It’s all getting more than a bit nerve-wracking. Villa, while not cut adrift, find themselves needing the three points that West Ham and Watford have finally managed to secure since resuming play. Tonight, it’ll be a tall order getting them against United.

But. Over the course of the season we’ve been close to many of the top sides. Hasn’t been pretty, but we’ve scored and tried to hold on. We never get the second, not when we’re up, and inevitably give something away late. The 2-3 loss to Spurs in February saw us concede in extra time in both halves, for example. But there’ve been a lot of those, just generally from the 80th minute on.

The 2-2 draw with United was the exception where we came back to get a point, and the 2-3 loss at Arsenal is one where we conceded the equalizer and got back on top. If you want to consider Wolves a top side, we answered an equalizer there and got all three points.

Of course, United have gotten better since then, and we haven’t. But we’re still in with a chance.

And at the risk of cursing the side, you have to think Villa are just about due a big scalp. You also have to think that among Grealish, McGinn, Luiz, Ghazi and Hourihane…well, they’re all overdue on the scoresheet. These players were also expected to contribute, and given the drought with our so-called strikers, the goals we need may well fall on this crew.

We’ve all noticed a hesitancy to shoot. Typically I think this derives from nerves: players not wanting to be the one to squander a chance when they’re hard to come by. But you don’t score if you don’t shoot. Grealish, McGinn, Luiz, and Hourihane have all got a worldie in them on their day. I’ll take a dribbler that goes through De Gea’s hands.

Apart from Smith talking to the strikers (which I’m quite sure wasn’t the first time), these others have to be encouraged to let fly, and be told to get in positions where they’ll have an opportunity.

Of course, the other factor in shooting is that if you don’t force a save that isn’t a simple catch, get a rebound, a corner, or send it out for a goal kick, you run the risk of it coming straight back with everyone pulled upfield. We’ve had a lot of blocked shots and catch-saves. But at this stage, I’m pretty sure shooting is a risk worth taking. At the same time, I’m pretty sure goal difference is also playing its part in the planning, and if the team is trying to keep it tighter, this may also play a part in hesitancy. Players dropping a bit deeper, players not making the runs to get on crosses. All of it.

The situation Villa now find themselves in is where it’s hard to hold fire, stick to a plan. We’d have wanted a couple wins we could’ve had but didn’t get. We’d have wanted to hold on for a point where we didn’t. I’m sure Smith previously would’ve been happy with a point tonight, back when they were plotting out the run-in.

But. We all know what happens to plans.

So, I’ve no idea whether Villa will still be looking to the subsequent fixtures, thinking they can get enough, and that tonight is about grabbing a point and not shipping goals by getting stretched in going gung-ho to win. That puts a lot of pressure on those remaining fixtures, though, and Villa run the risk of getting cut adrift in the meantime.

So maybe, just maybe, attack tonight is the best form of defense. It’s what Smith believes in, after all. If I were him, I’m planning on going all-out, and then using the five subs to simply freshen down the stretch so we can hold on if we’ve got something to hold onto. If he’s not starting, and depending on the score, I’d get Conor on with enough time to get at least a couple shots off from dead balls. Which means Grealish winning free kicks near the box.

And like I said, I wasn’t really joking when I suggested Smith just tells Jack to take it into the box, play keep-away, and see if we can’t get a penalty. All’s fair in love and war, after all.

A loss won’t see us down, a draw is better than a loss. A win, and we might very well be on the way to staying up. As I say, it’s about time we got a big scalp, and we could catch United by surprise. We’d also think Jack will be trying to respond to recent criticism and put in a performance that says he does belong among the elite.

In the end, tonight is about fight, all-out commitment. Harass, keep United from settling, foul further upfield, win some 50-50s, and take a few chances. The standard underdog game plan. If that only earns us a draw, so be it. That would still be a confidence boost. That said, our fate is not entirely in our hands. We’re going to have to force the issue and put pressure back on Watford and West Ham.

I’ll be watching from behind the sofa.

Over to you.

Comments 73

  1. First.

    We all know how tonight will go

    We will lose. But we won’t get hammered in terms of score line.

    We won’t create much what so ever, but Smith will live on the 2 chances we had after the game making it sound like we played well

  2. I will say, though…Some of the ‘survival specialists’ people want to see come in would basically employ the same tactics.

    Defend, counter, dead balls. Not converting corners and free kicks is really hurting us.

    Leicester made a living off 30% possession. They had a deadly striker and converted the open play chances (rare as they may have been at times).

    Which points to another deficiency. The long balls we do play out from the back aren’t good enough. They’re either easily intercepted, or pull the target man off to chase them down.

  3. JC- tallys with what I am seeing mate, disappointed that Samatta hasn’t been up to much but understand why. Also explains why Trez has been really poor he looked peed of after the umpteen ball flew past him with a man to beat.

  4. Well we have gone for as much pace as possible up top, Manure not that great at the back just on fire at the moment the other end. I think we can get at them with corners and free kicks if they let us have the ball.

  5. MK,

    Yeah, instead of putting them in, they get chasing wide, often hemmed in with a man to beat, as you say, and the move has to change to get others involved.

    Mings was hitting long diagonals well, earlier on, and finding a winger in space, but he’s either lost the touch, or teams are just wise to it. Hause has had a very hard time completing forward passes more than 10-15 yards. Those just end up coming right back at us.

  6. Shocking decision

    But it was going to happen

    If Trez wasn’t so s**t we would have gone one up
    . We will lose 3 or 4 now

  7. Jc- I agree mings dose it to much trying to defend in the six yard box , backs away when he needs to close the angles down. Keane was spot on . That said it was no penalty kinda looks like he touches the ball before the manure player jumps into him. Bad luck as usual with jack off form and trez hitting the post could easily be 2-2

  8. Why is Grealish still on the pitch. Once again he is bloody awful. He does nothing with ball. Misses a golden opportunity, and fails to close down Pogba. The sooner he is sold the better for this team.

  9. PP,

    My concern with Grealish staying on the pitch is that I think he’s tired, and seems possible he’s carrying something on that shin/ankle. He hasn’t looked himself at all.

  10. Don’t usually comment immediately after the game when feelings are running high. But I do believe Deano may only have a couple of more weeks at the helm. His body language was awful, hands in pocket, JT likewise and the team showing so little fight and effort in desperate times.

  11. Mings made 3 mistakes in 10 seconds. First he got mugged with the ball halfway inside their half. Second, he didn’t drag the guy down and take a yellow for the team. Third he stood and admired Greenwood whilst he lined up the shot and fired.

    Deano is not revving up this team like Wilder for instance does at Sheff U.

  12. When an injustice like the penalty goes against you, the natural response is anger and fight. I saw only indifference and acceptance.

  13. Dean has tried to build a team round one player, and has totally failed.
    The only way to survive in the Premier league is to play as a team. Dean has in fact by playing Grealish in the way he has, will devalue him, and Villa will now struggle to get a proper price for him. He needs to be an ordinary player in a top side and learn his trade properly alongside people who can benefit his future. Something Villa will never do with the present set up.

  14. I shudder to think what the reaction would have been during the game had VP been a full house. When Taylor does not look out of place in the back 4, you know the rest have had a stinker.

  15. It’s harsh to criticize Dean Smith for losing to Man UTD

    They are on fire at present. They have world class players.

    We started the game really well

    The penalty was an utter disgrace

    Mings should have done better for the second goal.

    After that – game over

    Time to dust ourselves down.

    We can best Palace.

    That will give us some belief and momentum

    Give us an opportunity to stay up


  16. Grealish had a perfect chance to score the opening, Trezeguet should also having broken through should have scored. At this level chances are few and far between, unless you are playing against Villa.
    Mings should have closed down Greenwood, and there would have been no second goal, and Grealish should have closed Pogba, and there would have been no third goal. This is the difference between Villa and most of the good teams in the Premiership, and has been throughout the season. The total failure to close players down, win the ball back, and finally make a pass count.
    Again tonight absolutely awful dead ball kicks, nothing to raise a murmur.

  17. Surely Dean has to go now…we came back with 10 games to go and we have been totally abject…..he clearly cant motivate his players as there has been no signs of urgency from any of them….i keep hearing about he was given a bad bunch of players to work with but surely a coaches job is to improve players and under his leadership not one of his players has improved… some cases they have got worse….Marvelous looked really good when he first came in, now look at him…and as for Dean being the right man to lead us in the championship dont be fooled guys we were extremely lucky we made it last season and that without jack we would have been nowhere near…..In my opinion Dean is a very average championship manager and is sadly out of his depth at Villa…..We need a manager with big club experience who can handle the expectations that come with it,not a Dyche or Howe who only have experience of small clubs where there is a lot less pressure…..So come on NSWE think big…. time for Smith and Okelly to go, put JT in charge for the last 4 games and then go and get the right man in ready for next season

  18. Blime the crows are circling 🙂

    I thought we played really well until the ref and VAR f**ked us over.

    Difference is if greenwood had the chance Trez or jack did it would have been in.

    We are lacking self belief and confidence. Yes this is partly dean’s fault but there are zero leaders on that pitch. The players looking most bothered are Luis, Taylor, Trez and Konsa. McGinn tried but not the same player yet, Jack looks knackered and knows he can’t make the difference he normally would . Mings looks to me like he has given up , he is the player I thought would at least get angry he’s not.

    Maybe Deans mentality of maintaining a calm mind whether winning or losing isn’t helping but I think these next few games will see a different Villa , a win at home to Palace just might remind some players that their future is in this league with Villa if they make it happen .

    As Pp has said they might have to grow some and do it without Jack . That might give us an edge because teams will be looking to stop Jack and might be surprised.

  19. We need to sack Smith today

    And we need to get the gap down to 1 point this week to stand a chance

    But Smith needs to go

    Go get Dyche, or big Sam for 4 games. He will kepe us up

    If we sacked Smith a few games back we’d be safe

  20. Frem. Sack Smith – it isn’t going to happen.

    It is the easy option to sack Smith, you could see in the post-match interview how upset he was.

    The penalty decision was a disgrace – it changed the game.

    It appears that Jack is carrying an injury, McGinn is not back to full fitness, Mings is not playing to his best – we have no forwards. Every time we clear the ball, it comes straight back. Constant pressure on the defence. Mistakes then happen and in this league, you get punished.

    I personally blame Christian Purslow for this whole debacle. He is ultimately in control – the buck stops with him. His structure, he sanctioned the transfer policy. We made some shocking purchases.

    And we are probably going down. It is a real shame. It is going to be an incredibly expensive exercise.

  21. Frem,
    I totally understand your frustration, as I am suffering too. where is the fight in this team. Last time I saw a bone crunching tackle was when McGinn injured himself.
    We just don’t close anyone down, fight for the ball, or put dead ball situations to good use. Jack I cannot believe. He has become so bad at delivery, or giving a good pass. Dean must be held responsible for ruining our most gifted player.

    Dean and the management have got rid of every leader that we had, Chester, and Lansbury I don’t understand what has happened to him. He has never really had a proper chance under Dean. Bjarnason would have had more bite than most of this lot of pussies.
    Trezeguet when he took a great opportunity to steal the ball and shoot, that should be happening all the time, not once in a blue moon.
    Villa did start off well, but are soon deflated when things go wrong, and it is a travesty when so many of the pundits are rooting for Villa and would love to be involved, especially Keane.
    Smith may be just not strong enough to handle players at this level, sadly.

    Maybe, we should give these last four games to a man that has won everything, and see if he can pull off the great escape.

    Dean, like Steve Bruce, has also failed to give any of our youth a chance, whereas Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and other teams have blooded youth this season when they have been struggling, which has created competition amongst players, and they are all the better for it. We have just farmed out ours on loan everywhere, and not built anything. No bedrock foundations just a group of shifting sands trying to earn each others language.

  22. The owners must already be looking sell up. This certainly wasn’t part of the plans

    Richard, its not just last night defeat. We’ve been awful for the whole season

  23. Frem.

    It is not all Smiths fault. He was a hero last season. And now he is a zero. Same manager who won 10 games on the bounce.

    The reason for our predicament and performances has been because of the transfer policy in the Summer. Most of the players we purchased were not good enough. And we had terrible injuries.

    The current squad of players are not good enough.

    And you are only as good as your strikers. And we don’t have any who are capable of scoring.

  24. Some good thoughts…I have to confess, I really thought we could get something out of the match until the penalty. It had all the hallmarks of being cursed, and I knew that was probably it.

    Hopeful, as always, and thought if we could get to the half and regroup, we might be able to get a 1-1. But the goal got United loose, and I think gave our players the “it’s all going against us” feeling. I can’t believe it was upheld by VAR.

    The other thing, I was annoyed by the commentary I was hearing, “United’s fourth game with the same XI”. I was like f**k me, we’ve only got one starting XI and it doesn’t have Pogba, Fernandez, Greenwood, Rashford and Martial in it.

  25. PP,

    “The total failure to close players down, win the ball back, and finally make a pass count.”

    Can’t disagree with you there.

    We were feisty to start, but even then I was thinking “how long can we keep this up?” Had a couple good chances with Jack and Trez that didn’t go in. That’s what all the effort was supposed to yield, and it didn’t come good.

  26. RichardS,

    Agreed. Was watching Petrov respond to the Grealish criticism, and I think he’s got it right. Neville saying Jack’s “immature,” “needs to be more patient.” But the point is, if Jack’s doing anything wrong it’s that he’s trying to do too much. And how “patient” can he be? If he doesn’t drop, or go wide to make himself available, he’d never see the ball.

    But when you look around, who else can really do *anything*, apart from Luiz, at the moment. Lovely ball into Samatta, right about the penalty spot. His take was useless, came right off him. A real striker at least handles that ball, whether they have room to turn or not, and retains possession.

    That’s why you see passes not being made. We try those little give-and-go’s around the box, no one up front can pull them off.

  27. replay,

    Understand where you’re coming from. For me, the progress, or lack thereof, with certain players comes down to the arc of a season.

    You come into the PL. You’re excited, probably a bit scared. Language issues, settling, all of that. We saw some bright performances early.

    Then reality sets in. You go up against many of the best players in the world. You find out what you’ve got and what you don’t. You see teams passing rings around you, everyone confident, running into space, taking, passing. Everyone of them has a good touch. It wears you down mentally, whatever the coaching or the system. Very often we see highly touted players take a while to come good, even when they’re slotted into quality sides.

    Wolves’ recruitment was excellent. Sheffield had built a very scrappy side, never-say-die bunch of hustlers and ball-winners, to Paul Pears’ point.

    Villa were built to a different system, and the recruitment just wasn’t good enough, in large part, I think, because of all the holes that needed filling. But that doesn’t let Suso off the hook for not spending what he had on players better suited to the Prem. Even if we’d had this post-lockdown Luiz for the entire season, we might not be where we’re at. Point here, point there…

  28. Mark
    More like magpies if you ask me.
    I saw what you saw mate, actual pressing, which has got considerably better since the restart, & aggression, we just don’t have anyone presently who can score to give us a chance, with confidence low along with the accompanying timing.
    You’re just shooting the messenger mate, not helpful or accurate.
    Do I feel the pain & frustration etc?
    Yes as we all do, but there is a line where constructive self expression becomes self projection, which is not so helpful.

    Plus they’re going to keep the new substitute rules next season, & we have 4 quarters rather than 2 halves next season across the football league.
    The bottom half of the table almost start with a points deduction, all a bit of a mirror to what is going on in this demented country.

  29. And I should add, about the Prem, is that virtually every mistake gets punished. There’s so little room for error. That gets in your head once you really see it and make a few, and hesitancy creeps in. Players often regress. So, you sit them, try to give them time to get their heads right. But for Villa, you’ve not many options to turn to.

    McGinn has the will and fight, but he’s not fast enough. Conor marks space, can’t win a ball. Davis can’t score. Samatta can’t make anything happen on his own. Trez runs, but isn’t strong enough, and tries to do too much. Ghazi seems scared to take things on. You can go on and on, and if we stay up, we might see better from some of them, but we’d need 4-5 true quality additions, and would have to spend another £140m to get them.

  30. IanG,

    Yeah, I don’t want to make excuses, but virtually every game we’ve played has had some sort of major turn after the breaks, and the five subs are killing us. Won’t be the same caliber these last four games, but given our lack of depth, it’s a big ask to hold onto something when Chelski, Pool and Manure can bring on five players who’d be starters anywhere else. Or, bright young talents that get a chance to shine when the team is cruising and in control.

    Last night, United got a chance to regroup and focus when we were making life hard and they weren’t at their best. I really think we could’ve gone into the break 0-0 if it weren’t for that and the decision the league are now saying was wrong. Would we have won? Probably not. But that would’ve been better than 0-2 down.

  31. Paul McGrath
    ‘Isn’t it great how one mistake can totally change a game , That’s never a penalty. This game we use to love is a shambles because of VAR . The games about emotions. Can’t celebrate a goal anymore. Until they ask the Clouds ☁️ or Clown’s .
    Villa v Man Utd. Sad☘️.’

    The referee was a disgrace, & he would have given a penalty if there was no VAR anyway.
    VAR seems to be magnifying the referee mistakes, so ‘don’t believe your lying eyes’ is the refrain.

    I don’t understand why Petrov isn’t on the coaching staff.

  32. JC – we need to win a couple of games to change that disconnect, with only 4 games to go it would be difficult for better teams, look at Spurs.
    Whether we are good enough anyway is another issue.
    I don’t think they’ve given up, I think there is plenty of fight, but fighting yourself when low on confidence as a team, is debilitating, & shows the lack of older experienced players in key positions, who glue it together.
    The debate on leaders in the team is overblown imo.

  33. IanG.

    Agreed. I don’t think they’ve given up. Luiz was all over the place last night running things down. Mings is still committed and making a lot of key interventions, and Reina was giving him hell for the second.

    Jack is gassed and carrying I knock, I firmly believe, and the responsibility/love of club is weighing very heavily on him. I know he’d have loved to put that chance in the net, but it was difficult despite the range, on his left foot, and he still came so very close to a perfect finish.

    And as God says, goals change games. Simple as. Ole can talk all he likes about how many they could’ve scored. I won’t disagree. But they surely didn’t need help from the officials to jump-start them and destroy what momentum/belief we’d gained off a credible opening quarter.

  34. PP ….agree with you totally……I,m sorry but i can,t go along with the ” he,s one of us brigade” the fact is he has failed….yes the recruitment wasn,t great but that doesn,t stop players from being fit and being prepared to give their all, thats down to the coach….under Smith we are down and anyone who thinks otherwise is living in cloud cuckoo land so why not roll the dice one last time and give JT his head for the last 4 games as we have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain

  35. Replay- hello mate and welcome . JT is just as culpable as People want Smith to be , defending has been poor this season while scoring was fine up to xmas. You’ll probably get your sacking at some point but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    Iang- by leaders I mean those that have belief in themselves or at least look forward to matching up against the best not fear it.

  36. Kevin Fraud now has a mate in the rogues gallery, Jonathon Moss. Law 12 of the game states jumping at a player is a foul resulting in a direct free kick. That’s exactly what happened on Thursday night. The Man Ure player pirouetted with forward momentum and jumped at our man back first decking him in the process.

    Refs and VAR Refs must be held accountable and brought before the cameras to answer some serious questions. Or make their discussions audible like both forms of rugby so that everyone hears the debate. Action must be taken against incompetence. Only in football is secrecy the standard. Why?

  37. Absolutely right Plug.

    According to Villa gossip, John Terry was never hired as a defensive coach, and his appointment was made before Dean Smith’s. I am certain if Terry had more say in what goes on, Villa would not be where they are. Terry has been wise and just continued to learn the job and sit on his hands, which has been very hard for him at times. Richard Kelly has had far more say in what goes on, and he will definitely be sacked if Smith goes. Terry has shown enough common sense to get himself a much better job elsewhere, and the Bristol City job would be perfect with a club that has every ambition, and the money to be a Premier league team.

  38. If Watford loses to Newcastle that will be a hammer blow to their survival chances.

    We simply have to beat Palace on Sunday and I believe we will. A win will be ENORMOUS.

    We actually played well against Man UTD until the horrendous penalty decision. We need to shake off the negativity and focus on the possible.

    Jack – Mings – Mcginn need to improve their performances. We need our leaders in the team to start setting an example.

    Come on the Villa. It isn’t over yet.

  39. Watching the team of the season in the Championship at the moment, with Brentford winning 3-1 away to Derby, with Benrhama making the difference again.
    £20 million for Wesley…..or £20million for Benrhama???

    Let’s hope that results go our way and we can meet them next season in the Premier league. They are looking like being another Wolves.

  40. Must admit Brentford a pleasure to watch, and seven wins on the trot, thanks to a great team playing together, with a manager who protects his players.
    Benrahma taken off as soon as they know they have got the win, with plenty of young talent on the bench to come on.

    Can’t believe how Villa have been risking Grealish, just the same as the did with Chester.

  41. So we need to win at least 3 from 4. At best, I can see us winning 1. It’s a shame that we didn’t bring in Big Sam. Dean Smith must go

  42. Will be interesting to see which players leave. For sure Jack, SJM, and Mings. I hope Luiz stays, but maybe if he doesn’t Nakamba can come good in the championship. Engels and Konza should be a solid partnership. Would be nice to offload Wesley and Hogan

  43. Troy Parrott from Spurs would be a great loan signing. 6’1” striker and fast. Natural goal scorer and Jose is not going to pick him

  44. JG,

    I thought SJM was great at the start of the season, then played with injury and was average. Against Liverpool he showed signs of returning to form.

    At start of season Sir Alex wanted him for 50M, I’d take 20M with sign on fees

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