The Good, Bad and Ugly of Liverpool
One game to go and Aston Villa are a win away from Europe. Try to contain your excitement everyone, as there are likely to be twists and turns on the final day.
How many times can you say your team has conceded an 89th-minute equalizer, yet you’ve come away happy? Not many, but the game against Liverpool at Anfield was one such occasion.
We’ll talk about the injury time later, but as a pressure result, ending the home team’s Champions League hopes while keeping European football within your own destiny, it was definitely a point gained.
Villa proved to be more than a match for the Reds, and if it hadn’t been for persistent fouling and a wayward penalty, they could have come away with maximum points.
Anfield has been hit or miss for Villa in the past, either providing unexpected wins like the ‘Limes’ of Benteke, Weimann, and Bannan, or experiencing an annihilation like the 5-0 defeat when Martin O’Neill was in charge. It doesn’t seem to matter how strong the squad is at the time; any result is possible.
This performance marked a departure from recent results at Anfield. It had more in common with the recent Liverpool-Arsenal game, which shows that under Emery, Villa is now competing at that level. They are not there to be blown away or to sneak a lucky win; everything is earned on merit.
One more tough game awaits against Brighton, and Emery will secure the European football that he is so addicted to.
Villan of the Week – Jacob Ramsey
Usually, the headline would focus on the fact that Ramsey has played 100 games for Villa at just 21 years old. However, Ramsey is now beginning to offer much more than just impressive appearance statistics.
The ability to time his arrival in the box is a hallmark of most of his goals, and it’s a skill that has defined the best midfielders in the Premier League. Players like Platt, Lampard, Gerrard, and Scholes were all masters at being in the right place at the right time with late runs into the box.
Twice against Liverpool, Ramsey made those well-timed arrivals, and only a save from Allison prevented him from adding more goals to his tally.
If he continues to find space and make those calculated runs, Ramsey has the potential to reach double figures in terms of league goals next season.
Ollie Watkins’ penalty was pretty poor by any standard. While it isn’t a criticism of his performances, he’s just not in the top bracket of penalty takers, as he hasn’t got a technique.
The best penalty-takers in the league, have it down to an art form. They whip the ball into the corners at pace. Harry Kane (who has had plenty of practice with all the penalties, he ‘wins’) is probably the best in the league, despite his miss for England in the World Cup.
You wonder if Villa even practice penalties. Maybe Emi Martinez has mentally broken all of the outfield players in training?
It’s an area Villa need to nail down in pre-season, a designated penalty taker. Ollie Watkins in his league career dating back to 2017/2018 has taken nine penalties.
After Liverpool, he has now scored four and missed five.
For all his excellent attributes, I think he should be off penalty duty.
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Another Ugly column, another issue with the rules of the game.
Considering the delays, the injury time against Liverpool was fair if we apply the rationale used in the World Cup. However, can we seriously introduce this directive for the last two games of the season?
Where was the injury time when we faced Wolves a couple of weeks ago?
Speaking of Wolves, it took a player, Reuben Neves, to ask the question that the football media should have been asking after Everton equalized in the ninth minute of stoppage time.
Neves said, ‘The referee said that they’ve been told to give the exact time in the last two games. I don’t know why they haven’t done it throughout the entire season.’
Neves is absolutely right. How does changing the rules with just two games remaining uphold the integrity of the competition?
The ugly truth is that it raises an unpleasant point. If they are only now providing the correct time at the end of each half, what were they doing before?
Was it, as everyone likes to believe, playing until the super league six get the goal they need? Or is it even worse, with the match officials fabricating the added time based on their desire to finish the game quickly and avoid traffic?
Instead of praising Howard Webb for his 30-minute video presentation with his favorite right-back Gary Neville, someone needs to hold him accountable for changing the rules during the most crucial stage of the season.
These officials are supposed to be the elite, not a group of YTS students who are learning on the job. Didn’t anyone suggest implementing this directive from the start of next season?
If Everton manage to stay up by a single point, how is that fair to the teams that end up being relegated?
Before people bring up Hawkeye and Aston Villa for the hundredth time, let’s remember that there was no rule change involved in that incident. It was a freak occurrence with nine games remaining, and it cannot be compared to this situation.
This is simply the latest ugly step from officials who seem determined to make themselves look more incompetent with each passing week.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame