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…
If only Aston Villa could play Arsenal every day… It’s time for the Good, Bad and Ugly of the week.
There’s a reason why AFTV gets so many views, and it isn’t Arsenal’s global fanbase. There aren’t many things more satisfying to a casual viewer, than people being brought down a peg or two.
To quote the ending of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias:-
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Replace the titular Ozymandias with Arsenal FC and you learn the lesson that Aston Villa had to learn the hard way.
No matter what your past achievements are, time can render them a wreck.
Ahead of schedule Aston Villa are rebuilding the wreck they had become. The display against Arsenal was full of everything that had been absent in their underwhelming defeats this season.
Improved decision-making from the Villa players was key, Ollie Watkins elevated his performance to match-winning and the possession-retaining run towards the end from Jack Grealish, showed how far he has come since giving the ball away on the edge of his area against Spurs last season in Villa’s first game back in the Premier League.
Contrast this with the Arsenal model. Put on as many forwards as you can, struggle to retain shape and despite all the possession, be lucky to only lose 1-0.
The decisions Arsenal are making, mirror decisions made by Aston Villa during their fall from grace.
Allowing players to leave that strengthen rivals ala Emi Martinez, cast your mind back to Marc Albrighton. Giving players bloated contracts, Willian and Aubameyang, see Lescott and late-career Agbonlahor. Finally, placing players in a Paul Lambert style bomb squad like Özil, ends up destroying the dressing room.
Aston Villa are in a good place now, you only need to watch an episode of AFTV to see that.
[Wow. From AFTV to poetry – Ed]
Villan of the Week — Ollie Watkins
I’m overly critical of Ollie Watkins, but it comes with a purpose.
I believe Watkins has the potential to be one of the best strikers Aston Villa have had in the top flight. Ability wise, he has it all, and to compliment his skills, his work rate is phenomenal.
The only criticism of him is in his choices. Because so much of Aston Villa’s play goes through him, he usually has the determining outcome on a result.
When he doesn’t take his chances, makes the wrong pass or loses possession it usually coincides with Villa losing the game.
Against Arsenal his decision-making was on point and that’s the level he needs to maintain as everything else is incredible.
The Bad and Ugly
It’s tempting to put Ross Barkley’s reaction at being substituted in here, but do fans want him to be happy with his performance? No, when you put higher calibre players in the team, and they put in poor displays, you are going to get reactions like that.
The Bad and Ugly this week is again combined to look at the series of events that leads to an incident like Mike Dean receiving death threats.
The degeneration of media punditry to something that levels Wrestling commentary is a factor here. Wrestling commentators are in on the script, one plays the villain or heel, the other calls it straight. It works in the fictional, scripted world of Wrestling.
With fans not allowed in grounds, the viewing audience is massively expanded and the pundits, writers and even hosts are becoming part of the show.
When Mike Dean sent off Bednarek incorrectly in Southampton’s 9-0 loss to Manchester United, the pundits were up in arms, when he sent off Soucek for elbowing Aleksandar Mitrovic in West Ham’s 0-0 draw with Fulham, again incorrectly, they carried on the parroting without trying to dig deeper.
The same media are then surprised that the cesspool of social media take notice of this and attack Mike Dean, and then come out in his defence.
It’s going to get to the stage where pundits are going to have to be censored for false claims like politicians, at the risk of inciting fan bases.
If they keep up this rhetoric when grounds reopen, I can honestly see trouble with some of the outrageous opinions we hear from our chosen providers.
I’m not talking about Roy Keane’s assessment of Liverpool or any of the call-in shows, who have survived on this stream for years. I’m talking about the producers of mainstream broadcasts who invent and inflate contentious scenarios for balance, while ignoring others.
There were two such incidents in the Aston Villa game against Arsenal. Both were immediately brought to the forefront of discussion to give crumbs of injustice to the watching Arsenal fans.
First there was the ‘foul’ by Ezri Konsa on Saka in the first half. The ball is played through and from first glance there is a tussle that ends with both players on the ground.
Watch a replay and Saka causes Konsa to fall by accidentally kicking him in his natural stride. It’s not a foul, it isn’t even a free kick. If it happened in the box and Konsa was the forward, he’d probably get an ‘Old Trafford’ penalty.
The second is a coming together between Lacazette and Martinez in the second half that was so ignored the commentators barely noticed it.
As I see it, Martinez, before the ball lets Lacazette know he was there. Lacazette responds to this by throwing himself into Martinez. They grab each other on the way down.
You can level the accusation of Villa-tinted glasses at me, but ask yourself why Martinez who has a huge height and reach advantage, needs to pull Lacazette to the ground? He is at more risk of the ball ending up in the net if the cross is on target by taking himself and the Arsenal player out of the game.
Instead, these two incidents have been used to rile up Arsenal fans instead of logic being applied and resolving them in the studios.
Where was the outrage at Xhaka’s waist high takedown of Grealish or Grealish’s yellow card for winning a header and then getting wiped out at the end? They weren’t needed as the balance had to come from the losing Arsenal side.
The reason for punditry, it is to debate these decisions and try to come to resolutions, it isn’t to incite an already frustrated nation into ugly reactions that have the potential to escalate. It needs to change like many things in the modern game before it gets too late.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @PRSGAME