The annual cup runs begin this evening with Villa traveling to Barrow for a second-round Carabao Cup tie. With a number of niggling injuries, players to bed in, and youngsters knocking on the door, it’ll be an interesting selection from Smith, and worth watching. Don’t know that we’ll learn a lot from the match itself, given the mismatch and our likely makeshift side, but everyone will obviously be looking for a drawer-full of positives.

I didn’t do a Good, Bad & Ugly for Newcastle, though I’d meant to. We had a couple first-hand accounts, which are lovely to see for a variety of reasons, and the weekend got away from me.

On the plus side, a win is always good. And notching that first victory of a season is something best done early on. The last thing anyone wants is a weight gathering over the club’s collective head.

So, with the first three points on the board, Villa will once again take on a lesser-known quantity at the weekend with Brentford. You almost feel sort of bad for Newcastle and Steve Bruce, because, being known quantities, the general consensus has been they’ll contrive to find a way to underachieve. And, of course, they did.

Brucey naturally had lots of complaints and injustices to whinge about in his post-match comments. Anyone watching with the advantage of replays and a better view of the pitch couldn’t necessarily agree with him.

There were two obvious moments for the Toon that could’ve changed the game. Well, three, I suppose:

1. Callum Wilson’s egregious early miss

2. Villa’s penalty

3. Newcastle’s rather comical non-penalty penalty

Taking Them in Order
1. When it comes to Wilson’s miss, I’m guessing he was probably as surprised as anyone else to find himself with the goal at his mercy. Just as we saw for Watford’s third, Villa were caught napping by a couple of incidents they expected to be whistled. As we’ve seen across the league, the instruction to call fewer ‘soft’ fouls has left some fuming or befuddled, and it seems that playing to the whistle has not quite sunk into Villa’s heads yet.

I expect it might take a little bit just because players have become so accustomed to the modern interpretations. It’s natural to think, “that’s a foul,” and if they’ve been given routinely in the past, there’s an instinctive moment of let-down expecting play to stop. It almost caught Villa out a second time, and may have played into Wilson’s head with him expecting a whistle, as well.

So when the whistle(s) didn’t come, it was a let-off for Villa.

2. For Villa’s penalty, it was very hard to see in real time. A lot of bodies, and no clear view without replay zooming in and slowing down. For me, the outstretched arm was a clear handball. Bruce seems to think the defender’s foot was above his head, which it wasn’t. Regardless, the arm was outstretched and it did prevent Mings’ header from going further toward goal. You could maybe make the argument that it was too close for the defender to react. But we all know an outstretched arm like that, however natural it might seem, well, you don’t want the ball hitting it in the area. That was actually, to my mind, a very good intervention by, and utilization of, VAR.

3. Later, when Emi Martinez took out Wilson rather definitively, it was about as clear a peno as they come. There seemed to be a little misjudgment between Martinez and Mings about how the ball would travel through and who should take it. In the end, a bit rash from Emi, a decent touch by Wilson to draw it, but at least Martinez really stuck the hit.

That it was overturned because Wilson was adjudged to be offside initially, well, that made me laugh. I won’t say it necessarily changed the outcome, but 2-1 would’ve been a bit uncomfortable once Newcastle were really trying to claw their way to some points.

The Villa Part
I think most everyone felt Villa played better than in the first half against Watford. Wouldn’ve been rather worrying if they hadn’t.

But the “famously inflexible” or “clueless” Dean Smith adjusted to a 4-3-3, perhaps because he saw how it worked better when he adjusted to it in the second half the week before. It suited the side available in both instances.

Jacob Ramsey had a very good outing in the middle, probably his best in a PL match. He looks stronger and more assured, and the stats will confirm he played well with and without the ball. With Ings not running as a lone striker, Buendia right, Ghazi left, and McGinn and Luiz once again partnering in the 6-8 “pivot,” Villa looked a lot more balanced, and started to find some combinations and fluidity.

The chances created from open play were still almost non-existent, but you could see the potential. Without Watkins, Bailey or Traoré, you might expect to be a little light in the threat department. Buendia was decent if not prominent, showed his tenacity, and there’ll certainly be a lot more to come from him.

Another encouraging sight was McGinn and Luiz. If our window really is closed, we saw once again that when both are fit and on their games, it’s our best pairing in the system. Could we use that ‘destroyer’ at DM? I still think there’s a spot for one, and certainly in different formations where the position is more exposed. Maybe we’ll see Tuanzebe doing it if his late appearance is any indication. Ramsey was effective playing without the ball, which certainly helped everyone around him, but also good on it.

Finally, there was more grit and urgency. Taking away Wilson’s glaring miss, Villa largely controlled the first half and, to my mind, deserved their halftime lead. The second goal sealed it. While the stats won’t look as good as Villa retreated a bit and Newcastle threw themselves forward down 0-2, the worries we had after Watford were diminished somewhat.

Can’t talk about the game without talking about Ings’ fabulous strike. He’s always been a real goalscorer, and in that regard, we probably got what Kane offers (and maybe 90% overall) for a fraction of the purported market value. Ghazi once again was clinical from the spot despite the ultimately ineffectual mind-games of whoever-the-keeper was. But again, he failed overall to insert himself into any conversation about a starting spot.

I’ll leave off on McPhee’s contribution until we see a few more dead-ball situations. I will, however, say that I was glad to see late introductions for Jaden Philogen-Bidace, Wesley, and Axel Tuanzebe. Wesley looked hungry, won some balls and flick-ons, JPB didn’t seem overwhelmed, and Axel got his feet wet playing in front of Konsa and Mings. All positives.

So, there we go. Three points, a happy home crowd, and certainly a more dangerous Villa yet to emerge. Smith got the tactics right, the players did their part, and a season start that was almost always going to be choppy got the boost it needed.

Over to you.

Comments 65

  1. Thanks JC. I expect a much changed side this evening. It should be more than good enough to turn over Barrow.

    It’s their big show. Barrow chairman Paul Hornby talks the talk. “They will hate it. The wind howling off the Irish Sea, the rain horizontal, there could be an upset”. We’ll know shortly if his team can walk the walk.

  2. Plug,

    You’d like to think we could put out most anyone, but there’ll be the question of how they play together.

    Steer, Targett, Hause, Tuanzebe, Guilbert, Hourihane (C), Carney Chukwuemeka, Nakamba, Philogene-Bidace, Archer, El Ghazi.

    Substitutes: Sinisalo, Bogarde, A.Ramsey, J.Ramsey, Caleb Chukwuemeka, Hayden Lindley, Sil Swinkels.

  3. Looking around the blogs plenty of weak team and disrespecting the cup comments. Best one was I had to google Cameron Archer, anyway 1-0 Cameron Archer 🙂

    Hope we get to see chucks brother up top

  4. Yeah, about what you’d expect. Couple decent balls in from wide. Well taken by Archer. And Ghazi, too, tbf.

    Have to say, neither Axel or Hause covering themselves in glory. Just about getting bullied.

  5. So the Barrow boys couldn’t walk the walk. Well stuffed in the end. With the wind off the sea behind them in the first half, their forwards looked dangerous from route one balls down the middle. Axel and House were struggling.

    But our kids were the stand out. They have pace and skill. The youngsters contributed superbly. As Candian says, we are going to have some team in a couple of years with these kids.

  6. I don’t think we will have to wait a couple of years to see these boys at their best.
    This may have only been Barrow, but this is our best result away from home since 2008.
    We have also produced our best result in this cup playing with a mainly reserve team side.
    I think Cameron Archer was outstanding, and fully deserved his MOTM award. I loved his interview after the game, and reminded me of Antonio last night. It is so lovely to see players smiling, happy enjoying their football, and comfortable being interviewed, It will do wonders for the sport.
    I also thought that the skills of Philogene-Bidace in ensuring that he gave Cameron the pass for his hat trick showed what our young players are about.
    Tonight was a privilege to watch Villa showing what we are capable of in the future.

  7. Yes PP, we did look tidy. Sure, the opposition was only League 2 and who resorted to kicking anything that moved in the end, but the crowd saw some excellent football. Also chuffed for the travelling fans…it’s a long way to Barrow and they were treated to a display that will lighten their journey home.

  8. Hmmm reports are mounting that lockdowns did nothing to effect covid deaths but increased excess deaths who’d of thought it (me) right now we have higher than average death for the time of year because of the results of the lockdowns and lack of treatments. Smoking, drinking , drugs, suicides all way up quell surprise .

  9. In Kane’s case, he signed a contract and Levy has held him to it unless ridiculous money was tabled. Obviously the Mancs decided not to have their trousers pulled down. Difference with Jack is, he had an offer value inserted in his contract before signing.

    Kane can now sulk all he wants. It’s a bummer being paid mega bucks weekly and still feeling unhappy. Life’s a bitch eh ‘Arry?

  10. PP,

    It is a group with a lot of promise, and they look like they’ve been brought along well.

    Timing varies from player to player, of course, but they’re composed and seem to have the right qualities. Watching the light go on for Ramsey last week was a great sign, good to see the faith in him being rewarded. Carney and Jaden should really benefit from being in the first-team setup.

  11. Yep it will be a good move for him hopefully.

    So we have Chelsea next in the cup, I’m guessing that means a strong team from us maybe not from them.

  12. wesley off and still no further signing a 6 or lw. Or we really aiming for europe without replacing jack or getting a 6.

    I guess we maybe giving the youth a chance?

    The kids looked ok against barrow but didnt think we used chuck well at all. long balls in the channel constantly.

  13. The game was a decent runout for the youth players. However, i think El Ghazi should not be sold. He is stepping up in Grealish’s absence and i think he could really be some player for us this season. Clearly him playing on the left wing is giving him confidence and i think the board should give him a new deal. His numbers clearly are very good.

  14. el ghazi struggles with the basics of football. Deano quite rightly wants to put right the basics with bringing in Bailey after being frustrated with traore and el ghazi not being good enough in possession and not being able to keep hold of the ball.

    I love what el ghazi has done for us and his pens! But if we are to move forward we need better to improve. Italy would be perfect for el ghazi. All the time in the world to cut in and shoot.

  15. Think a loan is probably right for Wes. He’ll need playing time. He’s looked up for it, and you never mind having insurance, but he won’t play enough to do him or Villa any good.

  16. Ghazi…

    I’ve gone and said we won’t see him starting once Bailey’s in the side. So, is he adequate backup?

    He does have a knack for scoring, and he’s stone cold from the spot, but we know he often disappears. After this amount of time, you’d think he’d add to his game, learn how to play himself into matches, do the hard work off the ball.

    Do the staff have confidence? If he stays, could be that he’s just over the line to keep on at the price. Think there’s probably some reasonable concern about adding too many players with high price tags, getting them to settle, but also not sulking, etc.

  17. Robbo – Based on mountains of evidence from around the world, also the amount of people turning up dead from unknown causes at home who have been basically denied treatment or even seen a doctor, the excess deaths is up for the summer and it isn’t Covid. so much for saving the NHS etc. Masks are also getting another bashing, even the slightest bit of ventilation is more effective.

    lets face it they have never done a real cost benefit for it all, those likely to die unfortunately have plus a few more for good measure from the Lockdowns.

  18. On the good news front, The Mrs has had her no licence charge dropped and been given no points or fines because her useless Insurance company failed to
    inform her they had stopped it after taking her money, your life in their hands eh.

  19. Just watched a good interview with Roy Keane, the Gary Neville series, Overlap. It’s on YouTube.

    Never sure what I thought about him, have thought he should shut up, but he comes across well. Just an old-fashioned footballer who doesn’t have a lot of patience for a lot of modern players.

    Anyway, his biggest emphasis throughout is character. Probably not surprising, but it’s the effort, dedication, attitude.

    Most interesting bit for us is that he says of his time at Villa that there were 6-7 “imposters” at the club, really bad attitudes, a couple who also were very rude to staff, etc. Said he didn’t bother falling out with them because they weren’t worth it. Mentioned players not trying when they came off the bench because they were unhappy about not being in the starting XI.

    We know character bit is a big part of the profile Villa are looking at. I think if we are looking at a 6, targets are wondering if they can replace Luiz, etc. With two fighting for that spot already, there’s a balancing act with the current squad, as well.

  20. Character is Massive JC, talent without the will to win or even get fit etc can only go so far before it gets rude awakening.

    In my playing days people used to say I was naturally fit Ha, more like years of training and focus on diet and above all the mindset to push past that pain barrier until it became nothing. One glimpse at my Brother tells you it ain’t genetics 🙂

    Look at Jack once he grasped what it actually required.

  21. john

    yeah saw the mckenna link but like prowse allthough a good player not a proper 6 for me. Just want a 6’3 nakamba but who is progressive with the ball!

    praying for cantwell or mcneil too!

  22. Mark,
    Yes its very possible for vaccinated people to still catch and transmit covid, that’s been clearly communicated right from the start.
    I haven’t been able to find any credible evidence that lockdowns don’t reduce infections and deaths though.

  23. There’s talk of reintroducing some lockdown type controls in the South West because we’ve gone from the lowest infection rates in the country to the highest. . . .surprise surprise, this is a lovely part of the country for holidaymakers so without any lockdown controls the virus has been brought in and readily spread through our pubs and restaurants.

  24. i dont undertsand the transfer strategy tbh. first deano said we should be excited. we sell grealish and then are told bailey, ings and buendia are 3 to replace him.

    What about the rest of the squad? what was the plan if jack stayed? we bid for esr and prowse but now don’t need anyone?

    fine to go down the youth option but don’t say we want europe as that aint happening.

  25. H&V. I share your confusion about our transfer policy. it could of course be that it had always been known/assumed that Jack would be off and the intention was to make this transfer window pretty much cash neutral. I for one couldn’t blame the owners if that is the case bearing in mind the level of their recent investment.
    Transfer windows are inevitably unpredictable. The club ‘may’ have had different plans but just been unable to achieve them and been unwilling to compromise by bringing in alternative players that didn’t quite fit the profile they were looking for. Again. . . .if this was the case I’d applaud them. For far too long the club has made compromises in bringing in players, or had insufficient clarity over how players would fit. The worst period of this to my mind was under Martin O’Neill when we invested heavily in older players with long contracts and never allowed them out to play!
    I feel really wary about making predictions about how this season will pan out. With 10 games to go in the Championship I was certain we’d not get promoted and the following season, believed we were going to be relegated. Neither of these happened of course. It seems that the club is looking for improvement on last season and that does feel possible. Like you, I reckon that Europe feels to be out of reach this season . . . . . but I’ve been wrong before!

  26. H&V, r0bb0,

    Bit confused myself. I thought we’d still spend since Bailey, Ings and Buendia were paid for by Jack.

    But, could well be the case we didn’t want too many new players, or that we’ve been having trouble moving others along to make room.

  27. JWP, ESR…Rumors seemed like they had legs, but I’m sure we weren’t interested in paying over the odds, which is what it would’ve taken.

    And I think we get into the situation where you’ve got Bailey then Ghazi, and Young behind that. Is there a point in bringing in expensive competition to go up against a new £30m winger. Same on the right, where you would end up with Buendia/Traoré/Trez if Emi doesn’t stay central.

  28. Middle of the park, with Ramsey, McGinn, Luiz, Nakamba, Sanson, and Hourihane…I could still see change there, as we’ve said. Surprised Hourihane is still here, for example.

  29. If we are to sign a midfielder, i would rather we go for Teun Koopmeiners from AZ in the Eredivisie. He is the complete midfielder and he is much younger, much better all round player than Ward Prowse. Not sure if he would like to come to us as he is probably looking for a club with a higher profile than Villa. For me, he ticks all the boxes.
    Got a horrible feeling we will lose tomorrow to Brenford.

  30. Based on Mings’ latest comments, maybe there is something to the idea of there being a “pause” in the plan. Or maybe he’s just trying to downplay expectations:

    “We will continue to keep learning. Obviously, our goal at this football club is to get into Europe and the Champions League.

    “I don’t think the owners or the manager have made any secret of the fact that that is our goal. I just don’t know when that will be. Of course, I’d love it if it was this season but, if I’m being realistic about our goals, then any improvement on last year, for me, would be a success.”

  31. Jackvilla,

    Was never convinced JWP made sense for the money he’d have cost.

    No idea on tomorrow, but given the run coming up after, certainly better for us if we don’t lose.

  32. No idea how it will go tomorrow, predicting Villa’s result is more tricky at the moment. But I do think any remaining transfers will be outbound rather than inbound.

    But a bench with Chuk and Bidace on it beats Taylor and Elmo every time. What I’m most looking forward to tomorrow is to see if Ramsey can continue his form, and impact the game again. The future is bright.

  33. Robbo- Lockdowns, how would you go about seeing if they worked or didn’t? you look at Countries, states etc that didn’t implement the measures, when you do you see mostly very little difference, maybe even improvement and then you factor in the unforeseen consequences ( feck knows how they didn’t see them coming I will never know), bankruptcy, lowered life expectancy due to poverty, Suicide, Alcoholism, Drug overdoses, people started Smoking due to stress. Huge waiting lists and deaths at home from lack of treatment by Doctors and Hospitals ( but don’t worry we have saved the NHS)

    Lockdowns also stop the Virus petering out naturally by going through the more robust in society who have little chance of dying from it (99.7% of us)

    Does any of this look like something we should be doing? because I am Baffled that just because it can slow transmission a bit you think its a success.

    Staying in houses cooped together with poor ventilation when you have to go out at some point? I thought to myself why do the supermarket people not all die from it? most supermarkets have ventilation systems I would guess, Hospitals ? not so airy.

    I would say that lockdowns, Masks etc are more about control than useful in any meaningful way. Never in history have we isolated the well and thrown the not so well in with the really ill.

    For me the Afghanistan debacle is proof enough that Governments are not exactly beyond a fuck up.

    The Great Barrington Declaration is the closest I have seen to a sensible solution.

  34. My take on the JWP transfer? I think that if Jack stayed then Beundia was the more creativity element. JWP fits in then as the supply from midfield with a threat from set pieces, this season we have brought in a coach for set pieces, putting the two together then makes sense. We also have a lot of good kids that need to see a path into the 1st.

    Jack buggers off, the fly in the ointment, So the money then has to replace his output and some. JWP may just have become a touch to expensive. Maybe there is a reluctance to add to many at this point in fear that the kids will be looked over too.

    January though when a few more like Sanson have become available we will reassess. Conor just might stay.

  35. Came across this today, have watched this lad for a few years very good for bodyweight training ideas. In this Video he explains what he did during the “4 months” it took him to regain his energy after having Covid.

    Having got a fair amount of stick for suggesting it may have had a big part to play for many reasons in our season 😉 its worth listening to how it effected him an he is a pretty fit lad.

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