Top Full-back Targett, Villa’s Need to Change Gears and Corner Strategy

Good Bad Ugly

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

Here we are again, like Sisyphus, pushing the boulder uphill only for it to roll down again, Villa are paying penance for cheating death the last two seasons. It’s time for the Good, Bad and Ugly of the week.

why are Aston Villa corners, more dangerous to Villa on the counter than the team defending them?

The Good

It was a joy to watch the Villa under 18’s sweep West Brom aside in the FA Youth Cup semi-final to set up a Home final against Liverpool.

The style of play and mentality of a team that know they have the capability to carve open an opposition is the thing of dreams for football fans.

With Louie Barry, Carney Chukwuemeka and Brad Young leading the line, they have a blend of skill and grit that works going forward, and each of the three brings something unique to the mix.

The final against Liverpool is a chance to get the taste of winning into the squad. 

Manchester United’s Class of 92 or Barcelona’s Xavi, Iniesta, Messi generation are the pinnacle, but you only need to keep hold of the right young players and integrate them to find the next Jack Grealish, Harry Kane or Phil Foden.

Shout out to Villa for the away win against Spurs. Getting used to beating the ‘Super League’ teams is a big positive to take into next season. It’ll hopefully provide a mentality shift, that will increase Villa’s potential going forward.

Villan of The Week — Matt Targett 

There’s a vote this week for player of the year. I think it is hard to look past Matt Targett. 

The signs were there, a performance at home to Arsenal in the penultimate game last season was the beginning, but still, there were calls to reinforce the position last summer.

Now he’s the definition of a Premier League Fullback. Like the Terminator, he just keeps going, through knocks, opposition wingers and overlaps with minimal fuss.

The position is so strong that most opposition teams attack down the other side. If Matty Cash improves at the same rate, then Villa will be the envy of the league at fullback.

The Bad

Crystal Palace or was it Burnley, Newcastle, Wolves, Brighton, West Ham or any number of teams to play against Villa in 2021?

There’s a mental block on the pitch that’s developed when Villa take a first half lead, suffer a setback or have a decision go against them. 

In fact, even when decisions or moments in matches go for them, the players on the pitch don’t seem to have the next page of the script to carry on playing.

In the Palace game, Villa went in unfortunate to only be one goal up after one chance fell to Benteke. Villa had, the majority of the play, chances, and intent in the half, but even here there were signs that something has been lost.

In the first half of the season, Villa took advantage of big moments in games, whether it was pivotal goals, sendings off or penalty decisions. 

Like it should, these moments galvanised the team and gave them the adrenaline injection needed to complete the task at hand.

Since Burnley away, the next page of the script has been ripped away from Villa, they don’t know what to do after there is a momentum switch in a match.

Other teams have consistently taken the initiative in the key moments of matches. Crystal Palace was no different. 

Lucky to still be in the game, they came out second half and gave Villa no time on the ball, the tactic that has been used to combat them all season. 

Despite this Villa weathered the storm and introducing Jack Grealish on 63 minutes, should have been the catalyst for Villa to kill off the game. 

Instead, Palace just kept the ball away from the Villa skipper, and went on to score two goals that were all about determination to be the first to the ball rather than skill.

Passive is the worst word that can be used about Villa because it’s the truth. They need to go up a gear at the key points in matches because at the moment it looks like they are stuck in whatever tempo they begin a half.

The win against Spurs, that came in the next game, showed you why Villa should have been a top half team this season, but the Palace game was further proof as to why they ultimately only ended up 11th.

Aston Villa Home Shirt Discount 70%

The Ugly

There’s a reason managers and teams in lower league positions place such an emphasis on getting ugly goals from set pieces. They’re simple.

If your team can’t craft a winning goal, a set piece can be the last hope. Whip a ball in and get someone on the end of it. They can be the silver bullet against any team from Brazil to San Marino.

Liverpool, perhaps, know this more than any team. When they need a goal, like at Villa park last year or the Hawthorns at the weekend, a corner is easier and takes less time than an intricate passing move.

Despite their Goalkeeper Alisson Becker scoring one of the best headers of the season to win the game, there’s no plan for or against this. By his own admission he just attacked space. Trent Alexander Arnold, just whipped the ball into a good area and the rest took care of itself.

So, why are Aston Villa corners, more dangerous to Villa on the counter than the team defending them?

It’s too easy to lament the loss of Conor Hourihane. While true his set piece delivery would have added more goals and assists, a Premier League footballer should be able to hit a large area from a dead ball.

I can only think that Villa are overcomplicating attacking set pieces. The number of short corners have increased, the movement and runs of players in the box have become convoluted, and the result is usually a ball into the keepers arms or out of play.

I can only hope that we go back to basics and put the ball in an area that can be attacked. If Liverpool’s Goalkeeper can do it beautifully, there’s no reason Villa can’t score an ugly goal or two from a corner to help them moving forward.


Follow Phil on Twitter here – @PRSGAME


  1. talk of Goalies creating chances reminds me of the time when Jimmy Cumbes nearly scored for Villa from a goal kick @ Roker park which had Montgomery rocking on his line in the opposite goal mouth & Villa fans praying he’d fall backwards

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