The Difference of 2021 Aston Villa, the Club’s On-going Nightmare and Football’s Insecurity

Good, Bad Ugly 4th January

With Aston Villa’s fortunes more good and less ugly nowadays, MOMS podcast contributor Phil Shaw resurrects ‘The Good, Bad & Ugly’, an old favourite MOMS column that started over eight years ago on the site…

By Phil Shaw

New year, new me… unless of course you are Aston Villa playing Manchester United at Old Trafford. It’s the Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Villa week.

‘as a body of work, it’s the stuff of nightmares’

Aston Villa’s record against Manchester United

The Good

There was a time, not so many months ago, that seeing a fixture list of Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Spurs and Man City, would have had supporters searching further ahead to when Aston Villa could expect their next point. 

This season, things are different, and it is refreshing to go into these games without the feeling of dread they used to pose. With a little more luck, the performances at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford could have rewarded Villa with much more than a single point. 

The fact Villa are competing as equals and can look to such gripes as fatigue, injury and bad luck, rather than simply being outclassed, showed the progression of the side and the manager this season. 

The good thing about 2020/21 Aston Villa, is their mentality. When they played United in project restart, it was the darkest hour. The team, lost their heads after a dubious penalty decision and fell apart. This time after a… dubious penalty decision, they stayed in the game and stuck to the plan and were very unlucky not to get an equaliser in a dominant final ten minutes.

It’s good as a supporter for matches to be equal contests again.

The Bad

The bad can only be one thing, Villa’s horrific record against Manchester United. Not since the first Premier League season have Villa been the dominant force. Two wins and a draw in the three meetings that season are a distant memory as United’s domestic domination seemed to be at Villa’s expense.

It’s unexplainably bad and a stat came up at the weekend that it was Manchester United’s 100th Victory against Villa in all competitions, after their first coming as Newton Heath in 1892. It’s passed down from generation to generation as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has never lost a match against Villa as player or manager.

No team has a hold on another like United have on Villa. League wins against United need to stop being life defining events. 

How many times do United need to be the ones who somehow comeback against Villa to not only draw but win? Recent highlights include: Macheda x2, Van Nistelrooy, Scholes’ Volley, Van Persie’s hat-trick of offside goals, the 2010 League Cup Final and many more. On their own, each one of these are ridiculous, but as a body of work, it’s the stuff of nightmares. 

It doesn’t stop on the pitch either, from poaching our pivotal players, relegating us officially in 2016, selling us awful players, and of course recommending even worse managers, the scales are certainly tipped in one way.

The recent game was typical. Villa, with perhaps their best chance to gain retribution, against a talented, but disjointed United, conspired to gift them the first goal after a misjudgement by Tyrone Mings, then be the victim of what has been described in the media as ‘An Old Trafford Penalty’.

It is inconceivably bad, that football as a sport, has degenerated to the level where ex-players, who would have snapped your legs, are defending modern day professionals engineering penalties in the manner Paul Pogba did. 

The game is too far gone now to be saved, but the original intentions of the sport should be remembered. 

It is a contact game, you are allowed to touch a player from the opposing team. Much like the farcical handball rule, the acceptance of players going down, unnaturally in the box should be stamped out.

For it to be a penalty, the same considerations should apply that apply to a straight red card. Intent, force, and infringement.

A penalty shouldn’t be as simple a decision as a throw-in, corner or even offside. Douglas Luiz, had no intention of fouling Pogba. He closed him down and there was a touch. Pogba, then put his foot behind the other to trip himself and earn a penalty. 

People that argue the touch forced his foot behind, need to look at the severity of the touch and the contradictory speed of his foot going behind the other, we don’t even need to go into the video evidence of him encouraging Luke Shaw to dive. But maybe their tinted glasses are bad.

Villa sale now on below

The Ugly

The Ugly section seems to be stuck in a loop of tribalism, poor refereeing, excuses for punditry, and uneducated journalism in recent weeks, so to draw a line under it, let’s call the common denominator ‘insecurity’.

VAR is at the end of the day a tool. The human element is what’s causing the problems for the game, yet there is zero acceptance from the PGMOL, that this is even possible because they are so scared of people seeing they can get things wrong and this insecurity stops simple solutions like having VAR manned by the same team every week. 

Adding human variation to a digital medium, is what’s causing these problems and if it was at least consistent off the pitch, the majority of the problems would be resolved. 

Journalists, are so used to using the same stereotypes and writing about the same big teams, that when other teams appear to challenge them, their lack of knowledge is exposed. Then, they go on the attack, as insecurity means they cannot be thought of as anything except authoritative word on a subject. 

Pundits, need to remember what their jobs are. They are there to give their opinions and insights based on their experience. I don’t need to be retold what I’ve just seen with my own eyes. I need their insight on this as an ex-pro. Instead, you just get stubborn examples of old allegiances and previous opinions as they are insecure about becoming obsolete, so they stick to what keeps them in the spotlight, no matter how wrong it is.

Finally, fans insecurities are being laid bare on social media without the outlet of attending matches.

If someone hits a nerve, the reaction is ugly in the extreme.

Fuelled by their official Twitter account, the Leeds fans insecurity about staying in the league and not reverting to type, blew up on Karen Carney and instead of celebrating a 5-0 demolition of West Brom, they were insecurely defending a historical trait of their manager’s teams.

Villa fans had the same issue when Jack Grealish wasn’t picked for the first England squad of the year. When the insecurity that other people may not rate him as highly as we do was triggered, the response as always, was vitriol.

It’s easy to play up to your fanbase online when you’re preaching to the choir. It’s much harder to take the road less travelled and offer a solution.

Everyone needs to rise above it, whether PGMOL, pundit, journalist or fan and stop making the same insecure choices. Until that happens, we are stuck in the same ugly loop. 


Follow Phil on Twitter here -> @PRSGAME

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  1. T’all goes back to ’57 (no dbl) and ’94 (no trbl) – they just can’t let it lie.
    Who’s that dying on the runway ?

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