Nine Minute Nightmare Self-Harms Aston Villa’s Potential

The Good, Bad and Ugly of the Business End

A wise old man green man once said, ‘Do or do not, there is no try…’ After the capitulation against Brentford, the time for mitigating factors is over. This run-in is going to be Good, bad and Ugly.

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The Good

It might seem like the opportunity has been missed with the Brentford result, but Aston Villa have a few lives left in the fight for a Champions’ League place, which is the goal for this season.

Fourth place will be difficult with Spurs managing to get results over the line and looking distinctly unspursy, but their biggest test is to come.

A tricky run of four games is laid out in front of them and if they manage to come out with positives from Newcastle, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, not to mention Manchester City at home, Tottenham Hotspur will have deserved it.

Villa on the other hand need to take care of business domestically and on the European front.

Emery can’t afford to rotate in the away game against Arsenal, like he did against City and Lille on either side of that will be a stern test.

The good news is that Villa can be the authors of their own fortune. Finish the league strongly and secure at least 5th, then win the Conference League to hopefully get the coefficient to where it needs to be.

Now is not the time to flake out.

Villan Of The Week – Ollie Watkins

Ollie Watkins may have received some criticism for his comments after the Brentford draw, saying Villa always come out slow in the second half and lack a ‘Big Team’ mentality, but he was spot on.

Watkins himself did all he could against Brentford to drag his faltering team to the win, only to be let down by schoolboy defending.

For a striker who doesn’t take penalties, and can over-think some chances, a return of 18 goals so far in the Premier League is that of a Champions’ League forward. He just needs to bring the rest of the squad with him.

The Bad

Let’s talk about defending, or the sudden and unexplained lack of it for nine minutes against Brentford.

While the Premier League this season has been a league of momentum shifts, with many games changing on one goal, these were not excellently crafted goals.

They were the equivalent of self-harm for Villa’s hopes and aspirations.

For the qualities they have and have shown throughout the season, Villa are as allergic to crosses as Count Dracula.

Any team, no matter how poor, or how far behind can just throw balls into the Villa penalty area and reap rewards.

It’s cost them countless goals this season, and it could cost them everything.

People looking back at the games against Manchester City and Arsenal in December saying the same back four played in those games or that Kamara was the difference, need to have a look at themselves.

Manchester City and Arsenal didn’t cross the ball, and Villa nearly became unstuck when Arsenal pumped it into the box only for Havertz to be denied by VAR.

Since then any team doing it has found success, and usually in bunches of goals.

Manchester United away, winning goal from a corner, while at Villa Park it was a set piece and then a cross from open play.

The first two Newcastle goals were set pieces.

Luton’s two in quick succession – crosses.

Spurs first goal which opened the floodgates – another whipped cross.

Then the nightmare nine minutes against Brentford – three crosses from the same player.

Pau Torres and Diego Carlos are both £30 million defenders on the profit and loss sheet, but neither of them has a clue what to do when a ball comes into the box.

Ezri Konsa, unbeatable on the ground, too often drifts under a high ball.

It’s not good enough. A team that’s managed to get themselves into contention for a transformative league position, should not be throwing it away because they can’t defend a cross, even Harry Maguire can do that.

Phil appears on the latest episode of the MOMS podcast

The Ugly

How would Villa fans frame finishing in sixth position?

Before the season started, most would have accepted a sixth-position finish as progress and a sign of intent, especially with the injuries to Tyrone Mings, Emi Buendia, and Jacob Ramsey.

But the season hasn’t panned out like that has it?

When you buy a lottery ticket, most people would be happy with a tenner but say you got all six numbers up and on your way to cash it in, you lost the ticket. Are you still a happy Villan?

No, you’re not and the same applies here.

Aston Villa have put themselves on the edge of achievements which could solidify the foundations of the club for years to come and protect the core of players they have managed to build since promotion from the Championship in 2019.

To fail now, cannot be anything less than disappointing and will reek of the missed opportunity of the Martin O’Neill years.

It’s no coincidence that the Brentford result was compared to that infamous day when Villa threw away a two-goal lead against Stoke in the the final two minutes in 2009.

Aston Villa and Unai Emery simply have to get the job done between now and the end of the season, and ensure they finish at least in fifth position. Anything else at this stage would be like throwing away the lottery ticket and hoping you win next year.


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