Back from a few days away, and have only just watched a replay. First off, 3-0 was unfair. Second, I actually liked what I saw. Apart from the things none of us liked seeing.

I’m gonna Good, Bad and Ugly this.

The Good
You know, most of it, actually. Villa pressed. Won the ball. Were combative and weren’t intimated. Had more shots on and off target in the first half. Went 5-3-2 for the first time in a very long time, matched up Chelsea man-to-man, and gave a good account. Made Tuchel replace Saul, who should’ve ended up being the fall guy. Ramsey looked very good. Luiz, getting back to his best. Lukaku silent apart from…well, two goals. McGinn, feisty as hell and looking much fitter. Some really good looks on goal against a very stout defense. Bailey looks a scrapper, never mind being lightning quick and real quality on the ball. Traoré looks reenergized, as well. Decent cameo from Marvelous.

The Bad
The fact it turned on so few decisive moments that almost came out of nowhere. Not how you expect to lose to the European Champions.

The Ugly
You have to say Mings’ poor touch and subsequently hurried, and under-hit back-pass. It was a real shame, as Villa were still very much in the game.

Discussion Points
As you’ve guessed, I thought there was a lot to like about this performance. Despite the scoreline, Villa caused more problems and gave Chelsea more of a game than Liverpool. Hard challenges, good fitness levels. Hunger and attitude. Villa pretty much gave Chelsea all they wanted.

While the scoreline doesn’t reflect that, I didn’t see Chelsea dominating possession or creating chance after chance. Their only real joy came from longer balls. They didn’t carve Villa apart.

While almost all the talk has been about Mings and the second, I though Tuanzebe had a part to play in goals one and three. On the first, he hesitates and fails to really close down while chasing Lukaku and the long (excellent) pass. That got him behind the play, and he then over-committed instead of keeping his feet. If he’d just kept running full pace, Lukaku might not have had the chance to cut back, and, if nothing else, he could’ve brought him down outside the box.

On the third, which obviously didn’t matter, he could and should’ve closed down quicker. Again, just a bit of hesitation. And probably entirely to be expected of a player who hasn’t played that much and finds himself trying to shut down Lukaku. Further, Axel certainly has not spent much time in a back three with Mings and Konsa.

So, not a criticism, just an observation. Otherwise, he looked fine. Kid’s a unit. And Azpilicueta did a nice job getting round Mings in space on the third. A quality, veteran international doing what he’s done at the highest levels for years. That’s why Mings isn’t a fullback.

On the critical second goal, I am going to lay that on Tyrone, however. The poor first touch got him behind in his thinking, which is why he chopped and scuffed the back-pass. Was that Tuanzebe’s fault? I don’t really think so. Just a poor take take from Mings. Maybe he was a touch surprised. Dunno. But Villa had forced more of those situations up to that point.

I’m also not convinced that things would’ve gone quite the same with Martinez in. He’s very quick to come for the ball, and might’ve read the danger on the second goal a split-second sooner. He might even, just because of his size, have denied Lukaku the opener. We’ve seen a few of those, after all.

No blame on Jed Steer, he was barely tested, and did come claim everything except the corner that almost slipped past everyone and into the net. Mendy had a lot more to do, which tells you something.

Ollie showed just a touch of rust, but it was telling that in this formation he basically had all the good chances. And after Danny Ings came off, Ollie was still sprinting back to cover. He also was showing a bit more aggression and strength to hold, turn, and drive. He’s a bit of a freak, and I’m guessing Ings’ arrival has put more fire in him. And he was never lacking that.

The Takeaway
I think this can be a tidy side. There was slick passing and interplay. Villa weren’t slow on the ball. Good positional reading, combativeness, and energy. I was really impressed with Ramsey, how much more confident and assertive he looked. Obviously he’s been showing this in training, and now it’s coming out on match days. Villa looked weaker in the middle when he came off, but it was a necessary roll of the dice, and Bailey and Traoré needed the minutes.

Bottom line, I’m anxious to see Villa play their first-choice starting XI, although I can’t yet tell you who it will be. With Bailey and Traoré playing bit parts from a deep hole against a title contender, it’ll be very interesting to see what happens if and when both start. Which of course leads us to formations, and it’s anyone’s guess if Deano was just matching Chelsea on the day, or plans to make more regular use of 3-5-2. Hard to imagine Tuanzebe was brought in just for backup.

Dean also showed courage employing a new formation away to the Champions League winners, and brought on his subs earlier (though he didn’t have much choice). They didn’t claw Villa back on the night, but we won’t be seeing Bailey coming off the bench for much longer. And not seeing Ashley Young also showed Smith’s aggressive mindset. He didn’t play anything safe.

I’d agreed beforehand that a 0-0 or 1-1 could’ve been on the cards, and I don’t think that was far off on the balance of play.

I’m looking forward to Everton and the rest of the season, in other words. And I’m not at all unhappy with what I saw at Stamford Bridge. This side has promise.

Over to you.

Comments 27

  1. Plug,

    It will be…Bailey’s itching to play, Traoré, too. Hoping that if either/both start, they won’t be overdoing things and just let the game come to them.

  2. I’m looking forward to the season JC I think it will be pretty decent and on the cusp of something special. Won’t stop people wanting Smith out because there appears to be this opinion he should of done better that’s started a long time ago and lingers in some fans minds like a stale fart.

  3. Interesting to see cheque book Pep begging there fans to attend the next game just proves to me having shed loads of cash doesn’t make you a massive club ., the traditional big 5 Liverpool man u arsenal Everton and villa could sell there stadiums out twice with citeh’s current success as the fan base is always there

    For me the next game is a big one as are all games but unlike most lifers I don’t think mid table or a poor start after the first lot of games will be expectable for the owners unless they have lost there ambition that is

    Squad is looking exciting and we should have all of our senior boys available , hopefully we can play as well as we did v chelski but find the back of the net a few times


  4. runtings,

    Yeah, pleading for bums in seats hasn’t been a good look. Well, actually it’s been a very funny one, but not in a good way for them.

    You’re right, one game at a time, and the next one’s always the one that counts. I know there’s been a lot of talk about Smith’s job, but my guess is that Compass aren’t going to pull the trigger anytime soon.

    A good result against Everton will go a long way to calming everyone and getting the season started properly. Once the team is a bit more settled, we should be pretty exciting.

  5. MK,

    Yeah, it’s a strong division of opinion, and you’re right, didn’t start yesterday. But Smith will have to get past the one-man-team business, which I think he will. There was a lot to like Saturday. Apart from two sucker punches, I thought we could’ve had something.

    We’re more balanced, and I think we’ll be more threatening throughout the side. Just needs a bit of time to come together, don’t think it’s far off.

  6. JC – “Just needs a bit of time to come together”

    No argument there, and we may a second half of the season form team once it clicks. I think DS and his team are suffering from a problem of plenty but unknown against his well set first team last year. And the injuries arent helping either. We really should see where we are at the next international break, regardless of results.

  7. Villalore,

    Yep, that’s exactly it. You’ll hear Deano doesn’t know his best XI or some such, but how could he, at this point? On paper, sure, but in practice…?

    One thing if Jack’s situation had been resolved earlier, no Euros and Copa, everyone in and working together most of the summer injury-free. Never mind having to replace the one piece the team was built around, losing the entire organizing principle. They had warning, sure, but like Purslow said, they’d hoped the price was too steep, and the whole Kane or Grealish business just muddied the waters.

    Sort of tangential, but given the way Ramsey and Luiz played against Chelsea, the right decisions may have been made about bringing in another midfielder.

  8. Yeah I get the if the owners are ambitious etc, that’s how football has been, I don’t think that’s how these owners are though, sometimes ambition has to be tempered with Patience.

    Bruce when they arrived got an opportunity but I thought right then he won’t last because of what they outlined as their plan with the Stats and type of football they wanted. Luckily Brucie made it easy and got the boot.

    I think I’m right in saying Smith has never had the tin tack? So every club he has managed have appreciated what he has done. Now baring in mind he followed several high profile managers into the Villa hot seat with not exactly a list of trophies etc you would have to think the owners saw something in Deano they wanted at the club. Forget the he’s a fan, that didn’t hurt after Cabbage man got pelted but as a basis to manage Villa? no chance.

    It was his willingness to learn, his involvement with young sides, his ability to build a happy club environment and no doubt he was able to speak the language of Stats.

    What he did is quite remarkable considering his short time as a manager and the clubs he managed (although Brentford is more a less a model for the new Villa) immediate promotion, a cup final, late season survival turnaround (did that for Walsall too)
    and last seasons blistering start and thrashing of the champs which was only derailed by Covid and injury. Compare him to any in the last ten years maybe more he still holds his own.

    So on that basis I cannot see the owners pulling the trigger, sure they are ambitious but they have laid out a 5 year plan that surely didn’t include going through a rake of managers.

  9. I don’t the deano will be sacked either to be fair not because he has done so well that he has become un-sackable but because he has up until this point kept progressing the club
    The owner was going to sack Bruce when they took over but they held off due to a huge outcry from the fan base saying he needed a chance with good owners

    the lack of achievement at Villa is not down to poor management as much as how poorly the club was being run for many many years .. we now have a club run supremely well from top to bottom which was the total opposite before the fabulous owners came in

    But I will still stand by my view that anyone under performing at villa weather its players or staff will be for the high jump if they do not produce the goods …
    I fully expect deano to take the club up a level this season but if that doesn’t happen don’t be shocked waking up to the news that villa are seeking a new manager ..
    not being negative just realistic in my own opinion anyway

    saying al of that I see the coming games as something for us to be excited about rather than concerned

  10. runtings: “the lack of achievement at Villa is not down to poor management as much as how poorly the club was being run for many many years.”

    Very true. It was a shambles, a wonder we survived Lerner and Xia. But, I guess that made Villa a relative bargain for Compass to purchase.

  11. Runtings I’m with you if Smith really slip’s up he’ll be off I just don’t think he has to get Europe etc to do that, particularly as Jack buggered off. I just think it will have to be some poor run not we missed Europe etc, and not just on a whim. For me he has to deserve to go 1st and he doesn’t.

    The clubs growth is in no small part down to Smiths abilities/approach for me, fantastic owners no doubt but they are not there 24/7 and for large parts its been Smith and not Lange etc. When he does go (if) he will leave behind a solid platform and that’s what he’s here for initially. If he ends up winning stuff with Villa which I hope he does then all’s good.

  12. Runts, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Compass held onto Spud due to fan pressure to retain him. It shows they do listen very closely to their fan base. When the grumblings about him started to snowball and the cabbage was launched, it was all over for him. Once again, Compass listening to their fanbase.

    Who to replace him with? The fanbase preferred Deano and in he came. Again Compass reacted to the fans wishes. So it follows for me, that if the mutterings of the few about Deano reach an appropriate level, they will act again. Compass really do listen to the fans. And yes, they don’t invest 400+ million for a mid table ramble. Pressure is on for Deano. Let’s chew the Toffee’s up today for starters.

  13. Looking forward to the match. Personally i would like El Ghazi to start on the left and Bailey on the right. Drop Tuanzebe and Ings and retain the same midfield trio of Ramsey, McGinn and Luiz. We have options at last in the team so lets see how this one pans out. My prediction is a 1-1 draw.

  14. Plug- I can’t say I remember fans wanting Bruce to stay there were just as many that didn’t. And the fans wanted Smith? I cannot remember that being the case, there was a massive shout that they were going for Henry but he turned it down thank God. Not only that when Smith did arrive it was decided Terry was forced on him and would take over when he was sacked.

    I hope the club do not listen to the fans we want success. Everything they have done so far has been calculated and for very sound reasons. Bruce a steady hand if not spectacular and had already brought in players, clearly they did their homework behind the scenes to move for someone more suitable and that was Smith. I am not sure Bruce would of lasted unless something spectacular had happened for him, his style was just not what the owners wanted in so many ways but the hour that they came in prevented his exit imo.

  15. Ironic that with virtually a full squad to pick from Beundia will likely not feature as him and Martinez only got back this morning, will either be risked? Martinez will is my guess.

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