The Villa Report: Mixed Fortunes of a Pivotal Week

Spurs & Ajax at Villa Park in March 2024

By Rob Carter

In a Word


 ‘Characterised by intense feeling.’

Oxford Dictionary

The Carter Report

In a pivotal week for Aston Villa football club, rarely can two matches have seen such contrasting emotions.  From despair against Spurs, to ecstasy against Ajax, this week has truly been a mental rollercoaster.

Does the latter cancel out the former?  Not quite.  But it certainly helped the healing process.

After the second-half debacle against Spurs, seasoned Villa fans, who have seen it all before, were reaching for the ‘trauma’ file in their brains, and filing this one away, amongst many previous examples of chances spurned.  Despite the clear and obvious deficiencies on display in ‘that’ second half, the team bounced back magnificently against Ajax amidst a raucous Villa Park atmosphere.

What has become clear over the past week is that this team responds well to a challenge and has the strength to look within itself to find alternative answers when it needs to.  Of course, it should be pointed out that Ajax were a shadow of their glorious past, but they were still a live threat, and were swept aside with ease.

So what of the playing staff?  We learned that captain Meatball is virtually (or definitely) irreplaceable; not just for his strength in the heart of Villa’s midfield, but also for his leadership qualities.  After he had departed against Spurs, Villa collapsed; against Ajax, he galvanised the team and drove them towards a superb victory.  He will be badly missed during his three-game ban.

We learnt that Leon Bailey can still be inconsistent; terrible against Spurs, excellent against Ajax. Morgan Rogers can be filed in the ‘not sure’ category, or maybe ‘needs more time.’ Jhon Duran can only score thunderbolts.  Moussa Diaby is still rapid.  Pau is a Rolls Royce, but can (only very occasionally) look like a Robin Reliant.

And the manager?  Unai Emery has made so few mistakes since sweeping into B6 that you could count them on the fingers of one hand; the five at the back selection for Spurs was one of them. However, this formation was swiftly ditched against Ajax, and Villa looked all the better for it.  Let’s hope we can learn from this.

Friday’s Europa Conference League draw saw Villa pitted against French contenders Lille, who are currently 4th in Ligue 1.  Whilst a tricky opponent, many Villa fans will have been relieved to avoid the likes of Fiorentina.  If we see a positive performance a la Ajax, many will see Villa as favourites to progress into the semi-finals.

And so an emotional rollercoaster of a weeks comes to an end, with memories, good and bad, ingrained in the collective consciousness of Villa fans around the world.

The hope going forward is that, for every goal conceded, there will hopefully be a Duran thunderbolt to cleanse the mind.


Value rating: £28 (out of £69) 

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