Good Bad and Ugly of the Start of 2022
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 nine years ago on the site…
By Phil Shaw
I remember starting 2021 furious with a controversial defeat at Old Trafford. Oh, hello 2022…
Philippe Coutinho, sold for an exorbitant fee to Barcelona whilst Villa were in Championship hell, has rocked up at Villa Park.
Signing the third most expensive player in world football, whilst 13th in the table, comes with a few caveats.
It is a marquee signing bigger than any Villa have completed in the modern age.
The lift to the profile of the club and the domino effect this could have on future signings, almost makes it worthwhile before he steps on the pitch.
If you are a prospective player, being courted by Aston Villa, the fact Coutinho decided to join, with an option to buy, is an endorsement for the future.
Of course, to say, Philippe Coutinho has not hit the heights his talent demanded over the last few years would be an understatement.
He was signed to pacify a Barcelona fanbase that was dealing with the loss of Neymar and the ageing of Iniesta and Xavi.
On the night he made his debut, Lionel Messi scored Barcelona’s 4000 goal at the Camp Nou to overshadow the record signing.
This was a shadow Coutinho didn’t escape.
Luckily, he won’t be in the shadow of some of the best players in a club’s history when he steps out for Aston Villa.
If Steven Gerrard can get even half the player (or 75% to be more exact), that performed with him at Anfield, then Villa will automatically move up a level.
If they get a washed up rock star of a player, only in it for the money, the profile will still be high among future targets.
Coutinho is a gamble you have to take to break the glass ceiling of expectation.
Villan of the Week – Emi Buendia
Despite the results, there has been improvement in Buendia, and fans are now starting to see what he is about, unfortunately some think he is all things to all men and mistakes are noticeable.
If Coutinho takes some of the creative burden and some of the defenders away from him, the Argentine could be unleashed for the second half of the season. That is, if Coutinho isn’t taking his place in the first XI.
Brentford and Manchester United.
Two teams that Villa dominated for large periods of the game and yet they came away with two defeats.
Simply, like many games last season, Villa had the opponents right where they wanted them and just let it slip.
Aston Villa aren’t breaking the spirit of teams when they are in control.
In these periods of dominance, Villa have to make goals inevitable. It’s a problem dating back to last season.
How do you fix this? It’s all down to decision-making. You play the percentages in the final third.
When Villa took the lead against Brentford, with that excellent goal from Ings, they had more instances of space and time in the final third that led to nothing.
Jacob Ramsey had a chance to put the ball across the box, yet retained possession for something more intricate, and the chance was lost.
Against Manchester United, there was more poor decision-making. Ollie Watkins, after fantastic play to work a chance, smashed it off the bar instead of side footing from six yards.
Buendia, after cutting and jinking through United’s defence, shot, blasting it across the box, instead of squaring for an advancing Ings to get on the end of.
Ramsey overhit a ball to cash in the first half, when he should have been shooting himself.
These are the decisions of a ‘nearly’ team that Gerrard spoke about after the game.
Look at the Manchester United goal. There was no overthinking, just an excellent ball into a dangerous area to attack.
Play the percentages in the final third, and Villa will start to score more scrappy goals and kill teams off.
Here we go.
What on earth was going on with VAR, Michael Oliver and the PGMOL in general to disallow Ings equaliser at Old Trafford?
Clear and obvious?
As many have pointed out, If the goal is disallowed for an infringement from Jacob Ramsey, why spend so long checking the offside?
Not to mention, the infringement by Ramsey was, negligible at best and if it is given, then Luke Shaw’s arm smashing into Konsa’s face at the end is the same.
It’s the horrific inconsistency that looks to favour the established teams that grates with fans.
In two similar instances, one is checked for nearly four minutes and the other, despite blood pouring from Konsa, is laughed off.
The fact this was the showpiece tie on terrestrial TV, makes it even worse.
While it’s true a large portion of football fans support Manchester United, an equally large portion hate them with a passion. So, it isn’t as simple as pandering.
For the PGMOL to oversee this farcical use of VAR while a larger audience is watching, just highlights the ineptitude of the whole process.
It was the worst advert for VAR imaginable.
There should be a time limit on decisions, the referees conversations should be broadcast, the VAR should be run by a group of referees independent of PGMOL.
Put this in place, and the travesty at Old Trafford, just doesn’t happen.
The only thing that allows these continued failings, is a closed shop that is exempt from any scrutiny, that’s precisely what we have and that’s what the FA must want, or else change would be on the horizon.
Moving on from this, the way forward for Villa is clear. It’s the same as a boxing match.
You need to land the knockout blows and not let the fight go to the judges.
If Villa had turned their dominance into goals, the decision would have been a footnote, like Kasper Schmeichel’s play-acting in the Leicester game.
Instead, once again, Villa are on the wrong side of a VAR storm, that will be washed away by the media.
Villa, of course, have something akin to a rematch clause, and against United in the next game at Villa Park, they need to channel this injustice into a ruthless performance on the pitch.
Follow Phil on Twitter here – @prsgame