Tonight, Villa square off against Richmond and Ted Lasso, as the wags would have it, or Leeds and Jesse Marsch. Though Marsch didn’t get a win on his first match in charge, he did change up Bielsa’s ways a bit, and no surprise.

Leeds’ frenetic, all-or-nothing approach has captivated at times, and at others left heads shaking. A 3-0 lead was never safe whoever held it. But it’s a different challenge that Villa and Gerrard will see tonight. To be sure a lot of the same talent and dangers are there, but we’ll see them employed a bit more conventionally.

Given Leeds’ precarious position, Bielsa’s demise comes as no real surprise and only made sense. And it will no doubt have a heavy influence on tonight’s game. Leeds desperately need something, and Marsch is convinced they’ll see the same Villa that beat Brighton and Southampton. I can’t say I disagree.

His key to the game is bottling up Coutinho, of course, but that’s easier said than done if he’s on song and carries its own risks if it takes more than one man. It also means everyone else needs to create space and options then do something with it to take advantage. Seeing Ollie and Ings both on the scoresheet was really satisfying for just that reason.

Keys for Villa, I think, remain largely the same: making better decisions playing out, doing more to get open, playing between the lines and into space quickly. As always, dogged play off the ball is a prerequisite. Offensive turnovers need to be minimized, and attacks somewhat constrained to mitigate Leeds’ speed on the counter.

If I were Gerrard, I might be tempted to undermine Marsch’s assumptions. But with two on the trot and six goals to the good, I’m thinking he’ll stick. Reverting to include Buendia would give them two playmakers to think about, but the biggest improvement has come from having two dedicated strikers and four in midfield, rather than the line of three up front. I don’t see Buendia taking McGinn’s role, although I’m not sure it would be the worst idea in general. Pros and cons.

Anyway, now Ollie and Ings have more central roles, can get further ahead, find more good match-ups. There’s more fluidity not only laterally, but back to front. The CBs are given more to think about, and Villa aren’t getting all in a line with too many players committed. Coutinho can be deeper, pulling players toward him. It’s about creating dimension, basically, which forces decisions on defenders and makes them have to think and commit faster, while also giving them more ground to cover. I think having the FBs a little further back also helps here (versus just defensively). 

Speaking of defending, it will still be about the flanks, how Leeds use them, and how Villa track back. True wide balls are one thing. But gaining position, stretching the midfield, and creating space for cutbacks or late runners in the channels…More than one way to do it, and right now, still Villa’s biggest frailty. I’m guessing Leeds will be more inclined to use their pace and patterns to work one-twos, drag the middle three around, and then look to get it back inside.

If Leeds set up to frustrate like Watford and Newcastle, Villa really can’t afford to concede the opener. That was the hill they couldn’t get over. So they’ll obviously want to have that themselves because Leeds likely won’t be as hell-bent on scoring three or four and leaving the game wide open for 90 minutes.

Leeds will continue to press hard, though, and Villa will need to be quick and smart. We do struggle under pressure. There’s nothing wrong playing it around the back and recycling as long as we present better options and don’t play ourselves into traps. And while switching the marking responsibilities may close some gaps for Leeds, one would also expect for there to be some slip-ups.

Leeds might well be happy with a 0-0, but you’d expect they’d like a lead to work with and three points themselves. Villa have conceded early far too many times, so I think the idea is to stay compact and disciplined as Leeds look for the opener and try to punish them. They’re at home, they need a win. If we’re smart and on our game, that should present opportunities. As Gerrard said, matching intensity is crucial. Always is. And Leeds will likely be very intense.

A draw obviously isn’t the worst result. Villa need to learn how to grab a point when that’s what’s available. But Gerrard will want momentum. A team on the up is always a more attractive proposition if Villa are competing against the top 8 placings for summer targets, and ironing out consistency is a fundamental step toward progress.

All in all, a very interesting match-up.  

Over to you.

Comments 70

  1. Sure, Leeds were poor but then again, they were up against the mighty Villa. Couts is special eh? Good performances all round tonight. Three games. Nine points. Nine Goals. None shipped. The ale is going down a treat.

  2. West ‘Aaamm played a strong team tonight in Spain. That should make sure we are not at any disadvantage come the weekend. Fabulous journey home for the away support tonight.

  3. plug

    how good was that! its starting to click. looking very decent, and robust hence the clean sheets.

    not sure if anyone subscribes to the athletic but some good articles on there. they say the draw against leeds amonth ago was the real turning point. been doing alot of work in training.

  4. next 5 are tough so amazing to be nice and safe now on 36 points.

    we can relax again!

    would like to see konsa in sunday and sanson in for ramsey.

    sg said he wanted to make his point that you play well and the shirt is yours, that was done last night but 3 games in a week think we need to see a very focused konsa back in

  5. SG

    4 months in charge.
    broke a 12 year record of winning 3 on the trot without conceeding.
    only man city have a better away record.
    8th in the form leauge since he took over.
    shown he isnt stubborn by tweeking his set up which many managers are,
    real shape and identity
    players improving at a rapid level (coaching) ie cash, nakamba, ramsey

    hes only 41. going to make mistakes but we could have a very very good manager on our hands

  6. Heroes…..”we can relax now”.

    No way man. West ‘Aaamm have a tough game on Sunday make no mistake. We’ll be after the 3 points. About time we took their sales down. Last night was a vibrant performance. May we see more of the same. The suggested Konsa and Sanson changes make sense. We have a squad, let’s use it.

  7. Wow!!
    Didn’t quite see that coming. What an amazing display by the boys. I felt that Leeds were so much in our face in the opening ten minutes, and Dan James getting stuck into Mings, actually may have been the catalyst for Villa’s performance.
    A peach of a goal from Coutinho, then the great goals from Cash and Chambers, had the pub in Hereford, rocking last night with Villa fans.
    Nice to make some new Villa friends too.
    Like everyone else, amazed to see this turnround of nine goals for, with none conceded, and nine points in the bag, and moved up to ninth!!

    All about the nines…..
    Now really looking forward to Sunday’s game against the Hammers, and Stevie Gerrard can pick any team he likes….

  8. Got to watch the game yesterday and yes we look much better with a great counter attack, the front three look great with acres to work in. But, how bad are Leeds?! think they will scrape through but it won’t be easy its a very tough group down there all doing their best to be relegated.

    Next up a real test.

    H&V give me a call when SG has won ten on the bounce and achieved something (a final maybe) and thrashed several top 6 teams.

    I am actually pissed off that we have thrown away a chance to have gotten much higher over the last 6 games, Watford are losing for fun and there is no way Leeds should of been allowed to draw at 3-1 up. Newcastle are the only team that genuinely have improved that we lost to. I don’t think that any kind of training before the Leeds game resulted in us now winning three, the changing of his tactics to something that actually suited the now fit squad he has is the real reason. Fair play for changing it but that should of been sorted after Leeds scored three.

    The game I really want to see now is against Arsenal.

  9. mark

    i thought leeds was ok until he went 424? and emptied the mid.

    Its west ham and burnley the games for me. proper big physical men! our achilles heel. fancy it against arsenal type teams.

    yeah frustrating watford did the double over us but we are what we are at the mo along with saints, palace etc mid table capable of little runs and capable of loosing runs! the key is to look at wolves next season…consistency and hard to beat.

  10. haha prem and champ is different level man. not even pool and city win 10 on bounce!

    but to win 3 on trot in prem is huge, scoring 9 is massive and not conceeding is insane! amazing little run.

    digne clean sheet and phil goal again man….wish i put cash in though!

  11. plug

    i meant i can relax about relegation now! yeah sg and his team have targets aparently. tough 5 games now, lets see if we can turn some defeats into draws and grind some results out some big games

  12. Another great result and a decent performance to go with
    Slightly disappointed we didn’t control ball better
    Even when Leeds went down to ten men,
    Watkins is also a worry his performance, non celebration of goals
    Next game I would play sanson for ramsay just to give lad a rest and maybe try Bailey alongside ings,

  13. I read calls for konsa to come back into team,who is dropped for him
    Mings captain don’t think so
    Chambers goal scorer,goal maker and I noticed last night a bit of a leader shouting at players,telling them where they should be ,konsa has to watch and learn

  14. H&V not many hit 10 game winning streaks ever mate and the record for league wins in the prem is 18 by city and Liverpool. Manure, Chelski, Arse, the above all hit 12 and above and more than once. But go ahead celebrate 3 wins without conceding we went 4 in 20/21 without conceding and drew one get the bunting out 🙂

  15. When you stop to think about it we are looking at getting a draw against the top clubs as progress when last season with jack and an inferior squad to this one we actually beat and indeed thrashed several of them.

  16. Plug- not at all I am adding some perspective to the SG has solved everything rhetoric.

    Basically he has inherited a very good squad and added in the one thing it lost a chance creating machine in Phil, possibly even better than than Jack. Don’t forget the talk was he was going to replace everyone not long ago to play his system and become a passing machine.

    Also he now has them bonding outside of training something Smith did originally which became fragmented over the summer and the loss of Jack and coaches.

    So from my perspective I don’t think we have arrived anywhere Smith would not have got to by this point, the only difference being SG’s contacts and standing in the game. We have lost the notion that progression is never linear, it takes time and a full squad, we have no had both plus phil.

    what won’t be so good is if Phil pisses off.

  17. H&V I don’t think I will mate, at some point SG will be off what that leaves us with we will see. The Squad is quickly becoming crowded with players that can’t get a game and unless we get Europe and stay in the cups that will be a problem as our kids come good. SG will definitely add senior players this summer.

  18. Mark still can’t take that Trez and Smith have gone I see

    Fantastic win. How we controlled Leeds was absolutely fantastic

    Last two games we have been brilliant without the ball but still a lot to do with it.

    Martinez saying Beele does most the speaking at Villa and his football knowledge is unbelievable.

    But said Gerrard is very calm, but when he speaks, everybody listena. That’s what we needed. A winner. Smith was just to much like a Dad to everyone and everyone had an easy life.

  19. On our bench

    It’s pretty great isn’t it to have so much attacking quality

    Remember for 3 seasons when the only sub we had was Trez on for Ghazi or the other way around? It became a running joke on twitter.

    Sanson needs to start tomorrow I think.. Ramsey hasn’t been so good recently.

    I hope we keep Bailey and Traore around in the summer.

    We need good depth

  20. Not sure what the club will be wanting in the summer

    The only real desperate need is a DM.. Kelvin Phillips. Please.

    Another striker I think will be top of the list also.

    Off that I’m not sure we are in much need for anything else.

    I can see Traore and Bailey both going so we would need another creative player on top of signing Countino.

  21. Hello mate, No Frem You don’t see, I am not bothered that Smiths Gone nor any other player. Jack clearly was key to this team, Phil is clearly now key to this team, so I see little change there. That’s not to say its a negative many teams have elite players that make things tick. I do think Smith was rear ended at a crucial time for this team. Dad or not he beat many of the top managers not seeing that from SG as yet and he has a better team to select from naturally as we progress with time. Three games back we were shit.

    What I do see is we have veered away from the blueprint into reliance on a name to bolster and attract players (we did with Jack so that’s part of Football I know) and I would have liked to see how far the 1st approach could of taken us and kept us sustainable as much as is possible in this league.

    Yep Beele is the tactician nothing wrong with that either except I recall smith getting bashed because it was JT that taught us to defend apparently.

    I see a lot of crap being talked about SG at the moment that was equally applicable to Smith but was looked at as a negative by many including you. Players will wax lyrical about whatever regime they are currently in and players will always take time to settle.

    As for Trez, three games back Cash couldn’t cross or defend and was apparently crap, anyone with an ounce of brain knows that’s bollocks, up to the manager to use his players wisely and to motivate them, what happens in between them getting there can look bad, and then they are not.

    You cannot have a team that beats Liverpool 7-2 one minute and is then not fit for the league, even Phil looked poor against Watford and Newcastle.

    What you seem not to appreciate is that since Smiths arrival this team went on a very sharp upturn and that was always going to stall at some point. All those players you belittle just emphasises what Smith achieved with apparent dross. We were never going to buy a ready made team and the journey is necessary you cannot have it any other way, every player played their part with crucial goals and had their moments that put us where we are now. If they were that bad we would be going down not up with essentially what is mostly still Smiths players.

  22. Here’s a snippet that illustrates how forgetful we are about very recent events. This is baring in mind we have just beaten Leeds easily at Elland road and played well. Leeds were a shadow of the side we beat 1-0 at Elland road last season though with a much weaker side and without Jack and this is about that time and what Villa were doing. Shows you that it pays to not get carried away with a few games.

    League position: 8th
    Aston Villa had now won all of their three away games at the newly-promoted teams in season in the top division for the first time since 1980-81 in League Division One.
    Villa remained unbeaten in their last seven games in the Premier League played on a Saturday (won six) and kept clean sheets in all of them.
    They had now scored one goal in each of five of last six games in the Premier League (none in the other).

  23. Frem

    How good was that interview with Martinez. He is very impressive. Elite mentality. Loves cutler who sounds very impressive. Interesting to hear him say about players hiding when crowds were back. Targett?


    Not that deep re smith. Was shite for well over a calendar year. 20 looses in 38. Lost it off the pitch too. Love the man but took us as far as he could. Poor bey looked lost at the end.

  24. Frem yeah man our squads looking strong all a sudden. If someone said a fit konsa wouldn’t walk back in the team 6 months ago we’d think them mad. Sanson looked very tidy at Leeds. Want to see him in for Ramsey. If we are staying 2 up top then another striker needed. Another full back. Hickey, Phillips, Suarez. Would do me nicely!

  25. The main signing has to be Phil though! Dear god if we got him permantly! Just have to look at Martinez talking about him the affect someone like Phil has. Everyone else is buzzing

  26. Good thoughts going round.

    Dunno how he’d average out over a season, but Chambers even just in the short term was obviously very good business.

    Phil’s clearly the big question going into summer, all the dominoes fall from there.

    Then I’m curious about the formation, what we’ll see longer term.

    It’s been a relatively small, but effective change. I’m assuming Beale was responsible. Regardless, it’s satisfying to see a tweak like that, recognizing that some combination of players and system weren’t cutting it in the PL.

    Defensively, despite the clean sheets, a bit haphazard still. Like we all say, a true CDM should make a significant difference. During this run we’ve seen some of the breaks that often go against us fall in our favor. Phil’s first, for example, or Chambers’ wonder goal.

    Don’t disagree JJ should maybe sit one or two out. Hasn’t been as much of an influence, and seems to be trying too hard. But, sometimes you have to just let a player, especially young, play through those spells.

  27. This is down to players, obviously, but I am getting tired of seeing several take the wrong angles closing down, then making weak challenges or just getting easily bypassed by committing too much momentum in an obvious line.

    Don’t mean to be a downer, just an observation. Sort something like that, and we’d be more formidable, blunting, winning it back. Probably Ramsey and Luiz who are most guilty. We know SJM doesn’t back out of anything. But they could be a bit smarter in that regard.

  28. H&V,

    Potter ball: That’s the thing about possession. We’re still looking to break fast at almost every stage and situation.

    You really do have to slow it, cycle it, and get to the right positions to provide the easy outlets.

    City often don’t play very fast going forward. They pass it quickly, yes, understand the shape and patterns, and are capable of quality touches. That allows them to be more deliberate.

    We’re still very hit or miss playing out from the back, which leads to a lot of hopeful punts that just come back.

  29. Having Potter would be a waste of time. Stubborn. Continues to play tip tap and keep away to no effect. Might as well bring Roberto Martinez to Villa Park. Another manager who did nothing.
    If Phil doesn’t stay, I think Buendia would be a good player to fill his spot. Coutinho is just a summer romance. Lots of fun for a couple months then you move on. Like Robbie Keane for 9 games several years ago. A brace in his first outing against WBA.
    The first wave of core players will be gone in a couple years just as the last wave has been dispatched. It’s really going to be down to the young players if that is what the plan is, as been told to us. With Gerrard buying players in their prime and then having to pay a bigger wage packet will work but will NSWE have to stomach for the extra monies going out? Going back to Phil, football is a choice for players. Money over team? It’s fine to be loyal but you’re yesterday’s news if you falter or get displaced. So, might as well go for the money and have fun with whoever you are playing with. Will Villa fork over 480,000 quid? I don’t think so.

  30. Coutinho will sign for Villa, and play for less than £480,000 per week, but may wat more than Grealish was playing for. That is my opinion, as he would rather be happy, than just play for the money.
    Good to see Davis get two great goals for Forest, and Callum O’Hare for Coventry, while Andi Weimann got another late winner for Bristol City!

    Feeling reasonably confident about tomorrow, we may not win, but I don’t think we will lose, could be time for a draw!!

  31. I’ll just put one cut and paste from just a few weeks ago from someone on here who now thinks everything is wonderful and we have so many great options up front:

  32. Robbo oys March and Ings and Watkins have only played well together for 2 games last 2 weeks sit back down man.

    Get Davis back up front in the summer with Ings.

    Guy is smashing it.. So quick and powerful

    Archer as well a proper striker

    I think we will sell Watkins in the summer

  33. Ian

    I think the club will go all out to get Phil

    They won’t want to let Gerrard down

    Buendia is a decent player but little phil is on a different planet

    Hopefully we can get him, a top DM and a top striker

  34. Talking of Phil again and why not. You just wouldn’t think he was this highly paid superstar. Guy is humble as anything. Heard he had crippling shyness.

    See cashes goal, first thing Phil does is turn to Ings and nod to the assist. You love to see it.

    I think he stays you know. But won’t be anywhere near 400k

  35. OK fresher’s another of your very recent insights:

    “Cash can’t attack”

    Now don’t come back and say . . But he’s only done it in the last few games because what you’ve said is he CAN’T attack.

    How many more examples would you like me to find?

  36. H&V don’t want to rattle on mate but you have just proclaimed what a difference a player like Phil makes yet knock smith for being shit for a year when he had no Jack and an ailing Barkley plus numerous players out injured. Oh and a covid outbreak during that time. How did Bielsa deal with similar? oh that’s right he was crap. add the summer of shit and injuries to jacks replacements, new coaches to work with and no pre-season of worth together and a reasonable bloke might think there were circumstances. Still managed a decent enough finish with.

    The coaches foisted on Smith are still here I think and SG commented how they were ok for coaches, maybe to many.

    Whatever way you look at it SG landed in a far better starting point than Smith and fixed the problem by putting the main piece missing back not buying three players, which he also has at his disposal.

    Smith took us as far as he was allowed, He had restraints on the age of players we could buy for one, SG has a free hand in that respect it seems.

  37. oops Still managed a decent enough finish with respect to the season before and all things considered. Leeds had a far better start than us in the prem yet?

  38. JC completely agree on the challenges, its very all or nothing. no attempt to jockey or just deny passing lanes. We have been fortunate the last few games the opposition have not had their shooting boots on. You don’t need to always tackle just deny somewhere to go or someone to pass to, that’s the true art of a DM or CM, put yourself in the right position to shut off angles.

    You get periods or games when it goes for you and it certainly is at the moment, I hope we can ride that to a decent finish although the teams we face are way stronger than the last three.

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