By Jonathan Parkin
Aston Villa vs Wolves
If the first three games back since the restart had offered up uncertain performances by Aston Villa, a win against their high-flying Midlands neighbours Wolves, would have certainly jolted their survival campaign into life. Villa would have finished the weekend out of the bottom three and three points clear of the drop zone.
To achieve that, Villa had to contain the impressive Wolves and find a gear or two extra going forward.
After calling for two strikers for what seems like an age, Dean Smith finally gave the Villa faithful what they desired. Keinan Davis took the place of Trezeguet to make the partnership up front with Ally Samatta, and Marvelous Nakamba and Conor Hourihane took the places of John McGinn and Anwar El Ghazi. A four-man Villa midfield with no wingers meant width would have to come from the full-back positions, although Smith persisted with Ezri Konsa in the right-back role. With Adama Traore starting on the bench, at least Matt Targett could focus on getting into the Wolves half to support attacks.
While the Villa backline initially marshalled the dual threat of Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez well, but for a moment of craziness from Orjan Nyland, there were few clear cut chances for the visitors. At the other end though, once again Villa struggled to get any urgency or momentum in their game going forward.
While Villa continued to look pedestrian offering up very little spark, the introduction of the dangerous Adama for Wolves had instant impact as Leander Dendoncker scored at the end of a well-worked moved.
After going behind the boys in claret and blue looked defeated, devoid of ideas, and also seemingly not particularly bothered about the predicament they found themselves in. A Douglas Luiz shot from 30 yards was about the best attempt the Villans could muster. Even with only minutes to go, there was little movement up front, and a complete lack of any desire. The players ambled forward on the attack as if they didn’t realise the club’s status in the Premier League was at stake.
Most Villa fans would probably bite your hand off for a chance to stay up on the final day against West Ham, and really that seems the best that anyone can hope for. Jack Grealish looks defeated and nowhere near his best, and other than Douglas Luiz and the improved organisation of the backline, the rest of the squad seems to have regressed considerably since the restart.
Orjan Nyland – 5
Orjan Nyland wasn’t tested a great deal by the Wolves forwards (hat tip the improved defensive organisation). He created his own problems with his poor handling though. Early on he near dropped a soft Raul Jimenez header at the attacker’s feet, and the less said about his attempt to throw the ball the better. The confidence in him, he did well to win back from fans after his injury, is fast dissolving.
Ezri Konsa – 6
Villa looked relatively organised at the back, and didn’t have too much grief from Jonny Otto down the Wolves left. This was largely due to the good work of Ezri Konsa defensively. The 22-year-old didn’t offer much going forward however, other than one cross.
Kortney Hause – 6.5
Other than the attack for the Wolves goal, the Villa defence wasn’t tested particularly by the hard-working Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota. Kortney Hause did his bit with some reasonable defending. He also provided one of the only Villa attacking threats, despite this his headers from set pieces never seem to find the target.
Tyrone Mings – 6
Like with the rest of the Villa defence, Tyrone Mings had a decent enough game. He got across to make a couple of good tackles when Wolves looked to get in behind. He did however, fail to close down Jonny as the wing-back sprinted straight into the heart of the Villa defence to set up the Wolves goal.
Matt Targett – N/A
Matt Targett didn’t have a chance to have an impact on the game before being substituted due to injury after 10 minutes. It’s a shame because when Villa have played well this season, Targett is normally a key part of that. Though relying on a player who gets injured so frequently, isn’t the best policy.
Douglas Luiz – 6.5 MOTM
Brazilian Douglas Luiz was once again Villa’s best performer. He filled in for defenders at the back when the defence was pulled out of shape, and spread the play well. The one fault in his performance was failing to take down Adama in the move leading up to the Wolves goal, a tactical foul was necessary when the visitors were breaking so quickly.
Marvelous Nakamba – 5.5
Though Marvelous Nakamba did run around a lot before being substituted in the 81stminute, he didn’t do an awful lot, particularly when Villa looked to get forward. The ball stops when it gets to the Zimbabwean, and in a team that is slow to get forward at the best of times, that really dents the attack effort.
Conor Hourihane – 5.5
Much like with Marvelous Nakamba, Conor Hourihane didn’t do a great deal in the centre of the park. He had a good chance in the first half, but he failed to elevate the ball over the legs of the diving Wolves defender. This lack of influence by Hourihane and Nakamba was most likely due to Villa’s more direct approach to the game.
Jack Grealish © – 5
Super Jack Grealish is in danger of fast losing his ‘super’ moniker, if he keeps this level of lacklustre performance up. One run and shot in the first half showed more of the directness that is expected from Villa’s star man, but he didn’t build on the promising start. The midfield maestro kept dropping deep to collect the ball, where he can’t hurt the opposition, and he rarely if ever makes runs in behind the striker, which is desperately needed when playing direct football. He seemingly wants more time on the ball than he has got, and so as a result Villa’s attacks faultered time after time, as he either slowed the pace of the game or gave the ball away.
Keinan Davis – 6
It was a confusing decision by Dean Smith to take Keinan Davis off and leave Ally Samatta on. Davis was working his hardest and did well to challenge the Wolves defenders and hold up the ball on several occasions. The service to the strikers was poor, and Davis did his best to make something from it.
Ally Samatta – 5.5
Ally Samatta didn’t look at all threatening, even when the Tanzanian was given space in the box to attack by a rare Willy Boly mistake. The striker rarely ran the channels and found himself dropping far to deep to come and get the ball. Samatta is making it far too easy to defend against him, his lack of movement and strength on the ball mean he has very little impact.
Use code MOMS10 for 10% at the club shop below
Off the Bench
Neil Taylor (10) – 6
Despite the BT commentary team talking up the tough test for Neil Taylor against Adama when he came on, the full-back did an admirable job at dealing with the Spaniard. Throughout the rest of proceedings Taylor put in a solid, if unspectacular shift at left-back. The Welshman even mustered up a nice low pass into Jack Grealish in the box, in the second half.
John McGinn (59) – 5.5
After coming off the bench in the 59th minute, John McGinn was mostly anonymous. He drifted out to the right-hand side when Villa were on the attack, but his crosses, bar one, were poor and didn’t challenge the Wolves defence.
Ahmed Elmohamady (59) – 5.5
Ahmed Elmohamady was presumably brought on for Konsa to add some extra attacking impetus for Villa down the right. The change did not have the desired effect. Elmo’s crosses were few in number, and lacking in quality.
Anwar El Ghazi (81) – 5.5
Anwar El Ghazi came on and failed to improve the lethargic Villa attack. Excluding one cross, he only succeeded in giving the ball away and committing stupid fouls. He had enough of the ball in his brief cameo to make an impact, but he didn’t.
Trezeguet (81) – 4.5
Trezeguet had one touch, as soon as he came onto the pitch, and that was the only time he touched the ball. It’s almost as if the Egyptian was trying to avoid the ball. Villa were going forward for the majority of the time that he was on the pitch, so to have such little impact when dynamic attacking play is needed is baffling.
Dean Smith – 4.5
The positive for Dean Smith was that the defence looks much better organised than earlier in the season. Despite this, the negatives heavily outweigh the positives. The players don’t look fussed that the team is performing badly, and they don’t react other than to lower their heads when they go behind. The attack is as sharp as a spoon, with players standing like statues waiting for someone else to take the initiative and do something, instead of themselves.
Villa fans want to at least see some fight and effort, but the displays have been pathetic and show minimal effort all round. A defeat in isolation to this talented Wolves team is not the end of the world, but it’s the manner of the performance that is the big concern. Such toothless attacking displays have underlined all of Villa’s performances since the restart, and it’s a recipe for relegation.
Give Jon a follow on Twitter here – @JonParkinSports
Become a MOMS Patron
Join MOMS Match Club and get extra podcasts & perks, by becoming a MOMS PatronBecome a Patron!