Ollie Watkins Silences Doubters, as Leon Bailey is Under Review

The Good, Bad and Ugly – Everton

It’s not just Birmingham City that has the blues when they play Villa, Everton can now count Aston Villa as their bogey team with no wins since Villa were promoted in 2019.

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The Good

It wasn’t a classic match by all means, but the match before against Arsenal was a thriller and Villa ended up with zero points and an unnecessary situation between their goalkeeper and manager over a non-event.

Give Villa fans a few more scrappy games like this and maximum points with clean sheets over being the gallant losers any day.

Despite the poor quality on display in the first hour especially, you could see how the general curve for Aston Villa is upwards. This was exactly the kind of game Everton would have targeted for a win.

Sean Dyche’s team were 100 per cent at home since he came in with wins over Leeds and Arsenal. Out of the three, many would consider Villa the easiest of those games.

It is a slow but steady sign of the mentality that the manager Unai Emery talks about, that these games become less ‘typical Villa’ performances.

While the starting line-up was devoid of real creativity, with Buendia on the bench and Coutinho injured (again), it was enough to keep things even against a spirited Everton until the time was right.

After a few close escapes at the back, the switch was flicked and Moreno and Buendia came on. The change was instant, as Buendia flicked the ball into McGinn for the penalty decision.

These are the changes that better teams do when things are stale on the pitch. Think of how many times Alex Ferguson did this at Manchester United. It’s been an alien concept to Villa fans for decades, substitutions that win matches.

Villan of the Week – Ollie Watkins

It had to be Mr Watkins after setting a consecutive Premier League era scoring record for Aston Villa.

Five goals in five consecutive games is the benchmark for top strikers, a goal a game.

The most pleasing aspect was his penalty. After just having a perfectly placed header tipped onto the post by a wonder save from Jordan Pickford, it would be easy for him to think it wasn’t going to be his day.

Instead, he stepped up and dispatched the penalty cooly, something at which he hasn’t been faultless in the past.

With the fixtures to follow, he has every chance of extending his record.

The Bad

Leon Bailey is one of the most binary players in terms of his performances that has played for Aston Villa in recent years.

There is just no consistency or middle ground with the winger at all. Either he is the match-winner with a mazy run and precise finish on his favoured left, or he is completely an apparition on the pitch.

A level of inconsistency comes with the territory of being a winger, but Bailey is the most polarising in recent times.

He has all the attributes, pace, skills, and a mercurial left foot, yet he somehow manages not to use any of these attributes when the time is right.

When it doesn’t click, like against Everton, he jogs around the pitch, takes shots on his weaker side and checks back multiple times after beating an opponent before losing the ball.

If it frustrates fans it must baffle Unai Emery, and Bailey being replaced on the hour mark led to Villa winning the game.

If the Villa coaching team can’t get a level of consistency out of the explosive Jamaican, then in the interests of continuous improvement, he is a luxury you cannot afford to start in matches.

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The Ugly

It’s very easy to become desensitised to the level of incompetence in the general footballing media because there is so much of it around.

People, especially ex-players who are now pundits, make mistakes. There’s no problem with this as everyone makes mistakes, the problem comes when they aren’t corrected or are ignored.

On the BBC’s Match of the Day coverage after the Everton game, a graphic was displayed showing John McGinn and Aaron Ramsey instead of his brother Jacob.

While this is a poor error, the chance was there for the BBC to correct this in post-production, or for their online audience. The next day, the graphic was still incorrect.

The attitude stinks of ‘it’ll do’. Unfortunately with many other options for people to go to get their punditry, this attitude won’t cut it.

We can go further and look at Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week section on the BBC website.

A selection of Emi Buendia was followed by this discussion on the penalty decision.

‘Anthony Taylor’s decision to award Aston Villa a penalty for the tackle by Everton’s Idrissa Gueye on McGinn, were he to look at it again, video evidence would show Gueye made contact with the ball first and minimal contact with the player.’

This had already been disproven by Match of the Day itself, as they showed Gueye’s knee make contact with McGinn’s knee and in a close-up, not touch the ball at all.

While it is very easy to become tribal on the reporting of your team in the general media, there’s a worrying trend for football writers to just ‘dial it in’ and put up answers that you would expect to get from a Chat AI.

The mass outpouring of support for Newcastle United, for getting to a League Cup final and then losing is another example of following a lazy script.

We all know the reason for Newcastle’s turnaround is a cash injection and we know where the money came from.

For a number of football writers to credit where Newcastle finished the previous season to then be in a League Cup final is just nodding heads.

You only have to look at Aston Villa to find a more remarkable difference in a season. From fifth place in the Championship table to a League Cup final. It’s a bit better than going from 11th in the Premier League to a final.


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