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The 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 seven years ago on the site…
With the alien feeling of happiness from a Saturday lunchtime kick-off softening the edges of another week, it’s time for the Good, Bad and Ugly of Villa’s week.
With Aston Villa and Wolves heading to a competitive stalemate, it was a case of could anybody step up and make a difference in the final moments? The player who eventually did, was an unlikely candidate. The Notorious A-E-G, or Anwar El Ghazi to his friends, stepped up to slot home a penalty with the aplomb of a player who is more confident from 12 yards than one.
It was nice to see from a player who has undeniable talent, yet in the past always found a way to undo all his good work with moments of mediocrity. Hopefully, this will be the confidence boost he needed to find a more consistent level of performance and kick-start his season.
Further back, Emiliano Martínez finally got to show how good he is at anything other than watching another ball fly into the top corner past him, as he put in a commanding and assured performance between the sticks. He must be thrilled he left behind a relegation battle in North London to advance his career.
John McGinn, fresh from signing a new contract, was able to stay relevant and involved for the whole match, thanks to an assured and competent first Premier League start by Jacob Ramsey. The 19-year-old midfielder looked so tidy and at home in the centre, that you wonder what the future holds for Villa’s midfield options.
Ramsey, stopped McGinn being isolated and bypassed, allowing the midfielder to concentrate on attacking duties, like his creative run into the box to win the penalty in stoppage time.
The puzzle of the best Villa Midfield now has an extra piece in Ramsey.
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The PGMOL employee had another stellar performance in a game involving Villa. One week Villa have the criminally inept Peter Bankes, who had as much control on the game as Bertrand Traore had when trying to clear a ball from his box (please don’t do that again…) Then, the following week, we have Mike Dean in full showbiz dictator mood.
It was quite a spectacle to see him in full flow, deciding which team to bestow bookings on without reason. In the first half, Villa were punished with yellow’s, then Wolves caught up. Villa took the lead with Douglas Luiz getting a second yellow before a last minute equalising red card from Moutinho.
In the last two matches, the extremities of refereeing in the Premier League have been there for all to see. It generates an interesting debate, while Dean gets the headlines and the warranted criticism for his inconsistent and heavy-handed approach, he at least makes decisions.
Peter Bankes on the other hand, muddled his way through the West Ham game seemingly afraid to give any decision more difficult than a foul on Grealish and the Hammers took full advantage, yet nothing was said about his performance or lack of it.
I’m convinced had Bankes been in charge against Wolves, he would have left the penalty decision at the end to the lottery of VAR. So, which style is closer to being correct?
When Anwar El Ghazi missed an easy chance against Everton last season, it looked like the final nail in the relegation coffin for Aston Villa. It was an ugly miss and with stakes so high, there was rightful criticism of him at the time.
Criticism is different from abuse. ‘He should have scored’, ‘It was easier to score’, ‘What was he thinking?‘ Etc… are emotional responses, that are a far cry from making puns of his name like ‘El Garbage’ and directing personal abuse at him online.
After another below par performance against Stoke in the League Cup, El Ghazi again was singled out with Henri Lansbury and both promptly suspended their accounts.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and after El Ghazi delivered from the spot against Wolves, the social media revisionism and selective memory was stark.
Prompted by a post from Tyrone Mings, the Villa timeline was flooded with posts of people singing his praises and proclaiming him the hero. He was indeed the Hero on Saturday, but he has equally been the villain instead of the ‘Villan’ on a few occasions.
It’s like a swing-o-meter on election night. One minute players don’t deserve to ever play for Villa again, the next, they are getting a statue outside the Holte End. It’s a cycle of extreme praise and extreme criticism.
The ugly thing about social media is that anyone can say anything and think it is OK. The consequence of freedom of speech is you need to ‘OWN’ what you say online. If you put something out there you have to be prepared to defend your position or admit that you aren’t an oracle and get things wrong.
El Ghazi deserved the criticism for his miss against Everton, just like any of us deserve criticism if we make a mistake in work. By the same token, there isn’t a player at any level who can’t take criticism when it is deserved. They also couldn’t care less if you criticise them based on their actions. Not so long ago, they had 40,000 people every week doing exactly that with every groan, sigh and shout.
What crosses the line is personal abuse, name-calling and essentially trolling.
If you wouldn’t say it to their face, then don’t be a fool and say it online.