the score down against a Villa side who seemed happy to go through the motions needed.
Saying that, going through the motions is exactly what Aston Villa have been unable to achieve at home against teams beneath them in the table… or even from the lower leagues.
Emery’s side now has a defined way of playing the percentages, that stack these games in Villa’s favour. They have scored in every game, they are now able to defend set pieces and they can stifle the shots faced from an opponent.
Put these factors into practice in matches and you can see why results have improved drastically. Take the first one…if you score in every game, that means the opposition must score twice against the best keeper in the world to beat you.
Let’s see how things develop after the stress test of the next few games starting with Newcastle United.
Villan of the Week – Ollie Watkins
Ollie Watkins is still scoring. His last-minute clincher against Forest was another expert finish from a man on form.
The touch to take it around the defender, before stabbing it over the onrushing Navas, showed a level of composure and technique that many have said he lacks.
The celebration was something else. The normally mild-mannered Watkins tore off his top and knee slid in celebration. Maybe he knew a certain Gareth Southgate was in the crowd, or maybe he is starting to believe in himself, either way, it’s good for Villa.
Villa Away Shirts Just £19
The Bad and Ugly
More the bad guys than the bad this week, as Newcastle United roll into Villa Park this weekend.
Newcastle are in the middle of their own fantastic season, but despite their new place as darlings of sports media, the dissenting voices are now going beyond the human rights records of their owners.
Brentford’s Thomas Frank spoke of the ‘dark arts’, before detailing how his team had to change their approach against Newcastle. saying
‘We were also, on purpose, a little bit more active towards the fourth official today,” said Frank, after Brentford’s clash with the Toon.
“Again I’m talking about consistency. I try to be calm,” he added.
“I don’t think it does me any good to interact with him, but we know that Newcastle have their strategy. Jason Tindall is always speaking in the fourth official’s ear throughout the game, so we just have to be aware of that.’
It’s no secret to anyone that has watched Newcastle this season, that Eddie Howe’s men are as adept as Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal at gamesmanship and managing the officials.
From the August game at Anfield, where Liverpool snatched a 98th minute winner and Jurgen Klopp called out Newcastle’s time wasting, to them even getting under the aforementioned drama specialist Arteta’s skin, they’ve pushed gamesmanship to the extreme.
Manchester United boss Erik Ten Hag labelled them ‘annoying’ and ex-Match of the Day pundit Mark Lawrenson drew attention to how Newcastle players stay down injured to stop the game at strategic points.
Against Fulham this season, Nick Pope went down injured despite not having had anything to do in the game, allowing Howe a ‘coaching timeout’ to organise his players.
Fulham were said to be even more enraged as the assistant manager Tindall told the referee that Fulham had 12 men on the pitch, leading to further delays in play as they were counted.
Of course, all this is within the rules of the game and unless it is policed by the referee in charge, there’s nothing that can be done.
Off the pitch, Newcastle’s controversies are of a more ugly nature.
With the Saudi Arabian-led takeover of Newcastle, every club in the Premier League view them as a live threat to their ambitions.
Recent reports in The Athletic unearthed leaked emails showing that the Boris Johnson Government, actively encouraged the Premier League to sanction the takeover.
These revelations have been added to information from the LIV Golf Court case in the USA, which tried to define the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund which bankrolls the LIV Golf Tour and Newcastle United.
The Premier League received legally binding assurances that this was a private sale, yet the LIV court case defined them as a tool of the state.
Has it made any difference to the team? If anything it has made them stronger.
This perceived victimhood and siege mentality, has actually united the Newcastle fan base and the team to the point where they would be considered favourites to get a top-four spot. If achieved, it will certainly fast-track their team building over the summer.
When that happens, Newcastle United will suddenly be on a whole new level and as we have witnessed with Manchester City, success has a way of making allegations of wrongdoing disappear from the media.
If Aston Villa are to continue their recent form, then it will certainly be a statement win to beat their visitors.