The Villa Report – Aston Villa 2 Nottingham Forest 0
In a Word
‘A large powerful force or organisation that cannot be stopped.’
The Carter Report
Clear blue skies greeted Unai Emery’s claret and blue disruptors at Villa Park, with outdoor beers flowing and spirits high amongst the Villa masses before kick-off. Even the odd dodgy vocal on stage at the fan park outside the ground could not dampen the spirits. Could the recent run of incredible form continue against Steve Cooper’s Forest side, themselves desperately in need of points for very different reasons?
An unchanged Villa line-up started well, attacking the Holte End with gusto in front of yet another sell-out crowd. Ollie Watkins flashed a shot wide within the first few minutes as Villa dominated possession. The new normal of playing out from the back even appears more comfortable right now, with the players seemingly getting used to receiving the ball in tight situations and transferring it quickly and accurately.
Leon Bailey was proving a handful on the right as Forest defenders backed off, and so it proved when he drove into the box to provide a presentable chance for Watkins, this time denied by a combination of goalkeeper and defender at the near post.
Unfortunately, the mercurial Jamaican departed soon after with yet another injury (hamstring), to be replaced by Villa’s renaissance man, Bertrand Traore. Bert soon got on the end of a chance but blasted high and handsome into the Holte.
At half-time, with the deadlock still to be broken, the mood on the Lower Holte Concourse was still overwhelmingly positive; surely it would be a mater of time before we broke a poor Forest side down. The visitors had offered little in the first half. And so it proved.
Within three minutes of the restart, Villa were ahead, with none other than Traore providing the breakthrough, expertly guiding into the far corner after following up on his own initial ball into the box. The Burkina Faso man looked delighted once again, perhaps in sharp contrast to the man who shunned him and sent him out on loan to Turkey, Steven Gerrard. Once again, the difference between an elite level coach and a novice had been highlighted; Emery made the smart decision in January to bring Traore back into the fold, and how it has paid off, with two goals in two games, and six points in the bag because of him.
Despite the early goal, the second didn’t seem to want to come, despite good Villa pressure. With John McGinn once again in imperious form in the middle of the park, the midfield battle had been long since won. Leander Dendoncker replaced a tiring Emi Buendia to reinforce the point. Surely it was just a case of when Villa could add another goal, but they made us wait!
It was not until the 95th minute, and the last kick of the game, before the win was confirmed. Watkins and Jacob Ramsey combined to put the in-form front man in on goal, and once again he did not disappoint, feathering a delightful dink past Forest keeper Keylor Navas. Cue pandemonium.
There was hardly time to kick-off again as the reality set in that Emery’s Aston Villa juggernaut had now barged its way into the top six of the Premier League.
Emerging into the Aston sunshine, spirits were soaring, with fans singing raucously about European tours whilst simultaneously making a mental note to renew their passports.
Villa Away Shirts £20
Reflecting on the performance, it was not vintage, but effective. Villa nullified any limited threat that Forest had and took their chances when they arose. Perhaps the best way to describe the performance was economical. In a very short space of time, Emery has fashioned a way of playing that gets the most out of the team, and for that he deserves huge credit.
Thoughts now turn to a major test when Newcastle travel to Villa Park next weekend. The reverse fixture saw Villa hammered 4-0 in what proved to be the last game before Emery took charge; its fair to say that a very different Aston Villa will take the field on Saturday, if not in personnel then certainly in attitude, competence and guile.
As someone rather splendid once said, do you want to bet against us?
Value rating – £25 (out of £35)