Not since the days of Martin O’Neill have Villa been in Europe, and tonight that indignity comes to an end as Villa travel to Easter Road for the first Conference League playoff leg against Hibernian.

So here we are, back in Europe without crossing any major bodies of water. Enthusiasm is high despite the injury-riddled start to the season. Me, I’m happy and optimistic, too, but naturally I look at any game against ‘lesser’ opposition as a potential banana skin.

Emery will, too, though, and between him and the players, I don’t think anyone will be looking past Hibs. I expect it’ll be like any cup-tie, which means there could be lots of physicality directed Villa’s way to narrow the advantage in talent. So, fingers crossed there.

Plenty of speculation as to how strong a side Emery fields. Me, I think he’ll go pretty much full strength (depending on niggles) because I’d imagine he wants to get this one under their belts. A quick start and a couple-goal cushion would be ideal, allowing him to then rotate players to keep the side fresh for Burnley. Apart from a couple of youth still in the first-team set-up, we don’t really have a B side at the moment anyway.

Of course, speaking of B sides, we’re seeing departures among the Academy talents. Some are upset, but that’s the nature of things and with buy-back clauses, we can always get them back if they blossom elsewhere. In the meantime, helps with FFP and getting ready-made reinforcements in.

Anyway, that’s it, kickoff not far away. And it is the team you’d expect. Full strength with “three at the back”.

Martinez, Konsa, Carlos, Pau, Digne, Kamara, Luiz, McGinn, Bailey, Diaby, Watkins.

Comments 47

  1. Apart from Digne being paid £160,000 a week(?)why are we thinking of selling him. We’ve no other LB and with Acuna injured and Moreno still out .
    His form at the moment is outstanding.

    Well done Ollie,a brilliant hat trick. He could have hat at least another one .

  2. Much easier than I expected. Walk in the park, really.

    Despite Bailey popping up with another goal, Traoré looked much more dangerous with the ball. Interesting choices there. You’d have thought Bailey would have had an easier time dribbling today. But I think his tendencies are too well known, and he seems to be lacking that explosive step to get him past players anticipating him cutting to his left. And he often loses control trying to get that first step. Not that Traoré didn’t completely overwork the big chance he had.

    Digne? Yeah, wages, defensive side, pace. And he didn’t do badly defending today, but not like he was facing a PL danger man. If one of these other deals doesn’t materialize, he obviously has to stay til January, at least.

  3. MK,

    Think we sort of have to…It’s good money, pure profit, and that’s a lot of what the Academy has to be about. If JJ were trying to break through now, I don’t think he’d make it, either. A lot of games where he really had no impact over the last couple years as he was learning.

    You hate to see them leave, sure, but Archer must really have had no chance if Emery’s sanctioning a sale with our current depth.

  4. And yeah. Hand up, I was really questioning whether McGinn was truly good enough for our aspirations.

    But he looks leaner, meaner, back to the player we knew. Being played right, as well, not running up and down playing FB.

  5. Another thing I was noticing really clearly today.

    Konsa’s been talking about Emery coaching them on their body shape, etc. It was very obvious how he wants them to work the ball to the player who’s facing the right direction (ie, into middle to player with back to goal then back to a forward-facing DM, etc), and then also trying to lead players with passes, etc., who are also shaped/faced correctly to receive and make the next pass in the sequence.

    Not exactly a next-level observation or coaching, but it’s made us look much more competent, and makes possession much easier. Attention to detail, let’s call it.

    I also enjoyed Tielemans leading Dougie and others…pass up, back to YT, move to other side of marker and receive again from YT.

    It’s like we’re actually playing football.

  6. So in the end it turned out to be men and boys. Unai did a job on Hibs and determined their weakness was down their right, our left. Digne had a field day going forward. Crosses in and 3 headed goals before half time.

  7. Of course, there was a huge gulf in class. All down to money. Once more, I didn’t think we broke sweat. Hopefully plenty left in the tank for Burnley.

    Life is good for us at the moment. Pleased Ollie got his hat-trick. Will do him the power of good.

  8. Agreed JC, we now look so much more comfortable on the ball. Slick passing with a body shape as you mention. Thought SJM had one of his more quiet games.

  9. Plug,

    Was interesting…I kind of lost focus, but up to the 1st goal, Hibs were definitely man-marking in the middle, not trying to push up, and deny us playing inside.

    Seemed like they were three at the back a lot, not sure what the right FB/WB was doing, I assume supporting on the inside, but yeah, Digne had so much space.

    And they never really changed it, which was odd. As it wore on and we were figuring out their tactics, we started finding players between the lines through the middle, but the out ball was always there and then Bertie started terrorizing them down the right.

  10. JG,

    I’m guessing there’ve been similar impacts elsewhere (you can probably point to Emery at previous clubs), but I don’t know that anyone could have much more impact on a given squad.

    It’s easy to get blinders on, but a number of clubs had recruited and implemented better systems than ours. Walking into Brighton is much different than Emery coming into Villa, for example. Hell, Brentford played better football and recruited more cleverly.

    Howe at Newcastle. That side was never as bad as they sometimes played. And then he’s done a very good job and they’ve recruited very well, but from a stronger base.

    So for us to suddenly be mixing it up with them in footballing terms (ie, not just having a Grealish magic wand) after looking so dire and clueless…It is pretty remarkable.

    Just watching today (which I think was really instructive because for once we actually proved out a true gulf in class), the way Villa are so methodical, patient, resetting to the basic structure, keeping the shape…It’s an impressive coaching display.

    I mean, it felt like a slightly intense training session. Got the ball back after loose passes, etc., and went right back to our way of playing til we finally got the breakthrough and they had to come out and get punished.

  11. VillaMD,

    Don’t disagree with Cash defending, average to maybe even below average. He’s not bad going forward, but not as effective as Digne or Moreno on their day.

    I think on the night it probably had as much to do with Emery’s familiar setup, and what he might have seen on film. With Konsa able to play well as a more defensive FB, it makes sense to go with the left-hand emphasis on delivery while also playing from left to right a lot to get that second striker and winger free on the other side.

    Probably also explains why we keep looking for another LB (likely down to Digne’s wages) instead of someone to challenge Cash. I’m guessing we’ll see more of Konsa, Carlos, Pau and a LB than we will being weighted the other way. Depends on the opponent though, too, I’d assume.

    It was obviously a very strong squad and I think Emery really saw it as a training opportunity as much as anything else. Certainly easier than any of our preseason games.

  12. I forget the unfortunate LB’s name for Hibernian, but based on Traoré’s cameo, if he’d faced him all night he might’ve been scarred for life.

    (Random thought, but triggered by that asymmetrical left-right balance Emery likes.)

  13. Little over a week to go before transfer window closes
    Monchi has done decent work getting decent fees with buy back included,we were lucky city didn’t take up their option on Luis
    Injuries are hurting us but Duran and traore subs appearance have looked good,wonder has hibs full back got straightened up,love his cameo the penalty what great feet and his 1st season thinkbert had 15 goals assists
    Any word on dendonker what is his injury
    A couple defensive signings with one big name signing (Felixstowe,ferran
    torres) would be magnificent

  14. JG,

    Yes, very well done, Ollie, and he admits he wants to become more clinical to be truly elite.

    Frem: He’s unblocked (I thought), but haven’t heard/seen a word. I’ll double check.

  15. It seems coutinho could be going too,injury prone or not his signing gave us a big lift,a fit coutinho would have being a great help to squad
    Monchi going to be busy for last week

  16. JG – Phil is a tricky one. High wages and injury prone. I’d take £15m for him.

    Sevilla LB also injured. Seems like 30+ year olds are injury prone.

  17. Villamd
    I think k I like the idea of coutinho rather than the coutinho of today,love a maverick type of player
    Carbone was good mersin was brilliant
    Curic ginola failed miserably
    It’s why I think Bert has value in our matchday squads,just watching get pen last night along with his turn that left 2 hibs defenders tackling each other

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