Imagining there may be one or two hangovers this morning after Villa stretched their winning streak to eight yesterday and gave supporters hope that something really has changed. Because even without Jack Grealish and Tyrone Mings, Villa were still far too much for Bristol City, who left Villa Park on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline that could’ve looked a lot different.

The Good
The mental state of the team: confident, aggressive, attacking. The physical state of the team: Three nearly miraculous, hard-fought games in a week, and still chasing and looking to score through all six injury-time minutes on Saturday. The technical state of the team: Well drilled, passing quickly, picking their spots when pressing, connecting well with excellent anticipation.

In short, it looks like Dean Smith has finally stamped his mark on Villa. And Villa have come together as a team. I could go on, but that’s a really good thing.

As far as individuals go, Anwar El Ghazi had a fantastic game. As did John McGinn and Conor Hourihane, who on any other day would’ve had a beautiful hat trick. Abraham got back on track being given a penalty to convert. Conor kept playing and finally got his. Whelan kept things steady and kept being in the right places at the right times. Keinan Davis had a very promising cameo. Really looked the part.

The Bad
Missed a couple chances to get in front earlier, and then to make it more comfortable, but you can’t really point to much else. I suppose I could also say that we did have a little trouble clearing out lines, which helped the Robbins claw one back, and should perhaps be a little more clever taking the air out of the game. On the latter, though, I’m not going to criticize a team for always looking to score.

The Ugly
Got nothing.

Final Verdict
Everyone was buzzing about the result, and with good reason. We’d been looking to this game increasingly as the streak built, a six-pointer that was the third game in a week. And we’d probably been wondering whether the late winner (feels like ‘winners’) at Wednesday and the fightback against Rotherham were signs of encouragement, or indications we were just riding our luck. Then Hause went down, Mings was suspended, and Jack came up sick. This morning, it seemed like maybe that eighth win on the spin was a bridge too far.

And it turned out to be quite the opposite. While not perfect, Villa took the game to Bristol, and played quick, attacking football that yielded 25 shots, 11 on target, three or four of which were denied by incredible reaction saves and one denied by the woodwork. They were aggressive, committed, and playing hard for each other. They basically did everything you want a team to do.

It would’ve been easy to make excuses today, play for a draw, go into our shells. None of that happened. Everyone stepped up, and everyone played pretty much as well as we’ve ever seen them play. This team has goals in it, and believes that. They don’t stop playing. They believe they can make a moment of magic at any time.

Good thing, too, with Boro and Derby winning.

Bristol will have a couple complaints. The penalty, the offside. I couldn’t really give a toss. We’ve had our luck good and bad, and it papers over how many we could’ve, and ordinarily would’ve scored based on the quality of chances.

So now we’re down to four, and we’ve no idea what the last one or two will mean. Right now, I’m stuck in the funny psychology of streaks. You know they end. But just because 8 or 9 represent historic heights for us doesn’t mean that’s some kind of ultimate ceiling. If the side feel invincible, and play like it, so much the better. If they’re cocky and overlook teams, well that’s not so good. If they’re just statistically fated to lose a game, then you never know what the right time is. Just before the playoffs, to get them focused? Somewhere earlier, so they build momentum?

You can make yourself crazy thinking about it. But the fact is that Villa will feel the next two are games they should be winning. Then they’ll play two they’ll really want to win, to prove something to themselves and everyone else. So, why not 12 in a row? And then why not demolish whoever we’ll face in the playoffs since we’ve played so well against them all before?

Which means your guess is as good as mine as to how this will play out. What I know is that with Saturday’s win, the window is closing on the sides looking to pip a spot. We could have our tickets booked by the time we play Leeds.

The other thing I know is that if I were a betting man, I don’t know that I’d be betting against Villa. All teams lose, but we see the good ones don’t lose very often. Villa are back in the form they were showing before Jack and Axel went out, and it was the kind of form that would’ve seen us in the top two.

Which means I think it’s really down to Villa. Right now, they can do what they want.

Over to you.

Comments 36

  1. Great write-up JC. Agree with all of it. It’s good for the players to get 5 days break b4 next match. My player ratings

    Jed 7 – for handling all the back passes with confidence. One came at him fast and under pressure and he cleared easily with his non kicking right foot.

    Elmo 7
    Jedi 7
    Axel 8
    Taylor 10

    Albert 8
    Conor 9
    Whelan 9
    McGinn 9, 10 during the last 20 mins. I love how he lowers his body, backs into his opponent and boom…he’s off

    AEG 11/10, yes he was that good…in part due to the excellent Taylor. This looks like the player that was great at Ajax. I’ll be the first to hold my hand up, in January I never wanted to see Taylor in a Villa shirt again and though AEG was lazy with a stuck up attitude. I was wrong

    Tammy 9, takes balls to stick away that peno

    Davis 8, what a horse. Hope he can improve his passing
    Lansbury 7, very tidy. Hope he can stay fit

  2. The “Good” for me JC is our position 5 points clear of P7 with 4 to play and a hugely superior goal difference. If anyone had told me that would be the situation 8 games ago, I’d have suggested they needed their head feeling.

    VMD, you’ve given El Gassy 110%. Now then……..where have I heard 110% before?

  3. John McGinn collected yellow car number 13 yesterday. If he picks up another 2 before the season ends, he gets a 3 match ban. But I don’t think it affects the Play Offs which have their own card system (get 2 and you miss a game if I understand the rules correctly). So he can only pick up 1 more in the remaining 4 games.

  4. Thanks JC, I’ve noticed something about AEG, he improves immediately with a supporting FB. Did it with Hutton then Hause and now as Taylor has improved massively. The times he has looked out of the game come when he’s asked to play out on the line with no threat of the overlap. During our no jack period he and other wingers faired worse as Smith tried to stem the silly goals we conceded by withdrawing the FB’s somewhat, right now They are both an attacking threat.

  5. VillaMD,

    Cheers, and thanks for the ratings. Funny about Taylor. Seen him play well before, can be very effective keeping the interplay going, like Mark’s saying. I think his confidence must really have taken a knock somewhere.

    I think that’s where we see the coaching come into play. With a sense of system and everyone buying in, there’s less thinking, frees the players up.

  6. Plug,

    It was a huge performance for just that reason. Had to keep that gap, and for the players to go out and make a statement when it looked like luck might be running against them really said a lot about the side. They’re not scared to go out and grab it. If we go up, this week will have had so much to do with it. They just refused to lose.

  7. MK,

    Yeah, it makes a world of difference. They’re both playing with confidence, making good decisions, always available and really putting in shifts. They both look reborn and are making those overloads possible.

  8. RE Taylor
    When Jack plays [with hourehane & AEG on that side] Taylor doesn’t need to come so far forward.
    So good to see they know how to play without Jack.

    Hourehane as defensive mid is left footed, while whelan is right footed & tends to the right side more, freeing up space for Taylor, who has decided he can play at last.
    He seems to have had his head sorted.
    I think the leg break incident plus all the changes, took a lot out of him, & he wasn’t helped by Bruce either, including having a right back keeping him out of the team.

  9. Apparently, if McGinn gets 15 yellow cards before the season ends, he will have a 3 match ban & miss the playoffs.
    He’s on 13 as it is.
    I can see him being rested for a match or two if he gets one more.
    Just as well Lansbury is fit.

  10. Plug
    Missing the playoffs decision came from an EFL spokesman.
    I think the cards start again in the playoffs, but it doesn’t count if you’re banned.

  11. I looked forward to your write up JC and very much enjoyed reading it thanks.
    Loads of other good comments too
    What a happy place to be just now
    Bristol manager and fans don’t seem so happy and are particularly whingey about the officials.
    I’ve seen still frames of weimann’s header with a kind drawn across the pitch showing he was onside.
    For your own unbiased view, you can stop the action on here and just look at the lines on the pitch.
    He looks quite well offside to me.
    Lee Johnson is still no doubt chewing lemons about it though.

  12. PP
    I agree Weiman looks a foot or more offside from the highlights.
    Yes they do moan a lot, including their assistants who got 2 yellow cards for being aggravating.
    I also thought the penalty was technically the right decision, especially when you note the directions of movement, & if the rules are broken, hard or soft is irrelevant.
    Maybe some ex player pundits are full of cr*p
    I’m a happy bunnie same as the rest of us, & am looking forward to Friday

  13. Well we have equalled the 8 in a row wins in 1975 and we are on course to better that. If we win the next two it will equal a long standing record from 1897.

    Villa won eleven in a row between March 20 and September 18 back in 1897 and the run was nine league and two FA Cup victories. You could argue that 10-11 consecutive league wins is a bigger achievement but I would be very happy not to lose until we are in the Prem, 15 game winning streak anyone? only the arse have won 14 in a row 10 league and 4 league cup.

  14. weimanns goal very tight from the angle I have seen tough call.

    McGinn would be a loss in the play offs but if we sit him will he drop form? he’s on fire at the moment. Personally I would Bench him against the next two and look to see where we are when we face Leeds and Norwich. If others step up then Probably no worries with Grealish, Wheelan, Hourihane and Lansbury in the mix.

  15. I certainly feel with the card situation with McGinn, that Dean will rest him for the Bolton game, and that is why he brought Lansbury as a substitute on Saturday, so that he got a few minutes in the mix.
    Millwall will be a different kettle of fish, and he may feel that he needs him for that one, but by the time we reach Leeds and Norwich, it may be just academic and he can rest McGinn until the play offs, where only a red card would make him miss the final.

  16. McGinn’s a tough call. He’s been immense, but just can’t seem to stop picking up yellows. Don’t know if he can be a little more careful, how much that would impact his game.

    So, yeah, maybe you let him sit against Bolton, bring him back for Millwall, or vice versa. Really want to secure our spot, Bolton might well do it, seems the first order of business. But we obviously can’t go losing him for playoff games.

  17. McGinn got 18 yellows last season so he has improved 🙂 I think we have enough to sit him if need be, everyone seems raring to play and have stepped up.

    Even the Players on loan are doing well, Ohare is fan favourite, Mckirdy just notched two, De laet who for me was one of Bruces baffling decisions after being our best player pre-season has 7 goals in 23 games down under, still loves the club and has no hard feelings.

  18. RoBbO,

    Weimann was clearly 3 yards offside. Or even 4. Whereas Tammy’s disallowed goal was clearly well on side. He was far too quick for the linesman not to mention their centre backs.

    It was also a clear penalty. Hourihane was flattened on the 6 yard box, everyone could see that. The Bristol fans were at the other end of the ground FFS. And their goal should have been disallowed for dangerous play. His feet were above head height.

    Don’t think I’ve got over the hand of Rod yet.

  19. Mark
    I did a frame by frame from the highlights a few times, [patience needed as it’s not easy on the highlights video], & he wasn’t a lot offside, so the linesman must have been level for once.
    At first if you didn’t get the frame right, he looked level or just onside, as the eyes are drawn to the action.
    But as PP said, if you look at the mowing lines on the pitch & freeze the frame as he kicks it, he is just offside.
    The linesman got it right for once.

  20. Just looked at the play offs and final and breathed a sigh of relief, booked a holiday in Croatia without looking in May. Turns out both legs will be played before I fly out on the Saturday and I’m back on the Sunday 26th early doors 🙂 Works well as I can claim I’m not bothered about the football to the girlfriend while on holiday and I have a week off in the sun to get over either not getting to the final or play offs at all 😉

  21. Thoughts are turning to the upcoming game against the Trotters. We’ve got a score to settle with them. Remember the corresponding game last season when we were caught on a snow bound pitch? It was a great leveller and cost us 3 points which, as it turned out, kept them up. We want those 3 points back this Friday and if we get them, they are down.

    We should be fielding a strong side. Deano will attack. Oh dude, I can’t wait.

  22. Good link, Mark. I’d recommend everyone watch those. And Minnesota. God. About as far away as you could ask, but I guess it’s close enough to Milwaukee (Wes Edens), which probably explains it.

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