Villa’s Above Par Points, Son Stealing Performance and No Formation Fits All

Good, Bad & Ugly of Villa Success

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

Hopefully, the Villaverse got over celebrating beating Manchester United because a trip to the capital came with plenty of Good, Bad and Ugly.

The Good

The points haul from Chelsea (a), Everton (h), Manchester United (a) and Tottenham Hotspur (a) was six points. It’s very much par for these games if not above, so despite feeling a bit bemused at the Spurs defeat, the trend is up.

On another day, Villa could have finished this run with 12 points or 0 points, and nobody would have been surprised.

The win at Old Trafford, always had the potential to raise expectations among fans, and coming up against a Spurs side who desperately needed a result, required the same levels.

The fact that a Villa side, under-par on the day, were only outdone by a World-Class performance by Son Heung-min shows the levels of concentration the team need to remain at.

It’s a timely reminder that they can’t just rock up and dial in a performance against anyone. The levels from the win at Old Trafford need to be the minimum moving forward if you want to finish above teams like Spurs and Arsenal.

If anything, Villa were just a bit Spursy on the day.

Villan of the Week — Ollie Watkins

Strikers live on confidence, and getting his first goal against Spurs in addition to his recall to the England squad will boost Watkins.

His situation has changed at Villa since last season, and he will have to adapt.

Last season he was the main man, the focal point of every attack, and the senior striker at the club. 

This season, Danny Ings is there to help him and to challenge him. 

Ollie Watkins will need to deal with this new dynamic, and getting off the mark will keep his confidence high.

The Bad

The game against Spurs was always going to be tricky.

After their first half collapse against Arsenal in the North London Derby and Villa’s performance at Manchester United, fans understandably smelt blood in the water.

With hindsight, cliché’s exist in football for a reason…

Wounded animals are dangerous…

Go out and win the second half…

After the Lord Mayor’s Show…

Spurs were not doubt wounded, and they desperately needed a positive result. 

The reason they had been playing so badly was down to underperformance from their front three, Lucas Moura, Kane and Son. 

When these three upped their levels, Spurs would be a better side, and that’s precisely what happened against Villa. 

This was easy to miss because the media coverage had been of a Spurs meltdown.

Spurs went out and won the second half against Arsenal and had enough chances to get back into the game through a penalty not given and good saves from the Arsenal keeper Ramsdale, so the signs of recovery were there. 

Which leaves the Villa side of things…

Despite the result, it wasn’t a bad performance, it was untidy. There was an air of impatience about their play, that could naturally follow a win against Manchester United.

The whole Aston Villa side looked to be in a rush to get this game over.

Villa came out frantically, and for the first twenty minutes, Tottenham couldn’t get out of their half. Unfortunately, Villa, couldn’t get the goal and got hit on the break.

A giveaway by McGinn, Son then advanced the ball up the pitch in a flash, Hause held him up, but he passed to Hojbjerg and Konsa turned his back on the shot that went past Martinez. 

After working hard to get the equaliser in the second half, it happened to Villa again. Son had too much pace and space for Hause and squared it for either a Targett own goal or a Moura tap in depending on your outlook.

It only took two moments to lose the game. 

The warning was there against Manchester United, when Greenwood broke and didn’t square it like Son. 

Aston Villa are far from a bad side, but it’s the little things that decide the games against the big teams and the big players.

Had Villa shown a bit more composure, the result would have flipped the other way.

Discounts on Aston Villa Shirts (click below)

The Ugly

There’s no formation that fits every game, and Dean Smith will now need to tinker with it again over the international break.

One criticism levelled at Aston Villa after their great start last season, was that teams had worked them out after Christmas. 

This was most evident, away at Brighton and at home to West Ham in early 2021. 

Where Villa had dominated the play in previous games without getting results against the pair, the reverse fixtures saw Villa dominated in a 0-0 away at Brighton and 1-3 at home to West Ham, after being tactically nullified.

3-5-2 has now been the starting formation for the last four league games and against Spurs, it didn’t work.

Son was able to strike at the space between Villa’s players, particularly full back and outside centre back, and Spurs didn’t bother trying to play out from the back and through the middle like Manchester United did.

This left the three in midfield pulled apart and unable to act as a unit like they had in the previous game at Old Trafford.

There needed to be a change at half-time, but Dean Smith felt the formation was still strong enough to deal with the game, and he was nearly correct.

However, this is the first indication that teams are already working out the Villa 3-5-2 and any team with a pacy front three, won’t need to be as good as Villa to cause them problems.

Look at the first goal from Lukaku against Villa. Villa caught on the break and the ball into the space between the full-back Cash and Tuanzebe.

3-5-2 will play into Liverpool and Manchester City’s hands especially, so Smith needs to tweak it more proactively moving forward.

Of course, not every team will have forwards the quality of Son, Kane, Moura and Lukaku. 

Aston Villa and Dean Smith just need to be more aware that what works brilliantly one week may look a bit uglier the next, and keep changing things up.


Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame

Follow the My Old Man Said podcast on Spotify