Sunday afternoon, and time for Villa to visit the Emirates, though the match won’t be on TV. Which is annoying for us, but maybe not so bad for the players. While Arsenal have struggled a bit in their familiar fashion, it’s still a tough place to play. Cameras don’t really help. And I have to believe Villa will be thinking they can spring a bit of a surprise.

Throughout the week we’ve heard a lot about getting Jack further forward, and I thought Smith’s comment about the error at Spurs being in Jack’s head. In short, he’s got a sense of responsibility, which could very well explain why we end up saying he needs to release the ball quicker—an overabundance of caution. So, two things there: finding a way for Jack to feel less responsible at both ends, and find a bit more freedom to play the sorts of balls and take the shots that can end up coming back at you. Never mind helping Wesley get more involved. My guess is that the more opportunities Jack has, the less likely he’ll feel like they’re opportunities we can’t afford to squander. And that Wesley will convert if he gets more than one decent look-in.

Jack looked much more himself against West Ham. Will it continue?

I’ve seen it suggested the armband may be weighing him down. Which is possible. Just as it’s possible that the England call-up he dreams of could be adding to the pressure. It’s a big stage today, and Jack will want to make an impression.

So there’s Jack, and then a fair amount of talk about getting Marvelous and Luiz on the pitch at the same time. Everyone’s pretty much unanimous that Trezeguet should replace Jota if we stick to the current set-up. A lot of folks are calling for Targett. McGinn, as ever, is a no-brainer.

Obviously, it’s all about the lack of goals, Wesley’s struggles, and shoring up the midfield. And while Villa will very much have their hands full with Aubameyang, Arsenal’s defensive woes offer a glimmer of hope for a result. Looking at results around us, a draw today would be a very reasonable return. And quite timely. If Norwich can surprise City, well…We’ve seen Arsenal collapse.

But which Gunners will we get? We’ve got the blown two-goal lead against Watford last weekend, then a 3-0 dismissal of Eintracht Frankfurt during the week. Hard to say where their heads and confidence are, how much they’ve got in the tank, but they are at home and have quality outside their error-prone backline.

So, could be a wide-open game. Villa could be under the cosh. I’ll be curious to see how much pressure Smith is willing to exert in Arsenal’s third to try and force errors. Be curious to see whether we hunker down. Curious to see whether Targett gets thrown into the deep end. Me, I don’t think he will be today, but his time is probably coming.

Hourihane has slipped out of the conversation a bit as folks talk about Luiz and Nakamba, but Villa certainly haven’t been taking advantage of dead balls. And Conor does have a knack for making that run into the box. He scores. If he doesn’t start, I’d think he has to come on at some point if Villa are looking for an equalizer or winner.

Anyway…All very interesting. Like I said, I was encouraged by what I saw last weekend. But that’s usually the story for teams in the relegation zone. Encouraging performances accompanied by a lack of goals. The upside is that we haven’t been giving them away cheaply, apart from the Bournemouth setback. And then in context, the match today could see us climb back out of the drop zone, just, on goal difference.

Probably more important is that the game sets the stage for a run of four fixtures against Brighton (2), Burnley and Norwich. It’s an important stretch given that it’s Manchester City and Liverpool back to back after. A good outing might provide the platform we need to get a decent return.

Regardless, whatever happens, we’re going to have a lot more to talk about this evening. And I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of luck fall our way. I think we’re a overdue on that front.

And the lineup questions have been answered:

Heaton, Guilbert, Engels, Mings, Taylor, Marvelous, Grealish, McGinn, El Ghazi, Trezeguet, Wesley.

Jota, Elmohamady, Davis, Hourihane, Konsa, Lansbury, Steer

Over to you.

Comments 56

  1. Not a bad half at all. Arsenal threatening as one would expect, especially down the right, but we’ve held our own. Mings has been excellent, Engels as well.

    AEG can be so frustrating. Fantastic ball for SJM to latch onto, then squanders a very good opportunity there toward the end of the half playing himself into trouble.

  2. Frem,

    Still a lot of attacking quality out there for the Gunners. Be curious to see if Dean makes any adjustments early. I could see Davis coming on for Wesley perhaps. Taylor needs more cover from AEG.

    Trezeguet has done a lot of good work.

  3. Don’t think it was Deano, Frem. The players have been naive again against 10. Kept trying to move too quickly instead of slowing the game down. Third would’ve been great, but we kept giving it back and inviting them on.

  4. Inexperience showing, second week in a row where we have a man advantage and we don’t know how to use it. Never put pressure when we have the lead. Bad result but can’t fault Arsenal, completely our fault.

  5. Villalore,

    Yeah, all on us. Sat back and invited them on, then didn’t show the necessary composure. Just needed to play keep away, get it up in their half. We’ve looked like the team a man down on both occasions. Very frustrating.

    I mean, I’m all for attacking intent, but…

  6. Dean Smith – needs to get streetwise ASAP. This loss was unacceptable, Arsenal dominating with 10 men.

    This result was embarrassing and it could have been so good.

  7. Engels had a terrible second half, Mings not his usual dominant self. No one smart enough to slow the game down and move the game to Arsenals half.

    I’m going to look at the positives but we need points ASAP.

  8. Disgraceful outcome…but, the problem started at 4:30 when you haven’t beaten West Ham and Bournemouth at home. As poor as Arsenal are, you don’t need to care about losing away there.

    What ensures survival for cr*p like Bournemouth, Palace and Burnley is that they win most of their home games. Villa will be relegated because they won’t win theirs. West Ham were average on Monday and we wouldn’t have beaten them if the game had lasted 90 hours.

    Why was El Mohammady brought on again. That substitution killed us on Monday.

    Although I fully agree with the criticism of the recruitment of the front 3, the defence is poor too at this level. Mings is struggling more than expected and Taylor…he’s a Championship joke. Elmo…Wigan, Hull, Bruce…shouldn’t be at the club.

    Smith is already talking nonsense…”we only fear City and Liverpool”…you’ve lost 4 times in 6 matches….3 more games and we’re a quarter through the season. Needs a reality check from someone in charge.

  9. Just read the Mail player ratings. What it basically says is that they faded horrendously in the second half and were overran by Arsenal. Also agreed with me that the subs were a disaster. On the other hand, tired legs need 2-3 changes so the problem is that any of our subs reduce the effectiveness of the team… a squad that just isn’t good enough

  10. chill u bichs, we may will go back down, but what do expect. villa wont sort out your life, only you can do that. there too much negative energy here.

    tactics were good , subs were 20 mins to late. performance was good i till jack and john tired on 60-70 mins . ref was on our side 1st half , then flipped 2nd half.

    watch this, listen to music of your choice and drink at the same time ( if you don’t have to work tomorrow ). steamer would have liked this last bit

  11. I just watched the goals

    WTF is Engels doing sticking in a boot when there was no danger. Totally headless challenge. So many defenders back, Pepe was going nowhere. Really immature defending.

    As for Taylor debacle. You thump that ball away, but in reality I blame Mings. His header was lame, was he trying to build from within 6 yard box.

    On positive
    McGinn goal brilliant, great lookup and pass from El Ghazi
    Grealish run and Wesley side foot, sublime
    We should have got a pen at the death for handball

  12. Left it a while ,too mad after that to post,palace game ref covered all the cracks,mistakes by smith
    West ham game smith sticks to 433 and play taylor at left back ,subs where shocking as well that night
    Today we still go 433 play taylor (horrible for 2nd equaliser)even when arsenal go down to 10 men our midfield gets overrun, and our 1st sub was elmo a championship player at best,when arsenal score 2nd no change ,yet lansbury who never played in championship is deemed the answer when we are chasing an equaliser
    We spent 30m on 3 players seen as often as the dodo
    Just because smith is a fan doesn’t mean he is the right man in charge

  13. We can’t draw and lose to 10 men and stay up. Granted WH and Arsenal currently have better squads, but we cannot give stupid goals away. Targett needs to start as does Hause.

  14. to be fair to others here in this group. it is annoying that we are losing games we should win. but we have just come up.

    we should have won more games than we have lose. We are still bedding in new players, &we are still getting used to said players, and a new league, but constructive criticism goes further than just biching

    to stay up we need to 5/6 games by the 1st of jan. then another 5/6 more games after that.

    i think we will . if we don’t we will go back down. the club should/also know this, however we should now give conor and henri a more of a chance.

    we and the the players, have to factor in dodgy refs as well as being over run in midfield, i have, ( i don’t like it! ), however unless nswe get 3/4 s**t hot players in jan, we all need to accept this may happen.

    i don’t know or have many boggies or blues friends/family so it will be easier for me, not for many of the rest of you though, . i only know glory hunting scouse or mancs.

  15. Connor, and Henri needed on earlier.
    tactics were good , subs were 20 mins to late. performance was good till jack and john tired on 60-70 mins . ref was on our side 1st half , then flipped 2nd half.also robbed of a pen, and they should have at 1 other player sent off

  16. I’m just desolate. Gutted we didn’t win it, never mind draw it. Terrible penalty to concede and it let them back in. We are definitely weak at LB. Most of their threat came down that side, opposing managers are doing their homework.

    But we did get 2 fabulous goals. El Gassy put in a sublime cross for the first goal. Who else but SJM would get on the end of it. Jack was the architect of the 2nd. We are competitive. And it will be tough. If we can get a couple of wins, everything will look much brighter. So like the rest of the crowd, I’ll be up for the fight against Burnley. The game against Brighton will come down to which squad has the best reserves. We’ve got a shout.

    Final thought. Did Deano make an error with the subs? Trez looked more useful than El Gassy. Did he sub the wrong man? Fresh legs in the middle earlier may also have helped. All said in hindsight of course.

  17. Reality check required. We came up in 3rd spot with the weakest of the 3 squads.

    Too many of last seasons average to poor players are still key squad members. Taylor, Elmo, El Ghazi. The new players are (being kind here) bedding in.

    None of us know if better recruitment was possible during the summer but any new manager will have the same squad, so I don’t see how it helps very much given the quality (or lack of it) of the subs.

    We won’t collect enough points, simple as, but of course I hope I’m wrong.

  18. Hi Plug

    Re: subs, using the slow and skill-less Elmo made no sense as he kills all attacks going through the rhs. Hourihane is too lightweight/slow for a CM slot. You have to question the £30m spent on Targett and Luiz. Although he scored, Wesley is generally not up to it…weak shot and header, and very slow around the pitch.

  19. bubble popped completely

    6 games in 1 win. its poor. question marks over smith, that’s 2 games against 10 men, I thought he is meant to be a progressive re active coach?

    why is there always question marks over our bloody fitness!! Next 3 against burnley Norwich and brighton could have the owners getting twitchy

  20. frem

    youd imagine if the next 3 games don’t get 7 points the owners will get twitchy. purslow is ruthless too.

    Im not calling for smiths head but can he handle the prem? its nothing to do with him being a fan. aston villa come first.

  21. I really think we should have played 3 holding midfield players across the middle when we went 2 -1 up. Hourihane. Marvellous and Mcginn. We should have swamped midfield and managed the game. I have no idea why Luiz wasn’t in the squad.

    Interesting to hear Mings say that Dean Smith gave no instructions from the side.

    I really like Dean Smith but he needs to wise up and quickly.

    I am so bitterly disappointed about the game yesterday. The second half was difficult to watch

  22. its so frustrating as we have held on that mings, engels, heaton are solid so at 2-1 theres no way we will chuck it away!

    I think we maybe suck it up and take it for what it is. We are bloody lucky to go up and maybe we can do a brighton and burnley who both went up then down then up again and settled?

  23. PW,

    I agree with you about the Elmo substitution. It was a disaster. Konsa might have been better alongside Marvel Man. Or Luiz if he had been on the bench. It was a tough one to take.


    Yep, we need to get a couple of wins on the board quickly. I’m no way ready to even contemplate the bottom 3 come May. Over the 6 games played, we certainly should have collected more points than we have done.

  24. More var fcuk ups,blatant handball near the end plus arsenal winning free kick, new rules clearly state no opposing players within 1 metre of defensive wall yet dermot that ref denies them on sky

  25. Frem

    Going to take a while to get over yesterday! But it’s early. We have favourable fixtures coming up. We haven’t disgraced ourselves in games. Let’s hope we switch on on and off the pitch and start to pick points up! And trying to be even more positive the teams we have played finished mainly mid table and higher last season!

  26. Well,

    I have read through it all now and will balance that with what I know, and what I saw of yesterday’s game.

    A great start by Villa, very composed on the ball, and handling Arsenal well. Lovely move from El Ghazi to supply a super ball for McGinn to make it 1-0, and we continue on until oh no! Arsenal have a player sent off (confirmed by VAR) for a second yellow.

    You would then think that Dean will recalculate and issue fresh instructions to his players, but no, nothing, just the same as Monday, even resorts to the same substitution virtually, as he feels that Elmo can then back up if Guilbert tires….

    No man management, no game management, and Jack struggling to lead on the pitch…..
    No wonder the oppostion keeps managing to turn it round.

    This is all too reminscient of Sherwood and the moneyball team. How long before they get a real thrashing and fall apart. All this calling from mainly arm chair fans for Targett, Luiz and Nakamba.. Has any one of them seen them play for Villa together….I think not. I have yet to see anything of Targett, and I have seen all his appearnces in claret and blue, and nothing suggests he is anything but very average. Taylor I have seen every minute of his and he deserves his place, he just suffers from poor back from his wingers more often than not.

    Guilbert has shown some nice touches and good recovery, but having to make a 75yard one maybe does not help over the match.Nakamba is doing okay, but we still need some solid play from the midfield and the abillity to drive forward.

    Wesley as a lone striker is a a waste, especially against ten men, and the same complaint again on Sunday, when we have a man advantage, we have no-one up in readiness to receive the ball and damage them, so it comes straight back.

    Steamer must be turnng in his grave with all this negative play when we have the advantage….that should have gone with Bruce…..

    VAR has cost us two points minimum in three games so far…. because the refs do not use the pitch side checking facility, or the decisions may well have been different, but VAR will NOT overrule the refs decision on the pitch…..!!!

  27. Please John. I feel like I need therapy after the last two games. Especially after yesterday, the result and second half performance is difficult to accept.

    I feel like Smith didn’t react to the situation, he didn’t manage the game, he didn’t instruct the players.

    Although he did set up the team in the first half and we were brilliant.

    I’m confused.

    We should have won.

    Best R

  28. JC…
    All I know of Targett is that Southampton fans fell about laughing when we paid £15m for him…brings back memories of Ormondroyd.

    So it’s highly likely that you’re right that Taylor is the best left back, and in there, as in many areas of the pitch, lies the problem that we just aren’t good enough over 90 minutes.

    There’s a fatal mistake somewhere on the pitch just around the corner. Grealish and McGinn are exhausted after 60 minutes because it’s a frantic effort to chase the ball when we concede possession so cheaply. That was the worst Arsenal team I’ve ever seen and still we couldn’t get a draw.

    Complaints about VAR and referees pale into inconsequence compared to 3 defensive blunders. Not sure what Heaton was doing with the wall for the third…abysmal.

    If we’re in the bottom 3 after 10 games then Smith is fair game for a bullet.

  29. Okay. Took me a moment to regain my own composure.

    But a match review is up.

    (Don’t really care about tonight’s game, tbh. Send out everyone who hasn’t played. We’ve got Brighton again in short order, no sense tiring out anyone from Sunday when we desperately need a result against Burnley.)

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