The Good, Bad and Ugly of the Spurs Game and Beyond
Another weekend, another curse or two lifted at Villa Park as Aston Villa rolled over another Super League team, it’s time for the GBU of the week.
This was a game Aston Villa simply had to win. If they’d lost, the season faced the real possibility of fizzling out so soon after showing what the potential of this Villa side could be.
Tottenham Hotspur arrived at a tricky time. Many would say it was an ideal time to play the famously soft-centred side, but having been demolished at Newcastle, they managed fightbacks against Manchester United and Liverpool, to show they still had teeth.
Aston Villa themselves were coming off the back of two disappointing single-goal defeats. It was a true test of what the team was made of. Were the last two defeats a sign of the bubble bursting, or were they simply narrow losses against sides with good home records?
The game just showed that this is a new version of Villa who won’t just let things fizzle out. If you want to beat them, you have to do your homework and earn it. Spurs were abject for the majority of the game as Villa returned to the level of performance seen in the Newcastle game.
It wouldn’t have flattered Villa to be going in at the break four goals ahead, as they looked certain to score every time they went forward. As well as the Ramsey goal, Watkins, Bailey and Buendia could have added strikes of their own.
Despite the second half being more even, Villa held out against a team that had broken their resolve at Villa Park on more than one occasion in the recent past. Bjorn Engels, I’m looking at you here.
Spurs had won their last seven Premier League games at Villa Park, scoring at least two on each occasion.
Enter Unai Emery’s 1.0 version of Aston Villa. Let the good records begin.
Villan of the Week – John McGinn
It would have been right to give this to April’s Manager of the Month, but there should be more of these awards in the future. Instead, it has to go to the Aston Villa Captain.
John McGinn dominated the midfield against Spurs. Skipp, Højbjerg, and Yves Bissouma, who was once a target for Villa, were all outplayed and outmaneuvered by the combative Scotsman. He delivered yet another outstanding performance that would have been unimaginable under either Steven Gerrard or Dean Smith.
McGinn was simply the boss in the middle and Spurs had no answer to him.
Villa’s End of Season Sale Now On
It would be easy to save either ‘the bad’ or ‘the ugly’ section each week for the refereeing performance, such have the standards of officiating in the Premier League this season, but that would be boring.
Despite this, sometimes a performance, so irredeemably bad comes along, that it surpasses all other bad news that week. Introducing Peter Bankes and his officials at Villa Park.
Of course, when Aston Villa win, it’s easy to forget how bad a referee is, but I don’t think anyone who watched will forget this one in a hurry.
It began with the decision to award Son a free kick for slipping over after running side-by-side with John McGinn. It may have been a simple error, but just 20 seconds prior, Emi Buendia had been wiped out on the edge of the Spurs box.
Then, there were new records set for the longest delayed flags in the Premier League. With Villa playing the offside trap, there were always going to be a couple, but the one where Son was miles off, ran through, had time to take it around Emi Martinez, hit the post, collect his rebound, tee up Harry Kane, who then had a shot saved before Villa cleared and the flag went up.
Let’s cast our minds back to the Coutinho goal that was ruled out against Manchester City earlier in the season. He wasn’t even offside, but the flag went up and the whistle went as he was taking his shot, not two seconds later.
Bankes then proceeded to put on a masterclass of inconsistency, to the point that nobody understood what a foul was anymore. Christian Romero seemed able to lunge in and take multiple bites at Villa players all afternoon, yet he wasn’t booked until the 80th minute.
I’d say that this game will not be one of the televised PR performances from Howard Webb on Sky Sports anytime soon.
Of course, we are saving the best for another section. The only thing Peter Bankes got right all day was his original call on the penalty.
Step forward, Mr FA, England Captain Harry Kane.
There’s a difference between being clever to win a penalty and cheating. Being clever is drawing the contact through your skill with the ball and going down when it is received.
Cheating is what players like Bruno Fernandes and Harry Kane excel at.
Cheating is when a player could remove the opposition player from the situation entirely, and the result would remain the same. This is precisely what happened against Aston Villa.
Since we’re in the age of VAR, let’s break it down into phases.
Kane is arguably offside, but as with the rest of the game, play continues. He’s played through and sees Emi Martinez advancing.
Kane stretches to reach the ball and manages to touch it almost 90 degrees to his right, away from the Aston Villa goal.
Next, Kane tucks his left ankle behind his right as he uses it as a platform to gain more momentum in his forward dive. By this point, Kane is effectively mid-dive when Emi Martinez comes into the picture.
Kane then lands on Martinez, specifically on the back of his right arm, and propels himself off with his legs to clear the Villa keeper and land on the other side, starting his feigned injury and penalty claim.
What’s truly ugly about this situation is the number of people defending it in the media and online.
Let’s call it what it is, regardless of the team involved.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame