The Obvious Improvement Aston Villa Need to Make to End Season With Positive Momentum

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

With the composure of anyone who had a chance for either Villa or Wolves last weekend, it’s time to delve into the Good Bad and Ugly of the week.

The Good

Forty points. The first target of any club that finishes in the bottom half has been achieved. Despite what I’m going to say next, this is a good thing. It allows Villa the stability and time to seek potential signings and get their house in order behind the scenes, which translates to success on the pitch.

Now that’s out of the way, attention has to turn to the objectives for the rest of the season. Despite the last few performances, Aston Villa, still have the chance to make this season a special one. At the very least, the players need to recapture their pre-Christmas energy, to make sure that the club’s momentum carries forward to next season. 

Take Liverpool and Sheffield United, despite phenomenal seasons last time round, they coasted to the finish line and have been unable to get the momentum back in 2020/21. Both are severely underperforming and despite injuries, are still not anywhere near the level of performance their fans could have expected.

Do we really want this to happen to Villa? 

As good as it is to be approaching the final quarter of the season safe from relegation fears, the staff need to be mindful that no matter where they eventually finish, the whole atmosphere around the club is positive for next season.

Villan of the Week — Ollie Watkins

A few weeks ago, I said everything about Villa depends on Ollie Watkins. Against Wolves, his unlucky streak continued. He hit the woodwork, for a season high seventh time, inside the first five minutes with a great strike and had Villa’s only shot on target in injury time. That’s effort from first to final whistle, with nothing to show for it. Decision-making aside, Watkins certainly hasn’t dropped his performance levels despite the results not coming. 

The Bad

Fulham and Liverpool at the start of the season are two games I keep coming back to. Villa were at their free-flowing best against sides that had hurt them in the past. 

With teams finding their feet in the behind-closed-doors league, Villa rode the wave of momentum from survival and swept both these two very different teams aside. Both matches began with the early goal and Villa didn’t look back.

The glass half full, half empty argument will always come up, but despite the demolition jobs in these games, I had one worry. Being ruthless in front of goal.

Villa should have done Fulham six or more and been the first team in Premier League history to reach double figures against Liverpool, such were the clear-cut chances missed. I just got this nagging feeling in the back of my head that it was something we didn’t have in the locker.

Unfortunately, it’s been our one failing all season. While it didn’t matter in those games, or against Palace and West Brom, we only need to list Leeds (h), Brighton(h), Burnley x2, Sheffield United (a), Wolves (h), Southampton (h), West Ham (a) and Manchester United (a). 

A paltry 2 points from 27 in games where we had gilt-edged chances at crucial points. 

Even take half of those chances or 12 points, and we’d be one point behind Leicester with two games in hand. That’s perspective.

With the way Aston Villa can play, ‘hanging on’ wins against Southampton and Arsenal should be our ‘bad’ or ‘off’ days, instead of our main way to get points, at the moment. 

Aston Villa Training Sale

The Ugly

Did you all see it? A shocking thing that has everyone talking, has split families down the middle and had most people making the same face as Oprah Winfrey when they saw it.

Of course, I’m referring to the second-half miss by Wolves Romain Saïss.

How did it even happen? It must have been bad enough for Wolves fans that Coady missed a point-blank header to set it up, but once the ball came back off the post invitingly to Saïss, the whole world just assumed it was a goal.

Is it the ugliest miss ever seen at Villa Park or even further? 

I can think of a few contenders.

The worst, I’ve been in attendance for, happened under Paul Lambert in February 2013. 

Villa had a must-win game against West Ham towards the end of the 2012/2013 season. Nerves were shredded for the majority of the 2-1 win, but things could have been so different if Andreas Weimann had taken an early chance. 

Benteke forced a spill from Jaaskelainen and the ball fell to the Austrian striker. Somehow he managed to fire the ball wide of the far post. I don’t think his Villa career was ever the same after it.

The most well known at Villa Park, was Ronny Rosenthal in 1992. Sean Teale misjudged a punt from the Liverpool keeper David James, and Rosenthal nipped in, rounded Nigel Spink and had a tap in from eight yards, we’ve all seen what happened next, as he somehow hit the bar.

While this is probably the most famous miss of all time, certainly at Villa Park, it isn’t my favourite.

My personal choice comes from everyone’s favourite Viagra ambassador Pelé in the 1970 World Cup for Brazil against Uruguay. Shown on highlight reels around the globe, the wrong way dummy that preceded it was pure genius. Running one way around the advancing keeper as the ball went to his other side, leaving the most famous player in history with a simple finish. 

Unfortunately, even for someone who (counting friendlies) scored over 1000 career goals, getting the ball between the posts can sometimes be the hardest thing in football. He didn’t take a touch, let it run too wide and then dragged it wide of the far post.

Ugly misses happen to the best of us, so don’t worry Romain Saïss, I’m sure someone else will come along and miss an even easier chance, if they can…


Follow Phil on Twitter here – @PRSGAME

Check out the latest MOMS podcast show (featuring Phil)