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Villa in Pole Positon
Since a 3-1 defeat at home to Southampton put them in the bottom three for Christmas Day, Aston Villa have been no strangers to the relegation zone. For every occasional win that saw them bob their head above the cut-off line, there was a thumping defeat to submerge them back into deep trouble.
After managing to escape the drop zone at the start of the year during a run of three defeats, due to the ineffectiveness of their relegation rivals, a fourth loss, a 4-0 defeat to Leicester City, the last Premier League game before the lockdown, left them occupying the relegation zone berth for months.
Once project restart began it seemed that Villa were suck in quicksand and despite improving defensively, lacked any attacking bite to fire themselves out of danger.
After Everton’s late equaliser against Villa at Goodison Park, Villa were seemingly in need of a miracle or two during in the run-in, but the football gods seem surprisingly willing to grant them.
Watford sacking Nigel Pearson with two games to go was an astonishing self-destructive move that signalled to Villa supporters, that the fight for survival might not yet be over. Then little moments that allowed Villa to go into the last game of the season with a favourable goal difference to their rivals happened – not only did Bournemouth see VAR chalk off their injury-time equaliser to Southampton, but then saw the visitors go down the other end to make it 2-0 with seconds to go. Soon after, Manchester City served up a made-to-measure 4-0 win over Watford.
Still, Villa had to take matters into their own hands.
Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Arsenal was perhaps Dean Smith’s finest moment as Villa’s Head Coach. With others capitulating around them, it was a win that sprung Villa out of the relegation zone at the perfect time. While the restart has felt at times to be a slow burn case of sleepwalking into relegation, Smith kept his squad game and worked relentlessly to get results out of them.
Judging from his team’s efforts earlier in the season, half the battle, would be ironing out the mistakes. While Villa have still made the odd key mistake, they haven’t been costly. Defensively, the team is a lot more sound from better organisation and the emergence of Douglas Luiz shielding and covering it.
Despite a potential morale breaking three consecutive loses to Wolves, Liverpool and Manchester United during the restart period, Smith has found a resolve to keep his players focused and their belief up. The win at Villa Park against the North Londoners and the manner of its execution (Arsenal didn’t register a single shot on target), says a lot about how Smith has managed to put Villa in pole position in the relegation fight now.
They face a tough test against a resurgent West Ham team, and if Villa go down, it will be largely down to ills earlier on in the season.
With the Hammers now safe, after being in serious danger themselves, will they be motivated against Villa?
It matters not, as there’s a pragmatism about Villa now, that you certainly wouldn’t bet against.
In the new bumper episode 110 of the My Old Man Said podcast, the MOMS team discuss the happenings at Villa Park against Arsenal in detail. How Dean Smith managed the victory in-game and the main influences on the game.
We also look at the specific contributions of Douglas Luis, Jack Grealish, Frederick Guilbert and Ezri Konsa. Before discussing the survival picture and what could happen on the last day.
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Episode 110 Notes
Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over Arsenal was perhaps Dean Smith’s finest moment so far, as Villa’s Head Coach. With others capitulating around them, it was a win that sprung Villa out of the relegation zone at the perfect time. Now, can they finish the job?
The MOMS team discuss the happenings at Villa Park on Tuesday night and the major players in the vital win, then we discuss the survival picture and what could happen on the last day.
We also look at Watford’s suicide mission in sacking Nigel Pearson two games out, Coventry’s search for a new home and actresses Natalie Portman and Jessica Chastian’s (and friends) football project in Los Angeles.
In Overrated or Underrated? We look back at former Villans Mark Delaney and Charles N’Zogbia.
One game to go folks. Fingers crossed!
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David Michael – @oldmansaid
Chris Budd – @BUDD_music
Dan Rodgers – @avfc_vilr
Edited/Produced by David Michael