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 seven years ago on the site…
Sunday Night Main Event Villa were back in action as they showed which results this season were an anomaly and which ones are a sign of things to come. It’s all here in the Good, Bad and Ugly of the week.
Straight from the kick-off against Arsenal, the intensity that had been lacking against Leeds and Southampton was back and the only thing faster than the Villa press was the ball that John McGinn lashed into Arsenal’s net. While it sadly was disallowed after over four minutes of deliberation, it turned out to very much be a statement of intent.
The difference in application from the first whistle was noticeable and it needs to continue for the rest of this strange season. Slow starts have been our Achilles’ heel and more than ever this season they will be punished.
This was our best performance of the season, Barkley played as a 10, McGinn partnered with Luiz instead of being isolated, and Trezeguet and Jack Grealish covered every blade of grass on their wings. We were a real team – from back to front.
Again, we should have scored more goals but for a few heroic blocks and lucky saves from Arsenal.
All three goals had their quality. The intricate build up between Targett, Barkley and Grealish for the first and the pace and strength of Jack to set up the third, but nothing beats the middle strike.
The second goal showed a level of technical ability that we have been lacking for years. Douglas Luiz played an arcing ball to the back post that was met flush on the volley by Ross Barkley, it fired across the box to be met by the diving head of Ollie Watkins. Deadly and unstoppable.
In defence, we limited Arsenal to two shots on target and their talisman Aubameyang, didn’t even attempt a shot. However, this wasn’t a perfect performance. A few lapses in defence allowed Lacazette an easy header and Rob Holding a chance in the box. Either of these go in, and we could have been looking at having to score as many as we did against Liverpool, of course given how we played that would have been more than likely.
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The upcoming international breaks are looking more and more ridiculous. Certainly, play matches that have meaning and are competitive fixtures, but friendlies being shoe-horned into the calendar in these COVID-19 times are farcical. One of the few things that can derail Villa this season would be injuries, and having some of our players be involved in three matches that may not have any significance is asking for trouble. Not everybody is carrying a whole country on their back like John McGinn.
The risk of injury is equalled by the risk of catching COVID-19 on international duty, due to you mixing with other players outside of the testing structure of your league. In a compact season, a 14-day isolation period could see you missing three games or worse, causing your whole club to miss 14 days.
There needs to be a rethink somewhere but this could now be taken out of International football’s hands with Juventus and Manchester United wanting to block their players from travelling in light of the Coronavirus mutation found in mink farms in Denmark. Add in, players banned from travelling due to isolation restrictions at a local level in Italy. When the big clubs start putting their foot down there will only be one winner.
The ‘Panenka’ penalty, once a thing of beauty attempted only by those with the skill and frankly the balls to do it, has now become an overused farce.
Fulham’s Ademola Lookman had the chance to rescue a much-needed point for the Cottagers against West Ham at the weekend. Despite conceding in the 90th minute, Fulham got a potential reprieve when long-time Villa tease Saïd Benrahma recklessly tackled another Villa tormentor Tom Cairney, and gave away the spot kick in injury-time.
Lookman stepped up and produced one of the worst penalties in Premier League history. Fabianski in goal must have been gutted he didn’t just catch it to complete the humiliation.
It says a lot about the modern footballers who decide to take a kick in this fashion and what they think of their team. Especially when the stakes are high in injury-time of a game.
Antonín Panenka, had done his homework and practiced this penalty in training before famously using it to beat West Germany in the 1976 Euros. He was a dead ball expert and penalty taker, and reasoned that a slow paced chip would always work if the keeper followed their tendency to dive one way or the other. The keeper had to be fully committed and grounded, as the ball crossed the line. It was novel, unique as a Cruyff turn and became equally eponymous.
To take on a penalty like this, you have to earn the right. Messi can do them, Dwight Yorke did a perfect example with Arsenal’s David Seaman his victim (as well as one in the FA Cup against Sheffield United), while other notable exponents were Totti, Zidane and Pirlo.
The Panenka was once the surprise trick of the best, now we see players trying it ad nauseam.
While it is funny to see someone mess it up. The question fans should ask is who does the decision to try a Panenka benefit?
It isn’t a choice to benefit the team (especially in injury-time), the risk level is massive compared to a clean strike, so the only conclusion you can draw is the modern Panenka is a selfish act designed to raise the profile of the taker, more than benefit the team.
Missing one shows who you are out for, not the fans, not the team but yourself, a lesson Lookman has had to learn the ugly way.