A welcome bit of diversion, for me anyway, after a week immersed in the tragedy in Ukraine. My heart goes out to them, and the bravery on display has been astonishing.

So, it’s Southampton, another one of those teams that demonstrate how strange and fickle the Premier League can be for the Other 14.

For Villa, it looks as though Lucas Digne and Ezri Konsa must have picked up knocks as neither is in the matchday squad. Can’t say I’ve been paying much attention this week, so apologies if I’ve missed something from the club. Ashley Young and Callum Chambers will fill in.

Elsewhere, there are no changes, suggesting the same tactics as last week. A bit harsh on Buendia, I think, but you understand not changing a winning side, and this approach isn’t leaving room for him if Philippe Coutinho is going to start. Which he is. Whether he can be more influential this week, we’ll be waiting to see. The Ings-Watkins experiment will continue, but the hybrid 4-3-3/4-4-2 is maybe not the worst idea at the moment.

Not going to say Young starting doesn’t bother me a little. A savvy veteran, it’s good he’s around, and maybe he’ll hold his own with more conservative FB play. My concerns are simply about pace. But he does know how to foul and is a steadying influence.

Traoré, Bailey, Sanson, and Buendia are on the bench, so Gerrard can perhaps substantially change things if/as necessary. We’ll see if Tim Iroegbunam gets any more minutes.

Three points, well, you’d certainly like to see it. Not going to be an easy game, none of them are, really. Villa have actually notched one more victory than the Saints, but again, it’s draws that are the difference in the points totals.

Depending on results, maintaining or separating further from the danger zone would be welcome, because math. We’d all expect to be sitting a little higher than 13th at this stage, and a run of tough fixtures beckons after Leeds.

Over to you.

Comments 85

  1. frem,
    A question. . . . when the manager you desperately wanted at Villa keeps picking Luiz, do you think. . .what the hell is wrong with Gerrard, or do you think. . . . why am I not seeing what he is seeing?

  2. Well that’s a bit more like it 🙂 Making a form team look very average without looking world beaters ourselves just much better decisions when we attack.
    Watkins and Phil doing me proud at the moment in fantasy.

  3. Lost 1-0 to Watford. Sg says the final third not good enough. Drops buendia. Big call done nothing wrong. Back to Ings and Watkins. Fans scratching there heads.

    6 goals in 2 games later this is why I’m a stupid arm chair critic and sg is a manager.

    Big balls call.

  4. H&V,

    Not sure it was a tough call…I mean, I agree, the Ings-Watkins combo, yeah, hadn’t worked.

    But making it more of a 4-4-2 has been the difference.

    So, maybe a tough call going away from his system, but pulling the FBs back, getting a bit more compact, and filling the midfield a bit more…seems like what was screaming to happen.

    Buendia won’t be happy not starting, but it’s hard to get too upset losing your spot to Coutinho.

  5. Oddly it was a very Dean Smith performance, winning the ball back deep and hitting them on the break with two three passes and dare I say it long balls.

    There are some very good players here and given time together then it could only have got better whether that was Ings with Watkins or Bailey and Beundia on the wings etc etc etc.

  6. No konsa or digne too. Remarkable. How bloody nice to have a comfy home win. Back to back wins in the prem is so so huge.

    Someone posted the goals we have scored under sg. We really do now score proper footy goals. Come from anywhere. Some absoulte beauties.

  7. Thought Chambers looked really good. Reads the game so well. Gotta love Ashley, so much passion and love for Villa. Thought Sanson looked good. Looks stronger that I thought. Surely he deserves more minutes. Happy for Ollie and Ings.

  8. R0bb0,

    I don’t think many fans see Luiz as a 6. Obviously SG doesn’t see him as a long term 6 based on offers for Bissouma. Nakamba is a 6, but maybe not a starter.

    I like Sanson, but he’s definitely not a 6. Tim and Chambers are the 2 options in my view. I’d love to see Tim start and Sanson ahead of SJM for a few games

  9. Great win.

    Should have scored more.

    Again the only weak link today was Luiz. Offers absolutely zero protection. Get Ingoram in

    Ings and Watkins both scoring but we need to upgrade on both on the summer

  10. Frem,

    Agreed on Luiz as a 6. He’s just not a 6 as you wrote. SG said Tim is going to be great, but still raw. Not really sure how you get past raw without playing games?

    I’m still an Ollie fan. Bring Archer back and Bidace. Don’t sign Coutinho and sell Traore and Ings

  11. You only have to look at the other teams 6 to see what it would give us. Omero is so so good.

    The day we have a proper 6 I don’t know what I’ll do, I’ll be overwhelmed with joy! Nakamba will be back next month though

  12. Sweet Caroline….we battered them.

    In fact Saints were lucky they only got a battering. We might have had a cricket score. Couts was something else. Ings and Watkins can play together after all. I’m on fire after that performance.

  13. So good to beat a team that’s had the Indian sign on us for so long. Ings playing a bit deeper allowing Ramsey to drop off and tighten up the midfield. Take note Villa, this is what you are capable of. Let’s see it more often. SJM played well too as did Tyro and Cash.

    A full house loved it. A joy to see. Let the good times roll.

  14. Funny that Ings playing deeper got the best out of him, exactly where he played for Southampton as more of a ten.

    I am a bit concerned about the Phil love in, SG has the hots for him and for good reason but if that means losing the potential of Beundia to become our own version of phil and be worth silly money then is it a good idea? Both players need a bit of love and beundia has done little wrong. I would be interested to see the same team and plan with Beundia in Phil’s place, might be that with both its to many cooks spoil the broth.

  15. Oh dude. Fabulous game. Still glowing. Not so much a Phil love in Mark. More like the recognition of an awesome performance. Ollie said that he thinks so quickly, make a move and he’ll find you. Speed of thought makes us a yard faster. Criticise him for missing a first half hat trick? No way, he was brilliant. It brought out a team performance.

    Buendia remains an integral part of our plans. His exposure to Couts can only improve his game and teach him even more.

    The trick now is to repeat the task and take down Leeds. We watch with interest.

  16. aaah waking up after a 4-0 win.

    Yep we really do have Phil playing for us. Watched the extended highlights. Gone back to sg early days, that attack playing it to feet, one touch movement. You love to see it.

  17. Mark

    As sg said before players are going to have to get used to it being a squad game now.

    May take us as fans a while to get used to it as we have usually been a 11 based team. But sg wants depth and rightly too.

  18. Plug

    Not getting carried away, this Aston villa team need pretty much everyone to be a 8/10 to get a result. Saints like Brighton does tend to suit us. Not overly physical and will play and leave space.

    I’ve been meh on cash but Christ the last month or two is changing my mind. Can see the coaches have got hold of him and improved the vital attacking play from a full back. His crossing no longer a danger! Got another assist after ages with none. Well done

  19. Phil love in. You bet your ass there is. One of the best in the world at what he does, playing for us, producing performances like that…been through too much crap not to celebrate good things.

    Genuinely can’t believe my eyes still to see him balling around villa park

    Kudos to the coaches getting him fired up.
    Rember most thought it was a expensive gamble….

  20. That was a nice game. I Picked out a few new tricks of play which was great to see. The pick me up from Coutinho is really fun to watch. But the biggest thing? Gerrard, it seems, has found an old play book that Deano left in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.

  21. JG,

    Yeah, Cash looked great. Amazing when a bit of quality ball does after his runs.

    Surely Tim I or Chambers must start at 6 vs Leeds. There’s no way we’re top 8 with Luiz in that position.

  22. VillaMD. One thing we can all be certain of is that SG has considered both Chambers and Iroegbunam for the number 6 role but up to now, has decided after seeing them on a daily basis in training that Luiz will do a better job.
    The fans, and SG all agree that no 6 is not the ideal role for Luiz but he deserves huge praise and our thanks for the way he’s stuck at the role for the sake of the team when it’s been reported that it’s not a role that he wants for himself either.
    Despite all the reservations, he has been improving on the role too. Player ratings have a degree of subjectivity (as do our own assessments of how players have performed) but the 5 I’ve looked at for the last 2 games all had Douglas Luiz performing on a par with, or ahead of our other midfielders (except Coutinho of course). If any player should be changed after the last game it would be Ramsey who was below par. I personally would stick with him as he’s been consistently good prior to that and we all now know he has it in him to make a real difference on them pitch for us.

    If Chambers or Iroegbunam perform better than Luiz in the no 6 role in training we’re going to see them step into the role against Leeds, but if Luiz continues to be our best bet then we won’t.

    Nakamba is reported to be 3-4 weeks away from returning and we all assume he’ll be straight in the starting line up again then, but if Luiz keeps on improving, it may not be cut and dried that he’ll step straight back into the role, but may have to fight Luiz for the job.

  23. JG, you’re right . . . .if Coutinho carries on like this, he is going to be our best ever loan. I saw some of the Man City game yesterday and Jack was looking more his old self and it made me wonder what we’d be like if we had both him and Coutihno now and how much they’d enjoy playing with each other. Wouldn’t it be great to have two players of THAT quality and how far up the league could we expect to finish then?
    It then set me thinking that Guardiola has a whole squad of players like that!

  24. Been checking out the Saints blogs. They are not happy bunnies at all. Fear gripping them that this weekend’s result will be the start of a big downturn. There’s the odd one saying get a grip, it was just a bad day at the office, but the vast majority think it was maybe more than that.

    Talk about fickle fans after the run they’ve just enjoyed. It’s a pleasure to read them!!

  25. watched the highlights about 100 times.

    what goals!the chambers ball was insane and phil with that perfectly weighted ball across goal first time was sheer class. simplicity. is what city do week in week out with all 11 men.

  26. H&V,

    “what goals!the chambers ball was insane and phil with that perfectly weighted ball across goal first time was sheer class. simplicity. is what city do week in week out with all 11 men.”

    Agree 100%.

  27. r0bb0,

    Re Luiz. That’s exactly right. Managers can get stubborn, and sometimes players fall out of sorts, or whatever.

    But generally, I go with motivated self-interest. The manager will want his best XI combined. May take him a while to find out what it is, but for all our opinions, when they stick with someone, there’s a reason.

  28. Plug,

    I would have to think Saints are every bit as frustrating to support as Villa. Signs of brilliance, massive defeats, whatever happens always ending up in just about the same spot come season’s end.

  29. What a game!!!!! That little chip from Chambers was exquisite, and to think we got him for nowt. This January has seen some of the best transfer business the Villa have done since Ron Saunders days!!!!

  30. JG,

    Phil was a maestro Saturday. So many beautifully weighted passes, sees everything. Such quality on the ball.

    It’s a bit hard on Buendia, though I think right now he’s more a victim of getting Ings and Watkins on the pitch, playing a diamond 4-4-2, in the end.

    Clearly he wouldn’t start over Phil, but how many players would?

  31. Yes I noticed that both the passing amount and accuracy was low, a sure sign we were playing as Smith did, low block and counter, suits Phil it seems too.

    The reason I would like to see Beundia start is before Phil arrived and we actually won a few he was the most improved forward and scored a few goals etc. He was looking pretty good and fit and its a shame he might see little match time, its a squad game apparently so he should play ahead of Phil at some point or its not is it?

    Phil may or may not stay at the end of the day but Beundia is the future, yep he’ll learn from Phil and Phil is a great player ( except when he misses three sitters and I have him as my Fantasy captain) but the team won’t move forward and get used to him while he’s sat on the Bench. I don’t agree that he has to equal phils game against Southampton to get in because for weeks phil hasn’t matched that either.

    Totally agree that Brighton and Southampton suit us they come out and play. Leeds may be a bit more cagey rather than their usual gungho approach, I want to see us break a resilient team or two down, so far we haven’t, a long standing problem.

  32. Mark, I’d be very disappointed to see Buendia sidelined too. Having said that I can’t see how you leave Coutinho out just now.
    Could he adapt to a wider midfield position?
    is he destined to be a substitute for Phil who can run himself into the ground for 60 minutes a game?

    It depends to a large extent on how confident we are of keeping Phil next season. If not, then use Buendia more and help him continue to improve as he has done recently.

  33. MK,

    Some very good points.

    Yes, did look like Smith’s Villa. We operate best moving quickly in space, and we defend best packed in a bit. With Phil replacing Jack, and actually improving distribution and speed of play, that plays more into our favor.

    Southampton and Brighton, yes, opponents that suit us. They do come to play, they don’t foul incessantly to break up the game. They don’t just pack it in. There are plenty of 1-0 City and Pool results that attest to the effectiveness of the approach. Sadly, we got behind in those kinds of games, which does nothing to make the lesser team come out. Scoring first is obviously a good thing, but it means a lot more agains those kinds of opponents.

    Possession-wise, Villa committed the same sins as in days of yore: continuing to attack at pace, and not slowing the game. Naturally, the opponent is going to come at you, and Villa don’t quite have the quality to ping it around under pressure to comfortably retain and discourage/tire/punish intense pressure.

    Second half against Saints, once it’s 4-0, you could probably really give a toss how much you possess it as long as you’re limiting dangerous chances.

  34. All the Buendia thoughts…

    Me, I love the guy. Once he was fit and found his feet, he was really starting to show his value. Like Phil, he was thinking and seeing faster than the rest of the team. I think he actually prepared them a bit for Phil.

    But…What’s his future? Given Coutinho’s profile and friendship with SG (along with the idea we may want to sign him), I don’t think there’s anyway he doesn’t start, and have said it for a while.

    I don’t think a half-season behind one of the world’s premier players (when on form) is going to damage him. Yeah, it’s frustrating. He isn’t gaining/retaining match sharpness or conditioning.

    The big question is obviously whether we can/will retain Phil. That introduces new math, and factors heavily into summer recruitment.

    I don’t think we want to lose Buendia. It’s okay right now, but it’ll be an issue if we keep Phil and don’t find a way for Buendia to figure prominently.

  35. So, one, there’s what SG is saying to Emi to keep him onside.

    Two, there’s Ings and Watkins. Also Bailey and Troaré.

    SG’s system, if he goes back to it, may not really be suitable for them as starters. Will we sell, let them come off the bench…? Do Ings and Ollie both stay?

    But right now, Emi’s making way to accommodate Ings and Watkins, obviously. And whether that’s the go-forward style, anyone’s guess. If Phil goes, then Emi slots in. If Phil stays…?

  36. JC- Phil’s 30 in June will he begin to slow over the next few years? Emi is 25. If the aim is to build around Phil its limited in its time scale. Like SG he is bait for better players to view Villa differently imo. Rumour has it that Watkins may go but suddenly his Phil partnership is blossoming and that may force a rethink.

    Possession and passing vs the teams played prior is stark since the system change. Its not like Brighton and the saints are in the most feared bracket so regardless of score the intent has changed imo. Of course the quality of both Brighton and Saints was lacking on the day. Brightons has always been a problem for them its why they flatter to deceive with great passing play and no end product.

    Villa under smith used jack and others ability to carry the ball and so passing was either quick or ambitious, when it worked it really worked. So I am not seeing some great revelation/evolution in our play particularly. I know a few are impressed by the the odd triangle passage of play but it produced next to zero chances of worth.

    Beundia, Bailey, Traore? now if he wants to really fit them in he will have to go back to a standard 433.

  37. Beundi is a strange one,for me he is a real let down,I don’t get the hype 2 goals and a couple assists nothing to write home about,I see petulance ,I see a player shooting when no chance of scoring ,his passing takes wrong option too many times,it’s not to say he hasn’t had a chance over 20 games appeared in starting mostly, poor return for money spent

  38. Buendia will play. Buendia will get minutes. Buendia will start alot of games next season when we revert to the 2 tens. and sg builds a team who are comfy in possession.

    Dont think i have amnesia….sg ball and smith ball totally different. Didnt see us score footballing goals like that before? Didnt see us try and play one touch triangle to feet?

    Christ we turned into pullis ball at the end….remember any throw in the oppo half was launched in the box!

  39. james

    yeah fair enough you have always not fancied buendia. Me i love him. a little tenacious devil! But if your starting 1 ten then he isnt starting over phil!

    But he will play loads, we will be 2 tens next season again

  40. so whats the deal with phil. option to buy for 33mill. does that mean he cant turn us down if we want him or does it basically mean nothing?

    Where will phil go? done spain, germany, pool. who else will go for him? Im pretty confident he will stay.

    And not worried at all about his age…even though hes not 30 yet! he will play to a elite level until hes 34 no worries. like merson.

  41. H&V, 30 in June, Not old in modern terms but resale and chances of injury etc mount. You must of missed all the cut backs from Jack, Traore etc, Trez in the end was vilified because he missed a few sitters in front of goal. Massive difference between going around rather than trying to go through teams which we have been doing under SG and it didn’t work. Even the runs into the box disappeared as the mids were so far back. Granted there was a fair amount of long balls this season because the pre-season was a cluster fuck plus coach turnaround.

  42. Beundia ended up injured and that slowed things as far as Gelling with players, didn’t help the rest were playing together shite either. Once he got fit though he was our best player by far until Phil Racked up. Put Phil in the same season start and lets see what happens.

  43. Mark

    most of our goals now come from playing through the middle! Scoring some great footy goals.

    i saw the other day watkins dissalowed goal at toon. think i was so angry i didnt notice but it was a hell of a move.

    yeah i do wonder about buendias fitness as he has been carrying knocks all season.

  44. Apparently we want a CB and athletic mid. Maybe a lb and st. I don’t think they’ll be much change at all you know! We will have a positive net spend with all the fringe players being sold and bring through archer bidace etc

  45. H&V like which ones mate? cash’s goal came from a clearance from a cross and Watkins a ball from our left back position. Watkins goal three passes from our half admittedly down the middle but only because Southampton were stretched. Phils assist from behind the defence on the left cut across. Phils goal ball pops out right and Mcgin dribbles in behind and it falls to phil on the right of the box to slot home. 4th was a ball down the right cut back to ings from the by-line edge of the box. prior to that we could not get through team down the middle and god knows we tried, 20 shots in one game with one on target. Southampton were like the parting of the red sea all game down the middle and we should of had four from there but didn’t.

  46. MK,

    “JC- Phil’s 30 in June will he begin to slow over the next few years? Emi is 25. If the aim is to build around Phil its limited in its time scale. Like SG he is bait for better players to view Villa differently imo.”

    This is the crux. If SG throws down with Phil, it’s a big throw of the dice. Me, I’m not so sure Phil is going to want to stay. Bigger stages await, and like you say, he’s not young. He’s got a redemption tour calling. Can Villa really give him that?

    Buendia can do the business. He may not be Coutinho, but he’s pretty damn good and can play that role.

    Anyway, I’ve wondered about all this ever since Phil signed. Now that Watford and Newcastle have all but finished any European dream, may well be the case we get him fit and confident, then he goes, and Buendia steps in.

  47. In other words, he’s only bait if he stays. I wonder if Villa could work a deal where we exercise the clause for £33m, then sell for £50m or more.

    But like you say, he’s 30, so…Gonna be interesting.

  48. mark

    to my eye our attacking play in the final 3rd is completly different than under deano and i see that in the types of goals we have scored under sg since he came in.

    we have bid for kessie!! but he wants barca! and we want phil tied up, but like john says does he want us!

  49. lots of news about.

    if leeds go down philips are priority.

    young to be offered new deal.

    phil will have to slash wage demands.

    nswe deeply commiteed and want to get us self substainable.

    expect loads of youth being signed and loaned and flipped for profit.

    the fringe players el ghazi, trez etc will be moved in

  50. I watched the game James. The second half defensive performance from PSG was straight out of the Beano. Just like the €$£ idea from the same comic.

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