Good, Bad and Ugly of the Villa Week
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…
Well… I think we know where the column is heading this time, but like many people say, ‘enjoy the process’, it’s the Good, Bad and Ugly of the week.
The last few weeks have shown that while perhaps it’s morally wrong for the Premier League to continue, the sight of a full-strength Villa team taking the field at the Etihad lifted the spirits.
It was great Villa were able to field a full-strength team after the recent COVID-19 outbreak at Bodymoor Heath, but the performance they put in against the form team in the league, was even better.
From the first whistle, it was an enthralling contest with City throwing everything at the Villa defence. There was of course a few close shaves, with Cancelo dummying Mings before clipping the bar and a number of impressive blocks and clearances from all the back four.
At the other end, the return of Ross Barkley gave City more to think about. If he had been up to match speed, Villa could have had at least one goal in a frantic first half. A welcome return for Villa’s busy end of month schedule.
In other good news, it was nice of the online Villa faithful to show their appreciation for Conor Hourihane as he departed on loan to Swansea City. He played a vital role in promotion from the Championship, with his play-off strike against the Baggies one of my favourite moments in the last 20 years.
When called upon during Project Restart, Hourihane’s set piece delivery contributed five assists when they were most needed. No Villa player is perfect, and he’s suffered as much as anyone from the online Football Manager experts, but when people tell the story of this era, Hourihane, will be remembered fondly.
Villan of the Week — Dean Smith
When Dean Smith was nominated for manager of the month for December, it didn’t raise much fuss. It was certainly deserved, after a fantastic run of games, but the assumption was one of the top six team managers would get it. Smith winning and being the first Villa manager to win it in a decade is vindication of the decision to stick with him after shaky spells over the winter periods of both his previous seasons.
The Bad and The Ugly
There’s no point in burying the lead any longer. The Bad and the Ugly sections are entirely devoted to one incident and the subsequent fallout.
In the 78th minute, with Villa well in the game, City headed the ball forward and Mings chested the ball down, as he was doing so Rodri, who had been 20 yards offside when the looping header went forward, tackled him and took the ball before setting up Bernardo Silva for the equaliser.
After a VAR check that took mere seconds, the goal stood. Dean Smith asked if the Fourth Official got juggling balls for Christmas, and John ‘Mossy’ Moss sent him off. Heads were gone and so was the game.
It was offside, no question about it. Rodri is running back and when he sees the ball coming to Mings, he deviates his direction and heads towards the ball. That makes him offside. The exact scenario happened to Cristiano Ronaldo about an hour later vs Napoli, and was correctly flagged offside.
But how and why was the same scenario allowed to stand at the Etihad?
The answer is PR.
The decision in itself is wrong for the reason already stated, so there’s no point going over it. What is ‘Bad and Ugly’, is the managed fallout afterwards.
It goes to VAR, who know this is a scenario not seen before in the Premier League. They immediately begin looking for the justification of it within the IFAB rules.
If they can find something, they let the on-field referee’s decision stand and immediately begin refining and crafting their press release to be forwarded to the broadcast company on the day, as they know they have an hour or so to get this ambiguous enough to fly.
It’s easy to think on conspiracy theories, but the answer is worse, it’s blind devotion to brand Premier League, and like brainwashed followers obeying a despot, divide and conquer works to maintain the status quo.
The Premier League is a cash generating machine built on the marketing slogan of ‘the best league in the world’.
Everyone who is piggybacking a living on the talent of the sport is obligated to defend this illusion, even when there are fundamental problems.
The PGMOL aren’t fit for purpose, they are inconsistent, incompetent, and stubborn, and wouldn’t get a job in any of the top leagues in the world, but they are part of brand Premier League, so must be protected. To admit they are failing would tarnish the brand.
The reason they get away with this, is division.
They know that fanbases will immediately divide down lines of self-interest and that stops any bipartisan pressure being placed on them.
Broadcasters and the football media, perpetuate this division because they know it generates clicks, engagement and money. Fans want to read the story of the press agreeing with them when the decision goes for them, then want to engage and argue with the other side of the media who perpetuate the injustice.
The best example is the Patrick Bamford offside vs Crystal Palace. It wasn’t offside.
I have no love for Bamford or Leeds, but I can see that it was an ass of a decision. The fans of other clubs laugh at this and poke fun, while Leeds fans rage is stoked by those that agree and disagree in the media.
In the end, like the rest of these impossibly bad decisions, it gets lost in time because it only festers in the group of fans who are aggrieved and the old trope of ‘things evening themselves out over the course of a season’ is used by everyone else.
The only solution to this Ugly situation is uncomfortable. As fans, we need to unite against the worst decisions in the same way we did against PPV matches. If every fan base, including the beneficiaries of these decisions, acknowledged they were wrong and called for change, it would happen.
Villa fans know the Hawkeye goal vs Sheffield United should have stood, there’s no argument about that either. The battle is to make sure there is change.
Once the game is over it’s too late for the game’s result, but it isn’t too late to keep the pressure on brand Premier League and all their sycophants to get this mess sorted out before bad or ugly decisions become the norm.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @PRSGAME