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…
Like returning to work after a good holiday, the Villaverse got that losing feeling back after the team were given the runaround by Leeds. Will it be a pivotal point in Villa’s season or simply one of those nights?
The easy answer here is Leeds United. They came to Villa Park on the back of a frustrating display against Wolves and showed exactly why the media have been all over them since the season kicked off. Villa simply had no answer to the repeated attacks and eventually succumbed to three strikes from our new nemesis Patrick Bamford. While Bielsa reinforced his credentials with his footballing equivalent of a Zerg Rush (google it), the rest of us could only watch on as the game was one of the most entertaining of the season so far. It was just a pity about the result.
Elsewhere, the good in the football world came from the bottom of people’s hearts. Marcus Rashford continues to lobby the government to help children who are struggling to eat without school dinners. His actions have led to many councils and food outlets giving free meals to those in need at this difficult time.
Not to be outdone by the United player, fans all over the country have put their hands in their pockets to donate to local food-banks in a protest against the ridiculous £14.95 PPV football charge for unscreened games. Starting with the Newcastle fans this has been matched by fans from all the 20 Premier League clubs (Villa fans have so far donated approximately £3,500 to Aston & Nechells foodbanks) and may finally force a rethink in this ridiculous own goal of a scheme.
While it’s early doors and players are still finding their rhythm, Villa’s chance conversion rate could be better. While clinical against Leicester, there were even signs in the 7-2 (it could have been double figures) and definitely against Fulham and Leeds, that the front players aren’t being ruthless enough when they work the opportunities.
Despite losing by three goals, Villa had four decent chances that on another day they would have taken at least some of them. In the first half, Jack Grealish shouldn’t have given Luke Ayling a chance to make a goal line clearance and the Villa Captain was guilty at the beginning of the second half as well.
After picking the ball up deep in his half, he cut through the Leeds team at pace until he got into the box. With everyone shouting for him to shoot from home, he continued to beat player after player as he moved sideways across the box. By the time he had manoeuvred into the position to take the shot, he was actually at a worse angle than when he had entered the area. The keeper saved it but despite the highlight reel dribble before it, we were left with no end product.
Ollie Watkins was also not on the right wavelength in this game. He missed the chance of a consolation at the end, that was easier than his second strike against Liverpool. Then he seemed to defer to Grealish and Barkley when they were in the main attacking areas. He needed to be screaming for the ball when Jack was beating man after man in the box, if only to draw some Leeds players to him, but they ignored him leaving him in acres of space and in the end he was almost another obstacle Jack had to slalom round before shooting.
While it is foolish to say anything negative after Villa’s fantastic start to the season, in tight games where chances will be few and far between, we really need to be taking our chances. If we had in the Leeds game, the mood and result could have been very different.
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While we are all stuck watching these games at home, the only outlet some people have is social media and this is leading to a binary and tribal football season.
From Gabby Agbonlahor baiting and some would say motivating Leeds players and fans before the match to the reaction to Virgil Van Dijk’s injury, social media is becoming more and more toxic when it comes to football.
The whataboutery has become unbearable. People justifying Pickford’s horror tackle on Van Dijk because of a tackle Dirk Kuyt did years ago is not a good look and neither was the overreaction from the media to the injury. In a time when there is serious bad news all over the media, an injury to a footballer shouldn’t be receiving the press it did.
We experienced the injuries to Wesley and Heaton against Burnley and you don’t need the constant use of serious injury as a tool to forward any agendas, petitions or mass virtue signalling on an already easily triggered football community.
In this new world order. Things are either 10/10 or 0/10, there is no in between any more and so it was shown after Leeds beat us.
The fact of the matter is that Leeds United under Marcello Bielsa are an anomaly of a team in personnel and tactically. They waste more than half of the chances they create but it doesn’t matter as they will create double what another team will against you. The way to beat them – as shown by Wolves and Liverpool – is to take your chances when you can, as Leeds will somehow fluff most of theirs.
Dean Smith suddenly hasn’t gone from genius to cabbage overnight and neither have our players descended into unfit pub players, just like they were never Ballon d’or winners beforehand. People need to dial down the hype and replace it with facts and constructive critique.
The ugly reaction online after the defeat, without offering anything constructive, is becoming a hallmark of the modern fan and whether it is borne out of the difficult times we live in or a more modern problem, remains to be seen. There is no doubt it is ugly and unfortunately, it only looks like getting worse as this strangest of seasons continues.