The Good, Bad and Ugly of Chelsea and Leicester
Well… Of all the pieces that will be written about Aston Villa’s week, this is the only one that has to include a bad and ugly. Life comes at you fast.
Where should you start? Aston Villa have managed to transform their season objectives in the course of two away games.
After the comfortable victory over Bournemouth, the top half of the Premier League table was the objective, now after the week that was, Villa are one game against Nottingham Forest away from really asserting themselves as European contenders.
To begin with, the game against Chelsea was one that showed how the Villa tactical machine and Unai Emery have developed at a rapid pace in 2023.
The formation, plan and tactics ensured Villa were a live threat, despite not having as much of the ball as they have been used to, with 31% possession against Chelsea. It’s what you do with it that counts though.
Chelsea were unlucky not to score, but at the end of the day you have to put your chances away when they come, that’s usually the reason why you spend £89 million on a player.
Aston Villa by contrast, took two chances out of five. Watkins’s early miss, McGinn hitting the bar, and Ramsey’s late tumble in the box were the ones that went begging.
Five decent chances created away at Chelsea from only 31% possession? That’s efficiency.
Moving on to the away game at Leicester City, fans saw character and mentality in the Villa side that have been lacking in previous seasons.
A Leicester side, who had sacked their manager Brendan Rodgers and had a point to prove, were always going to be a more feisty opponent than a disjointed and stuttering Chelsea and so it proved.
In years gone by, this is the game where ‘Classic Villa’ would have fallen to a defeat.
The game itself was intense, as the home side’s battle to stay in the division finally looked to have sunk in with their players. Despite the intensity, Villa’s game plan didn’t change.
They continued to pass it out from the back and feed the ball through the midfield and left-back Alex Moreno and took the lead through Ollie Watkins.
The fact that they didn’t crumble after Harvey Barnes’ world-class equaliser, showed clear progress from the reverse fixture at Villa Park, where they conceded goals in quick succession.
Under Dean Smith and Steven Gerrard, Villa struggled to play against ten men, but after Dewsbury-Hall was sent off for the hosts, Villa didn’t panic and continued to probe.
Of course, when it reaches the last five minutes, there’s no point in trying the same thing over and over again, it’s time to mix it up, and who could be more unpredictable than Bertrand Traoré.
Villan of the Week – Bertrand Traoré
Sometimes a player scores a goal and celebrates alone. They may not be a team player or be on their way from the club, other times the celebration opens the door to the changing room.
When Traoré scored his magical one-touch winner, everyone in the team was ecstatic, they matched him for pace to run and celebrate with him.
This is a player, who hadn’t done much wrong for Villa, before getting injured and then discarded by Steven Gerrard.
Now he has another jaw-dropping goal to add to his showreel for Villa.
Who knows, maybe there is more to come from the mercurial maestro.
There’s not a lot, but of course, there’s something and it comes in the shape of Nottingham Forest.
There’s a chance that some fan will take this as a guaranteed three points before a ball is even kicked. It’s a bit like when Wolves visited Villa Park earlier in the season and were the better side.
While it would be nice to have the confidence to dismiss teams, any Villa fan with experience knows to treat every game with respect.
Luckily, it looks like Unai Emery understands this as well.
Forest will be fighting for their lives, like Bournemouth and Leicester before them, and Villa will have to put in the same levels of performance to get the three points that will cement their place among the European contenders.
It’s taken years to get rid of ‘Classic Villa’ and it would be a bad thing if they made a return appearance against Forest.
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It’s clear that the football media really don’t know how to handle a successful Aston Villa.
From small snippets on podcasts to pundits clearly showing they’ve not watched them at all before trying to analyse their latest win.
It may be the reason Villa’s defeat of Chelsea was last on Match of the Day.
The funniest of all is the online meltdown over the league table graphics used by the BBC, Sky and the Premier League to set an agenda for their coverage.
It started with relegation tables when Villa were double digits clear of 12th place let alone 18th.
Then when Villa swapped positions with Chelsea, and they took up 11th place, Chelsea were mysteriously excluded from the graphic.
It works at the other end of the table. Sky did a top-four probability calculation the day before Villa played Leicester, that only stretched down to eighth position Liverpool.
Now with Villa sitting in seventh, we eagerly await an updated version.
While it’s easy to have an ugly reaction to these instances, the real table doesn’t lie. If Aston Villa stay on their current trajectory, everyone will be forced to pay attention to Unai Emery’s Ugly Disruptors.