The Good, Bad and Ugly of an Average Aston Villa Week
You can tell how well Aston Villa’s week has gone by how long it takes me to get the GBU out. I had to wait for a bit this week…
There’s been moments of good this week. Ollie Watkins’ finish against Crystal Palace, was the finish of a striker acting on instinct, it’s a pity the rest of his week wasn’t as clinical.
There was also a win in the League Cup against a spirited Bolton Wanderers to enjoy. Granted the first half was dire, but when Villa could shake off their anxiety, they performed the way a Premier League team should against League One opposition.
If it hadn’t been for the performances against Bournemouth and Crystal Palace, it would have been a routine win. But Aston Villa are anything but routine currently.
Villan of the Week – Douglas Luiz
Despite flopping on his face in the build-up to the Bolton goal, the divisive Brazilian was probably the pick of the bunch this week, due to his spectacular goal from a corner against the Wanderers.
Despite many, including myself, dismissing the goal as just ‘putting the ball on top of the keeper’, as he did against Walsall, a training video from Aston Villa showed that it was a set piece that they worked on.
Fancy that, a set piece that worked…Big up Nanny MacPhee.
Where on earth do you start with the defence and midfield in the Crystal Palace game? Anxiety Villa, might become a phrase, because everything, at present, is being conducted as if a gun is held to the players’ heads.
Heavy touches, idiotic decisions and a complete lack of spatial awareness on the pitch can only lead to disaster, and Crystal Palace exploited this without breaking a sweat.
Villa are too wide, not talking to each other, not working in pairs or units, and resemble training dummies without the ball.
With the ball, they still make a decent amount of chances. Against Palace, Buendia, Bailey, Coutinho, Ings and Watkins could have added to Villa’s goal and perhaps changed the game.
They didn’t and even if they had, it wouldn’t have been deserved as Eze, Zaha and the rest of a well-drilled Crystal Palace team, simply made the right decisions in possession and moved the ball into the gaping chasms of space between Villa players.
Villa need to tighten up, smarten up, and in general calm down before things turn really bad.
When Steven Gerrard came in, he said he wanted to create a “no excuses culture”. Well, the time for talk should be over, instead, we have this weird combination of a no-nonsense manager, who acts nonsensically.
The best example is any time he is asked about Emi Buendia.
In a bizarre response, when asked about Bunedia’s starring role against Everton, he proceeded to talk about Leon Bailey.
It’s not dissimilar to how Gareth Southgate spoke about Mason Mount, when he was asked about Jack Grealish not starting for England.
It progressed a stage further after the Bolton game, when Gerrard singled out a simple pass from the misfiring Philippe Coutinho to Danny Ings, that led to Villa’s crucial second goal.
In honesty it was a pass he should have made in the first half but messed it up. Someone of Coutinho’s quality should be threading simple balls into space without effort.
It certainly doesn’t dismiss the theory that Gerrard has his favourites in the Villa squad. But worse, you know he’s under pressure and getting angry.
This is the same Gerrard that was sent off against Manchester United after 38 seconds in 2015. He’s got a temper but now he’s off the pitch, it’s coming out in more passive-aggressive ways.
The ‘look me in the eye’ comment about Mings, the agitation with the press, the bizarre refusals to answer simple questions and the sulking in his dugout.
I’m not for one minute suggesting there is anything wrong with having a temper and being competitive, yet when it starts to cloud your judgement and lead to stubbornness in team selection and an unwillingness to accept another point of view, everyone suffers.
Steven Gerrard has shown, that he can manage a team and get the basics right. Especially before Christmas last season. If he’s too stubborn now, to combine some of those qualities, with his philosophy, then it’ll be an ugly end with no excuses.