The window’s come and gone, and Villa’s business has left many scratching their heads. Me, don’t think it’s that complicated. Some things I would’ve loved to have happened, but in seeing things play out, it’s clear they just weren’t on the cards financially. Shame Samatta couldn’t connect in the thrilling Leicester victory, as I think that would’ve changed the color of the lenses in a few spectacles.
So, yeah…There’s been football while we’ve all chased links and been up and down the January roller coaster. Prior to January, a terrible run with 1-4, 0-2, and 1-3 defeats to Leicester, Sheffield United, and Southampton. Beat Norwich 1-0, then lost to Watford 0-3. Looked a bit bleak, as that was shaping up to the be season-defining stretch. Southampton, of course, have completely turned things around.
And then we’ve clawed our way back by beating Burnley 2-1, drawing with Brighton 1-1, and beating Watford 2-1. Tucked in there amidst scratching our way back to 16th, have been the 1-1 draw and 2-1 victory over Leicester.
So, just when it looked darkest, Villa have managed to find some fight and get results. Seems to have started in the second half against Brighton, and continued from there. Yeah, we got smashed by City (who smashed Watford 6-0 in that cup final last year), but we’ve rebounded. So I don’t know what lessons were learned. Players were what? Humiliated and aware they couldn’t go on like that? Realized down 0-1 at Brighton the next week that they truly had nothing to lose so might as well make a fist of it?
Dunno. But we’ve seen fight. We’ve seen Nakamba and Luiz find a next level. We’ve seen tactical fouls and some brilliant goalkeeping. Injury-time goals and Grealish elegance. More than one lovely and telling final ball. More leadership from Mings, and growing comfort in the 3-4-3. And maybe we learned in the second leg of the Carabao semis that we didn’t need to just let teams play around us. That we could have some say.
Now Bournemouth. No need to tell anyone how many favors we can do ourselves coming away with all three. And really, what we’re all hoping is that after losing the lead against Leicester and showing the fight and belief to find a 93rd-minute winner instead of conceding, that Villa may have turned a corner, psychologically. For the first time back in the Premier League, we didn’t find a way to bottle it when we edged in front of a better team.
With the team news, we can see Luiz has reclaimed his spot, Drinkwater doesn’t make the bench, and Trez will once again make way for new boy Samatta. So, the side that beat Leicester, bar hero Nyland.
Right now, we’re in control of our destiny, if only just. We’d still like results around us to go our way to ease us on, but win and draw, and we can stay clear.
Reina, Guilbert, Konsa, Mings, Hause, Targett, Nakamba, Luiz, Grealish, Samatta, El Ghazi
Nyland, Hourihane, Elmohamady, Trezeguet, Davis, Engels, Lansbury
So come on lads. Build on the semifinal breakthrough and show us what you’ve got.
Over to you.