Emery has pronounced the point at Brentford as a very good one while also saying it’s not enough. Demanding, improving…That’s basically the gist of everything he says. And while most every manager will make the same points, with Unai you know it’s not just lip service. And Europe will be difficult, he says. He’s not wrong.

Do Villa need to win out? Is every game a cup final? As always, depends on results around us. If Liverpool and Brighton were to win out, well, they’d knock us back and pass us. So, maybe Villa do have to win out to pip Brighton who now have three games in hand. Which is a little ridiculous, but that’s the way it works. The flip side is that they’ll have a much more congested run-in and, at this stage in particular, we may see some tired performances.

Anyway, tonight is all about putting Fulham out of the picture and keeping pressure on Liverpool and Brighton. Every game is an opportunity to get a step closer without overwhelming the side mentally with what would be an almost miraculous run. We have our six-pointers ahead of us, and that’s about all you can hope for. To win out we obviously have to keep them from doing the same.

On the squad front, the only question is whether Emi will be back in goal. He’s important for us in playing out, doing the sweeper bit (helping to clean up behind a high line). Otherwise, none of Cash, Kamara, Bailey, or Coutinho will be available. As I suspected, in retrospect it’s now clear that taking Kamara off at halftime against Chelsea did indeed indicate he’d re-aggravated the ankle. Fortunately Emery was clever enough to leverage the forced changed into a tactical adjustment that he might have made anyway.

Returning to Brentford, we’ve seen more resilience and belief within the squad and goals to show for it. While they managed to negate us for the most of the match, we didn’t stop playing, which indicates the side aren’t shrinking from the challenge. And one thing we’ve seen over the last few seasons is that we don’t get enough draws. Villa’s win percentage is very decent, just one less victory than both Newcastle and Spurs, but it’s battling for the draws that get you over the top. Like many have said, that could end up being an extremely important point.

Should be a good match, and I hope the crowd is in good voice. It’s a quick turn, but the players will have to be up to it. Me, I’m enjoying the fact we’re going into these matches with positive goals and expectations. A bad result is always disappointing, but it’s obviously not anywhere near as nerve-wracking as when the focus is on staying up.

Over to you.

Comments 43

  1. Interesting half, again. Fulham very passive. Shame a couple of the clear chances just ended up being blocked shots.

    But nice to see us playing patient, smart football.

  2. Well, didn’t miss much in the end, r0bb0.

    Was a very lethargic second half from us. But Fulham never really looked like scoring, so it wasn’t as nervy as it could’ve been.

  3. Seemed like a blueprint for playing in Europe. Get an early goal and practise protecting the lead with minimum effort and prevent the other side getting an away goal. Good job Fulham didn’t have Mitrovic. Were we saving ourselves for that nothing game on Sunday?

  4. This is unreal,not necessarily perfect,or beautiful to watch but it’s god da. Good when we win,shocking officials tonight, stonewall penalty not given at least 2 clear corners not given,Fulham slapped beundi on back nothing, on top of dignes head kick at weekend

  5. Think we have a great spine in Emi, Moreno, Konsa, Mings, Luiz and SJM

    And R0bb0 – Dendoncker was decent tonight. Unai May be slightly smarter than me 🙂


  6. + Buendia. What a player.

    Need Cash, Kamara and Phil back as impact subs. Cash obviously ti start.

    And anyone that calls Watkins out week after week….it’s sad, but we all make mistakes. 5th chance for Frem?

  7. 5th 🙂 Fulham looked afraid to push up in numbers and doubled up on Moreno and Watkins. Time to dust off the the box of tricks Unai and give us another way to break this. The fact a headed goal from mings won it tells a story, goals/ chances drying up. That said these are the better sides, even better to come who will hopefully be more obliging.

  8. Doubt the most optimistic Villa fan would have expected us to be 5th in April, much less after we were 17th in November. Given the decade we just had, probably due some sunshine which is why I’m walking around with a stupid disbelieving smile on my face. 5th!

    The Brighton model and Emery’s work on inherited Villa players who many (including on this site) say were not good enough, show that most players at this level are capable of stepping up. However teams and their managers rather rely on buying a player as a fix rather than developing what they have. How many careers never took off by this callous approach, we will never know.

    However this season ends up, glad to be experiencing these highs after such a long time.

  9. Thought the performance was lethargic last night. First half we had total control of the game and Fulham offered nothing. Second half we looked leggy and Unai said as much. Despite this, we still retained control until the end even though I was nervous as the game wore on.

    But…..5th place, another win, another 3 points and another clean sheet. Happy days.

  10. VP not as rocking as it was against Newcastle. Down to the slow tempo no doubt. We needed the second goal to release the tension but didn’t get it.

    That said, Unai is more likely to see out a 1-0 win than his predecessors. Bring on Man Ure.

  11. Two games a week in this league takes its toll and I believe that’s what we’re seeing at the moment. With the injuries we have, the squad becomes very small and against this backdrop, Unai has been magnificent.

    As VillaMD says, we need Kamara, Cash and Couts back. Five cup finals left.

  12. Couple thoughts, again without benefit of a replay.

    Yes, definitely looked leggy (Plug).

    Second, seems like we’re seeing teams playing to deny rather than attack (MK). Whether it’s just their style, how they play on the road, or how they want to play us anywhere, we are seeing certain players getting a lot of attention in deep-lying setups. Thought Buendia got that treatment in the 2nd half, two or even three players converging quickly, but more around the center circle.

    Whereas Dendoncker didn’t do much wrong, he wasn’t really contributing a lot of incisive or quick forward passes, to my recollection. Having Kamara back in that pivot with Luiz makes a difference.

  13. That said, our defensive setup (as someone noted) has a continental feeling about it, and we can see Emery definitely believes we should be able to win matches 1-0.

    Not that he’d mind a few of the moves coming off and winning 2 or 3-0. But there’s less engagement higher up, and the second line doesn’t leave a lot of space between midfield and the back four.

    Upgrading Bailey/Traore (or getting more out of them), would go some way in addressing this.

  14. Villalore, I’m with you regarding your comment about most players at this level being capable of stepping up.
    Of course there will be players who waste their innate talents by failing to invest the necessary time and effort, but even then, surely it is at least in part down to the manager to try and re-motivate them?

  15. Var saving bindipers again tonight stonewall penalty for hammers near end not given ,moyes wasn’t happy
    Still Brighton lost and how can I say I want utd to stuff spurs

  16. The silly off-season transfer talk is really ramping up isn’t it.
    Will some of the most ambitious targets want to see if we actually achieve European qualification before committing?
    Emery’s previous success in Europe must surely influence players who would love to win their first European medal so this could be more interesting window than most

  17. R0bBo, now let’s see. Will European qualification affect my decision on who to sign for if I’m a top level player?

    I am a Champions League quality player (remember Bacuna?). Message to agent…find me a Champions League club.

    Err, well boss he says…there’s The New Saints in Oswestry. Used to be known as Total Network Solutions. But I’ve had this enquiry about you from Unai Emery, however his outfit is not in the Champions League. Please advise.

    Hmmm. Tough decision…..

    Guimares, Isak and Botman had no such problem with this dilemma. They followed the money. Villa can offer the same PLUS a master coach. It’s a no brainer really.

  18. Oh Plug, you cynic. . . . . .you’ll be telling me next me that Rob Foster going to Wrexham for a pint of beer and a donation to the Wrexham dogs and cats home is not typical of how most players are motivated!

  19. Robbo
    Can’t wait for silly season
    Think back few years mcleish signings Hutton jenas,lambert turn (bacuna as mentioned)senderous Richardson coleholt,sherwood double disaster Richards lescott the list goes on

  20. If we get Europe it will be a busy spell
    A keeper for a start ,depending on outgoings probably a right back and a centre half
    A couple additions to centre mid plus two attacking options
    That makes 7 for me with maybe 2 to be starters rb and winger

  21. .r0bb0, I see you’ve been watching the fifth tier. Ben Foster and now they are chasing Garett Bale. Reynolds and McElhenney are fun to watch and read about but they strike me as being deadly serious with Wrexham FC.

  22. Hope Unai has been boning up on this particular fixture at OT. It has a history of penalty awards to the home team for menial things like farting. VAR will be no help. It’s 11 players against 11 players, 4 officials and VAR.

    It’s no use Emi saving the mandatory spot kick, it will be retaken until it goes in. Against this backdrop, a win will be super sweet. Go get it boys.

  23. Strange feeling this weekend especially after watching utd last night
    Some awful players getting a game at utd ,our big problem is player tiredness none of injured back again ,7 games in a month is heavy going when it’s only a squad of 15 been used

  24. Ian, it’s hard to avoid the Wrexham story. . . . for all the right reasons. What’s even better is the difference that those two Hollywood actors are making to the whole town, not just the club

  25. JG, I think we’ve used 20 players over those games but that does include Olsen, Duran cameos and Kamara and Cash, who aren’t yet match fit again apparently. It’s still not a large squad when the games come thick and fast, but we’re in a better place than Brighton who have a really congested schedule coming up.
    There has to at least be a chance that our last game of the season against them might actually matter. I doubt either club expected that when the fixtures came out.

  26. Our local rag has been discussing matters/concerns with Villa supporters. Chief culprits are season ticket price rises and catering at VP. Ticket prices must reflect the club’s ambition but it seems the club is oblivious to the fact that travelling costs to/from VP is also significant for many supporters, most of whom travel in from surrounding areas, some quite a distance away such as Ireland, London or up north. Robb0 is travelling up from Devon. Hope the club don’t over cook the goose.

    My main gripe is the lack of catering. It’s been getting some bad exposure in the national press too with 1 fan photographing his raw chicken nugget which with a few chips cost £11. The salmonella was free. Poor quality food, nowhere near enough food and drink outlets not to mention the lack of female toilets. Purslow needs to mingle with the fans in each of the stands pre match, half time and why not leave the bars open for an hour after the game to give the traffic time to clear.

    Check out the VP catering experience with that at any of the big rugby matches where pints are pulled from 6 or 12 taps at a time. Villa are leaving millions untapped with rubbish food, insufficient outlets and zero catering organisation.

  27. The playing to many games doesn’t count for this game, we have 48 hours rest above a manure team that has played a semi final and pens and midweek game to go with Europe before that. So we have a really good chance of getting a result, if we don’t it won’t be from fatigue. Manures 1st team is very pickable from what they have available so that’s no excuse either.

  28. That feels like a fair point Mark. If anyone has the ‘tired’ excuse it should be United. Maybe it will compensate a little for their refereeing advantage.

  29. Brighton’s win shows just how tough it will still be to gain a European place next year despite being the second best team in the league over the past 10 games.

  30. Its always tough to gain a European place and it is just getting tougher. The likes of Chelsea, West Ham, Leicester, Everton even Liverpool have struggled this season and a few have surprised many like Brighton and Brentford and now us. What’s even madder is the bottom three, not one of last years promoted teams in there at present.

  31. Mark, you’re right. . . . the league is much harder to predict this year. Apart from City, the league has seemed much less predictable and is all the better for that.
    Purslow was speaking out this week about ownership and the application of financial spending constraints and it would be a tragedy if the current competitiveness of the Premier league was to be taken away by 3 or 4 clubs being effectively owned and run by oil rich national rulers.

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