Feels like ages have passed since Villa grabbed a big three points against Everton back in January. After yesterday’s results, the club sit 11th on 26 points, which is basically 10 points off a potential European spot.

While the break may have seemed interminable, I’m sure it was welcome for Gerrard. Bit of a breather, assessment, and time to actually train after jumping straight into the action. Shame the Emis and Phil were away for some of the break, but they were getting quality minutes, and Phil’s goal for Brazil will have done him a world of good. Emi Martinez took full advantage of the opportunity to add to his growing shithousery file, and Buendia got his first taste of on-field action for Argentina. 

Reports say Coutinho is enjoying himself again, which is massive, clearly. That’s what he came for. Long-term, it may be more important that Buendia has said he’s finally settling, relishing his role, and looking to push on. Martinez? Well, he’s just Martinez. 

In the interim, we’ve gotten a bit of clarity on Matt Targett, who did ask for the move to toon. I think the chatter about him being a quitter is unfair, myself. On Bissouma, it seems Villa simply weren’t going to pay over the odds. His price will drop in the summer. Doesn’t mean we’ll get him, but it probably does say something about the reality of this season.

Villa are basically stuck in the middle…Doesn’t have to finish that way, but dropping £40m-£50m on a player now instead of the summer says that there wasn’t wild-eyed pressure to add him in the hopes of making up 10 points with 17 to play. We keep hearing the summer will be big, and given Villa have managed to keep their net spend very low so far this season, there’s no reason to doubt that. 

So it looks like this final stretch will be about consolidating the team, getting Gerrard’s philosophy firmly in place, bringing along more young players, and discovering exactly what needs to happen for what should be a 2022-23 season full of lofty expectations.

Right now, I like where Villa are at. With only the pressure of impressing the manager and retaining a spot next season, they’ve got only themselves to look at. Sure, some kind of calamity could see them dragged into danger, but putting that aside, it’s about looking inward and upward. Far from having nothing to play for, they’ve got just enough to chase for now as far as the table goes.

Being a largely overlooked dark horse is a good place for a squad to find itself in. 

Tonight, Leeds will obviously be tough and entertaining. Recent history all but guarantees that. Leeds will be short-handed in a couple critical areas, which never hurts. 

It’s really all about Villa, though. Assignments, fitness, understandings, a full 90 minutes. Getting to a settled side. Sorting out Watkins and Ings. That’s what this match and the rest of the season are all about.

Anyway, I’m excited Villa are back, and looking forward to the match. Coutinho and Buendia really connecting is a mouth-watering prospect and we should start seeing more of it. More chances, more magic, more flow and quality football. I’m going to leave Jacob Ramsey out of it for now because superstition. Likewise, McGinn, Luiz and the rest. But, if we start flowing up front, there should be chances for each of them to impact games, and probably Ramsey most of all.

With Bailey finally back in training and Traoré apparently good to go, Villa will have ways to really change things up, basically a full squad available for the first time. Won’t be easy for Gerrard balancing all of them, and we may well be looking at some upheaval in key areas over the summer.  

But for this run in, well, it’s a good problem to have.

Over to you.

Comments 115

  1. Fab write up JC
    I think SG wants the team to push towards top 7 this season as a minimum for euro conference football…. To allow the whole squad to get plenty of game time going forwards we need to be both in Europe and have much better cup runs

    As you say business end time to put up or shut up I have a good feeling about were the club is currently heading … COYVB

  2. the referee is being rather lenient
    that will favour Leeds . . .as the third dirtiest team in the league
    they should have had at least one booking so far

  3. Jc
    Not bothered about emi,more annoyed at our defending ,everyone looks awful ,mcginn Luis not in it ,Watkins poor
    Another corner from Leeds which they win the header,its not all mings fault ,which some sites believe

  4. My first post asked for 2 decent half’s,we didn’t get it
    What we got was an awful defensive performance, for me me
    only coutinho and ramsay had acceptable showings, more questions than answers

  5. JG, after that first half intensity I’m not surprised we didn’t do so well second half but if we’re not able to show the same intensity then we really have to learnt to show a bit more control. . . .and it wasn’t there

  6. Pleased with the point. When they scored there second I thought they would win.

    Thought they deserved to win too tbh. We were poor for me. Did mcguinn play?! Watkins looks half the player, 0 intensity. Ramsey deadly but again like our mid did nothing. Non existent.

    Konsa brain dead second yellow much like our defending.

    Oh well nice easy one in Geordie land next!

  7. H&V,

    Not at all pleased with the point, but, you’re right in fairness they could easily say they should’ve had more. 5-5 might’ve been right. I knew that second was going to make a big difference, too. Go up 3-1, lose a bit of concentration/intensity, waiting for the halftime whistle, and they’re in.

    The midfield is tough. It asks an awful lot of certain players. We were better just bypassing, getting between the lines to Coutinho and Buendia. Something can always come of that.

    When Buendia left, I was worried about the balance, all of it having to come through Coutinho for creativity.


  8. May well require different players for SG’s system, but we really concede the flanks far too easily without gaining much in forward pressure.

    Pretty much every oppo is doing the same thing, overloading wide, quick one-twos, and they’re down and whipping balls in. Leeds, they just get a lot of players in the box. But neither of goals two and three would make any coach happy.

    Again, I’d have to go back and watch, which I won’t have time for, but the way we’re set up seems to create acres unless we’re much tighter to the outlets.

  9. Someone who knows about these things.. . . . . . is part of our problem the way we are using our full backs?
    For Leed’s first goal we were relying on Mings to fill in at left back, he made a bit of a mess of it and we were then lacking cover in the box
    We’ve now failed to win the last 4 games where we’ve gone ahead and although it makes for exciting football is it right for us to carry on like this. We have such a wealth of attacking footballers that you can understand why we might want to play expansive football but it just seems that we lack the ability for more controlled football when the situation calls for it.
    It reminds me a little of when Dean Smith first came in and it was looking very promising but we just weren’t getting the results we felt we should have . . . .will SG have to be a bit more pragmatic in the way that DS found he needed to be too?

  10. JC. . . .you seem to be suggesting that yes, part of our problem lies with how we’re using our full backs. . . .or the type of full back we have?

  11. Summer we need a top centre back and a top DM. Luiz is just useless and Mings not much better

    Say it again, Watkins isn’t very good

    Get Davis up front

  12. r0bb0,

    Yeah, there’s that, for sure, how we use them. But I think it’s also the combo of asking the 8s to come wide and often take up fullback positions. If it’s worked past them on the touchline, there’s lots of space in front of the backline.

    Part of that also seems to be the narrow three up front. They don’t really get much pressure, it’s more token and designed to funnel wide, so it’s easy to find those spaces outside them and launch attacks. Because they’re not really on a man up front, seems to make it harder for those behind to come and get close quickly. They have to go from inside to outside responsibility.

    Then the front three seem to be really trailing the play.

    Like I say, I really need to go back and watch, freeze things and check my “feelings” versus where players really are.

  13. So, in Smith’s system, you had four to press high, the 3-1 part, sometimes five, depending on the pivot 6. He’d concede the wings, but have two in the middle.

    He was also asking the two front wide men (presumably faster) to cover and overlap on the flanks with the FBs instead of the midfielders.

    So basically, it was just a more traditional use of wide men, Traoré, Jack/Ghazi, whoever, to provide the width (and wide cover) more often than the FBs. The fullbacks were more about creating overloads. Targett and Cash still put in balls, of course, but they seemed to have been joining up in a different progression of responsibility.

    Again, though, I’d have to really stop and look at it. Games like tonight, players were flying everywhere in the first half.

  14. I think maybe the easiest way to think about it in terms of real-time impressions is how often, in the past, we were slating Ghazi and Traoré’s work-rate, tracking back and helping the FBs.

    Under SG, we’re not talking a lot about why Phil and Buendia aren’t getting wide and shutting people down further up the pitch or helping the FBs.

  15. Overall, the more dispassionate tactical breakdowns I’ve seen ask a lot of questions about what we’ve been doing.

    And right now, we’re not showing anymore tactical flexibility than under Smith. Less so, I’d argue.

  16. Far as Watkins goes:

    It’s a tough one. He flourished under Smith and that system. Right now, he’s not really seeing a lot of the ball. His run left opened up Ramsey for the third. I wondered why Phil wasn’t laying it off to him, but he obviously saw Ramsey making the run from deep.

    As far as pressure, etc., we’re playing a different way, it’s just not there as much, by design.

    Could be that he found more space with Jack pulling things round. Could be that more central through-play doesn’t suit him as well, and that he isn’t necessarily making the right runs.

    But whatever it is/isn’t, I’d imagine he and Ings are under scrutiny.

  17. Well folks what you saw today was a perfect example of pond hockey. All the tactics and drilling get peed up a wall and everyone goes hell for leather. It makes for entertaining football and the end result is what it is. Once that mind set sets in you can’t shake it.
    Finally a game where parting you hair on the wrong side doesn’t get you a yellow. I for one liked the more open game. Perhaps that’s why it became so shambolic. Still, Villa should have been able to grasp that game by the scruff.
    As for Luiz, he’s playing in an unnatural position and has been since he arrived. McGinn was cut adrift by the wide open play. Won a point and should be happy with that.

  18. Regarding Watkins, didnt watch the match so not sure if he missed chances. Saw Dion’s comment on his contribution to the front three:

    On Match of the Day, Dion Dublin threw the impressively selfless display of Ollie Watkins into the mix too.

    “The three of them [Philippe Coutinho, Jacob Ramsey and Ollie Watkins] were very much in sync,” he said. “They always seemed to find the spaces when the other wasn’t there.

    “They leave the space for the other to come into, which is what they do very well.

    “Jacob Ramsey’s goal was a very accomplished finish. He runs into the space quickly then calms down in front of goal just steers it into the corner. How old is he again?

    “Ramsey and Watkins are allowing Coutinho to go where he wants to go and they will make their runs off of where he is – just because of his experience and his class.

    “They are enjoying making the runs and receiving the ball from a player like him.”

  19. What a game that was eh – Courts is so good we wouldn’t have got anything without him .. our defence made mistakes for 2 of the goals the first was just brilliant

    Ollie needs to be ready for these crosses that are being fizzed in he could have got a few goals last night if he was ready to meet the crosses and get a toe on them

    Not having a holding midfielder isn’t helping any game plan everyone wants to play but no one to destroy in the middle yet

    overall it was a great game to watch some world class goals but disappointing result Newcastle will be another one not for the faint hearted

  20. No Point overanyaliing it.

    Its Bielsa ball. there utterly bonkers. saw them few weeks ago at west spam when they won 4-2 and could of scored 7. and thats against boring moyes team!

    You catch leeds on there day and its chaos.

  21. robbo

    yeah man. its the usual no control of a football match. im not even fussed with it now. we know, sg knows a top class 6 will come in the summer.

    looks like mid table safety, may as well go hell for leather and attack rest of season.

  22. runtings

    you only need to see sg ball with and without nakamba. nakamba did nohting but sit in the centre on his own and intercept and pass. its no coincidene since hes been out we havent been as controlled and the shapes gone awry.

  23. Cracking game. Unbridled joy at turning 0-1 into 3-1. Gutted we couldn’t see it out for a win. Four top quality goals and two scruffy ones from Leeds. Couts and Ramsey are becoming a slick operation together. And both know how to shoot properly.

    Couts goal got bums off seats. Great first time pull back from Cash I think. Then two from Ramsey created pandemonium in the stands.

    Then we saw some soft defending. Not for the first time this season. Mings and Konsa should be concerned about their places if they don’t sharpen up. I think in the end a draw was about the right result.

  24. Leeds are well into the shithousery arts. Not least Ayling. When you see him take a guy’s ankles every tackle and gets away with it, then Konsa gets a red for two minors. Awful refereeing.

  25. Watkins did a lot of unselfish running but when the stats are compared, I’d put my money on James covering more miles and at a higher pace. This is Bielsa ball.

  26. St James Park up next. Another 100 mph game. High octane running. These are not dejected times being a Villa fan. I can’t wait until Sunday. COYVB.

  27. plug

    damn right, its exciting times. sunday will be blood and thunder too! 3 undefeated for us, want that ticking along!

    would be no surprise we go big on a new spine in the summer. new cb, cdm, st.

    have to have money in and allthough i like them if we get 60-70mill for cash and luiz sell

  28. It’s not an easy life being a villa fan,the highs the lows ,the frustration
    Scapegoats everybody has theirs ,me as long as a player doesn’t go hiding not wanting the ball,he has my support Watkins works hard without getting g the goals but even kane not scoring freely, Watkins even lifted beundi up when beundi spat his dummy out at the ref
    Mings overtries if possible ,could have scored set up great chance for digne,blocked ball numerous times yet reading elsewhere he is at fault for all our woes even Cov19,
    Yet other players can hide ,get away scot free
    Gérard is going to have to make changes for the Saudis on Sunday,konsa suspended is one but more importantly centre midfield sanson has to start over either Luis or mcginn,plus hopefully traore and Bailey are fit for the bench we need some speed up top

  29. Wow!!
    What a game to be at last night. Played at 100mph with no time to breath. Villalore glad you quoted Dion’s take on Watkins last night, as he is spot on, and Ollie does not deserve the criticism he is getting from fans. He is not perfect, and with better luck could have won the game for us. The big difference last night was the tale of two goalkeepers, one who was absolutely brave and outstanding, Meslier, and who also moved the ball brilliantly for his team, and why Konsa got a second yellow and sent off, and another who is failing in his judgement, not having a good understanding with his defence, and fails to quickly distribute the ball. I am so sad that Martinez has seemed to lose his confidence lately, really doesn’t get the ball out quickly, and should have been more aware. James first goal was good, but the angle should have been covered. It was a straight shot, no bend on it, and it is not the first time that Emi has got it wrong.
    My friend said after the first couple of goals that it could be a 5-5 game, and certainly , that scoreline would not have been out of the way.
    No-one has commented on the number of times that Konsa and Mings carried the ball forward, and I think we will see more of that. They both are capable of doing so, and others having to cover. I was also impressed with Carney who had a very good game, and will come more and more into things, as he is now cover for forwards and midfield. He never gave up, and was always looking to create and pass.
    We still have a long way to go, but there is a lot of promise, just need to avoid injuries, because this squad is very bare now.
    Anyway the boys did not give up, and not every team will play at the same pace as Leeds, but we do have to be a little stronger in keeping the ball.

  30. Didn’t mention Douglas Luiz, who had the poorest game for Villa, but did not realise until I read Gregg Evans, that he lost the ball on eleven occasions, which is not the standard we need.

    Another article showed why we are failing in that we are10th o n expected assists, 15th on shots, 15th o opponents touches in the penalty area, and 13th on touches in the penalty area.

    Didn’t realise how bad Mings stats are for making errors leading to goals, in that he has been the worst in the Premier league for the last three seasons. Maybe, that’s because he makes more interceptions, but don’t have figures.

  31. Yes, I think Mings made more passes than anyone else; one of the highest pass accuracy rates; a couple of goal line clearances; aggressive, effective forward runs; getting back to cover two positions. . . . . But . . . . Yes he did make an expensive mistake for their first goal (when he was covering two positions.)
    It seems to me that the real problem with Mings is that he’s doing so much for the team that all the good things he does will be sprinkled with the occasional mistake too.
    When he plays for England he’s given a very simple role to fulfil so makes few mistakes.
    We could have him playing a steady Eddie centre back role for Villa too . . .but is that really what we (or Steve Gerrard) want from him?

  32. Just seen Salah roll and roll over to try and get another penalty . . . . he is such a cheat.
    But credit where its due, he does do it much more effectively than Trezeguet.
    The least he could do is teach his mate how to do it properly!

  33. Following up on Ian’s easier comment, it’s interesting to see in tonight’s game that, like last night, far fewer fouls are being blown up, making for a more physical game.
    It’s good to see the games being allowed to flow more but the point still stands that Ayling got away with murder and Cash’s booking was quite ridiculous last night.

  34. R0bb0, my thoughts on Mings too. He gets stuck in every chance and it’s impossible not to have a few blips. Plus he’s literally the last man standing every time.
    Glad my comment was “simpler.”

  35. pp
    what a game to be at! very lucky. your right about the cbs bringing the ball out now too.

    it will all take time.

    what i have noticed under sg ball now is we are scoring some proper footballing goals now.

  36. There’d been some questions about our set-up, the FBs, Luiz and protection for the CBs, CBs getting dragged wide, all of that. During the match I noted that the one-twos were far too easy for Leeds, for example, and I’ve mentioned the amount of ground McGinn and the other two MFs are responsible for.

    Once again, this account, Talking Tactics (formally Football Insights) gives a great breakdown.

    So, recommend having a look. This answers a lot of questions.


  37. Twitter is providing some actual facts about Ming’s performances and Villa’s performances with him in, and out, of the team.
    They provide a great antidote to the emotional anti Mings hyperbole which to my mind is far too frequently driven by racism rather than football.

  38. JC, so frustrating about Traore. I am one of those who has been sceptical about his value to the squad but would love him to have a chance to prove me wrong.

  39. Jc
    Interesting points on our way of playing, from your link above,one massive bugbears of mine is bringing everyone back to defend setpieces and nobody actually marking anyone, what help is small attackers back stand doing nothing ,then before 3rd goal ball was cleared it came straight back,we did it under Smith and are carrying on doing it

  40. Traore didn’t miss many mins last season,this season one injury after another,he did limp of last Saturday when his side was 3 1 up,really disappointed he is out again

  41. r0bb0,

    Yeah, he’s not the messiah, Mings, but he’s a good player and a great leader. He does have a brain fart in him, and it seems like they always get punished, but he makes so many important contributions/interventions.

    People want a scapegoat, right? So now it’s Mings. Or Luiz. Or both. Sometimes there’s more going on out there.

    I can’t really speak to the racism part, but the timing does seem more than coincidental, at least for some.

  42. Ian,

    Yeah, he’s lightweight, alright. And maybe I’m being a bit harsh. JG’s right about the mins he did get in last season.

    Sometimes you pick something up and you just keep re-aggravating it. Dunno whether that’s the player, the staff, both. Or just bad luck (one turn, one slip, etc).

    He’s obviously got talent…It’s just where does he belong and what’s around him. Like a lot of players.

  43. But, I guess what’s bugging me is that we have two very fast wide players with slight frames who keep picking up thigh injuries. Unavailable virtually the entire season, fair chunk of change wrapped up in them.

    I also get wanting to represent your country. But I’m not at all happy when a player is getting back to fitness after a layoff and goes off on international duty.

    The minutes could be good for them, but you know the club would be managing their loads differently, and the club is paying wages and getting nothing in return.

    Well, I guess the physios are building up experience.

    But Smith and now Gerrard…Two players you’d figure would make an impact, change games, turn losses into draws, draws into wins (not that we draw much). No idea how they would even mesh with how SG’s got us playing.

  44. Today’s post from me is all about positivity. Let’s hope Gerrard learns from Leeds’ draw and gets something from Newcastle. We have not won there in ages and Chris Wood likes scoring against us. Let us hope he has a plan to contain him as i think Cash will pocket Maximin. UTV.

  45. JG,

    Tbh, I often don’t know what to make of corners. Easier to look at offensively, than defensively, for me.

    But some man, some zone, the mix, who’s got who and all that. I mean, with Luiz, McGinn, Buendia, Phil, not a lot of height, though Buendia does have good spring.

    There’s just so much that can go wrong if it doesn’t come out cleanly on the initial delivery.

    But agreed, for a long time there’s been this complete scramble and confusion, hesitation, panic, etc., if the ball isn’t cleared first time or grabbed by the keeper.

    McPhee is also responsible for that side of set pieces, too.

  46. Archer to start for us next season

    Sell Watkins

    Get Davis back to

    Our youth on loan have had a great day

    The guy at Grimsby is a class above anyone in the league apparently

  47. Buendia injured today. Would like to see Sanson start then.

    Hope Luiz is dropped.

    James. At least Davis is a presesne and can hold a ball up. He’s been fantastic

    Watkins has been dreadful this season is every aspect possible

    He doesn’t even celebrate goals now

    Something isn’t right

    Start Ings

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