The Reason for Restraint Against Fulham?
Were Aston Villa too conservative in their 1-0 win against Fulham at Villa Park? At times in the second half, Villa’s players seemed hesitant to commit to overlaps or attack space in the opposition’s half. This was noticeable to the Holte Enders, as Villa sat deeper at the North Stand end of the pitch,, in a compact formation, happy to just constrict space.
It’s clear that this controlled ethos has helped Unai Emery win four Europa Leagues. While it may not be the most entertaining approach for supporters, it’s the results that keep them happiest at the end of the day. Dean Smith’s approach of trying to score another goal when you’re 1-0 up is all well and good, but as Villa swiftly found out, it can be naive in certain circumstances.
One could argue that Smith’s approach would have probably worked against a Fulham team that looked disinterested at best. The game had 2-0 or 3-0 written all over it. Yet, there’s a big factor that Emery is increasingly having to deal with, which is perhaps clipping the team’s wings to express themselves.
Emery has had to manage an increasingly smaller group of players due to injuries to players he would have preferred to rotate in and out. Matty Cash, Boubacar Kamara, Leon Bailey, and Philippe Coutinho would all have been useful in a month that Villa had to play seven league games.
It’s no surprise that Villa haven’t gone at full pelt like their Villa Park performance against Newcastle, and Villa’s 10-game unbeaten run, including eight wins, is a testament to how Emery has got the best out of what he’s had available.
In the latest My Old Man Said podcast show, recorded after the Fulham game, we look at examples throughout the game of Emery’s approach and how the likes of John McGinn, Douglas Luiz and Leander Dendoncker have thrived in more disciplined roles.
We also look at the Europa League shake-up and the significance of Villa’s trip to Manchester United, before further reflecting on the club’s 15% season ticket price rise and upsell gentrification of the Holte End.
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David Michael – @oldmansaid
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