Good Bad Ugly
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
With the Villa team leaving the beach faster than the victims in Jaws, it’s a rare upbeat Good Bad and Ugly this week.
What happened to Villa? Barkley energised, Watkins direct, and accurate balls out from the back and midfield. It was as much of a surprise to the watching public as it was to the Everton team.
The first half of the Goodison game was everything that had been lacking in an attacking sense apart from nine minutes vs Fulham and twenty-seconds against Manchester City.
It makes you stop and think. What changed? Everton are no mugs and even after the withdrawal of James Rodriguez in the warm-up, would have been favourites for the game.
From the start both teams went at each other without any discussion of press or low block, and it was an advert for Premier League Football. It’s in this scenario Villa flourish.
When a team doesn’t set up with a specific plan to thwart Villa, you see what damage some of the players, who are routinely written off, can do.
Looking at Everton, you could accuse them of being as naive as ‘2021 Villa’ in their set-up despite having a world-class manager in Carlo Ancelotti, one for the #Smithout brigade to digest at their leisure.
They were playing out from the back against a live threat in Watkins, they gave a rejuvenated Ross Barkley time and space, and paid no attention to Villa’s wide players.
Once Villa knew they would have time and space to play, the tricks came out. Bertrand Traore made Allan tackle himself with one of the simplest yet most outrageous tricks on the half-way line that again showed why he was bought.
In all, an unexpectedly good platform now exists for Villa to finish the season in style.
Villan of the Week — Anwar El Ghazi
I came very close to putting Ross Barkley here such was his performance, yet fine margins decide these things. He made a mess of marking Dominic Calvert-Lewin for Everton’s goal and hit the post.
Anwar El Ghazi, hit the bar from close range and this led to some online calls for him to be replaced at half-time.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times when he is off the boil, but when he is on it, he needs to be on the pitch. That’s 8 goals from 12 starts and 23 league appearances this season. Put those stats on other teams players and social media will be begging Johan Lange to sign them.
As good as the performance was, Ollie Watkins comments about playing less gung-ho seemed strange.
They reminded me of Jack Grealish’s comments after the defeat at home to West Ham, when he decided to switch wings to get away from double marking.
The Villa players shouldn’t need to be told to do things like this – it’s basic footballing intelligence.
I’m not here to doubt the skill and ability of Premier League players, or much less suggest which passes they play in certain scenarios, but being more fluid in thought is something players who’ve made it to Premier League level should already know.
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The demonstration and postponement of Manchester United vs Liverpool at the weekend raised a number of real talking points and showcased some ugly scenes.
It was only two weeks ago that all of us were ready to go to war over the Super League plans, so it is with hesitation that you criticise any demonstration by fans unhappy with their owners.
The fact that it is Manchester United, complicates the argument.
Their owners the Glazers have been in place since 2005, and while there were protests at the time and scattered efforts in 2010, there’s 16 years without the scale of opposition seen at the weekend.
The Super League threat needed to be resisted and reform is necessary, yet success at a club has a way of papering over cracks.
Other than the Super League, Chelsea and Manchester City fans would have no grounds to protest over the ownership of their clubs.
Manchester United, while not run with the spirit a historical club should be, have still been able to spend 80 million on a centre-back in recent windows and had a whole Sky Sports punditry crew tapping up Jack Grealish while the protests raged around them.
In the first decade under the Glazers, United won 15 trophies including 5 league titles. So, you will forgive me in not feeling too sorry for them, when you feel a real driving force behind the discontent is how far Manchester City are ahead of them now.
Yet, the Super League, was the one enemy to unite us all, pardon the pun, and the Glazers were one of the architects of it. If Manchester United fans are really unhappy at their ownership and this is their opportunity, then fair play to them, just be wary of the true intentions of their massive media and fan presence.
This was on full display after the game as there was no mention of sanctions against United, despite precedents for this from the FA in the past, when fans protested against owners.
Brighton were docked points after pitch invasions in 2011, and I’d argue if the protestors want maximum exposure they’d be all for hitting the Glazers in the pocket and take any sanctions on the chin, nobody could argue against their cause then.
Of course, for the protests against improper owners to succeed, they need to remain peaceful, so that they continue to garner the support of the decision makers in the country, any time it descends into ugly violence or attacks against stewards and police, you distract the media and risk losing the right side of the argument and giving the people who matter an easy way to get out of it.