A rousing comeback against Palace, disappointment in Warsaw, and a resolute rebound in London. It was quite a week, and now Villa face the Carabao Cup fixture against the Toffees. I mark it 11 days since Palace.

We all know Emery has targeted some kind of success this season, and cups surely count. Me, I’d imagine his priorities are the League, then Conference League, FA Cup, and Carabao, and that when it comes to realistically winning something impressive he’d surely pick the Conference League. Probably the same as most of us. Which means I don’t care much about the Carabao…unless the Carabao is the only one we end up winning.

Given injuries and the lack of true depth, I’m imagining he’ll use the opportunity to try out his Legia Warsaw side again. Maybe a tweak here or there, but Brighton are going to require every bit of our legs and effort Saturday. I’d be okay if he thought he could get away with Tielemans and Dendoncker, for example, to save Doug and Bouba.

But that’s me. We’ll know soon enough.

As far as the previous week of football went, obviously an up-and-down affair. I’d say more than anything that we’re definitely feeling the loss of Mings, and Buendia, too. But the back line, while getting caught out two or three times at Stamford Bridge, seemed to have achieved a little more cohesion. We’re going to see it all year, and sometimes trying to catch us out is going to catch us out, particularly against teams with players who excel at accurate long deliveries into space. That’s not everyone, though, and we had our fair share of offside calls, showing better discipline.

Going forward, I wish we could see Buendia linking up with Diaby and/or Zaniolo. We’re missing that insight and quickness of thought, and he and Doug play well off each other, too. It’s a dimension we no longer have to change things up.

Back in Warsaw, Legia had their countering successes, and a bit of luck on the second (as did Digne). Not that they wouldn’t have given a lot of PL teams trouble on the night. They’re an athletic, well-drilled side who played very well and took their chances. Yes, Villa seemed to lack urgency and weren’t as combative, but I doubt we’ll see a repeat at Villa Park, especially depending on the stakes. Overall, the team disappointed and that’s down to them. Youri didn’t make much of a case, Chambers was a mess, and Ezri and Lenglet maybe know each other’s names by now. But Unai is going to stick to his system and philosophy and he has to rotate players and get them all playing his way. As we’ve said many times, he’s only got so many players to choose from. They can’t all play every game.

Having one eye on Chelsea, on balance, didn’t seem such a bad call, in the end. And he also maybe put some squawking to rest.

Anyway, the depth is what it is, and at least Diaby and Zaniolo look to be real players. Duran is showing a lot of promise. He’s young and a bit rash, so it will be up and down for him. But the last two goals have been top drawer, and he’s big, strong and fast. Zaniolo, too. As we go on, I don’t know how things play out with these limited numbers, but Ramsey is looking ready to go, at last, did some nice work off the ball at Stamford Bridge. Moreno seems a bit further away. Can’t recall seeing much on Carlos. Traoré, god only knows.

So, this is why I say I always want us to win, but if Emery fields a strange-duck side, I’m not going to complain. They’re all there to do a job, and Emery will make sure they can or he’ll move them on.

Over to you.

Oh, and an observation: All these years later, and Paul Lambert and Steve Bruce still show up in the site’s “most used tags.” Benteke does, too. Make of that what you will.

Comments 117

  1. I’m sure Unai (and the players and fans) would love to go long in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup and the Conference League. Winning one of them would be the icing on the cake. Oh, and a high league position finish too.

    But he’s got to rotate his squad. During these periods of 2 games per week everyone is going to be needed. Bear in mind, whoever is selected, game preparation is reduced to the minimum and that must have an effect.

    Looking at the cups, winners of the FA Cup and the Conference League enter next seasons Europa League. Winners of the Carabao Cup enter next seasons Conference League. All unless their domestic league positions give teams access to a higher European competition. There is also every chance 5th place in the EPL this season will provide access to the Champions League next season. Those are the stakes as far as we are concerned since relegation is not a factor for us.

    Rational thought would suggest targeting 5th spot to reach the big one next year and if we made it, fans would be delighted. But we haven’t won anything. Winning one of the cups is what the fans dream of. So right now it’s all about keeping all options open. And that means rotation.

    Against Legia, Unai made 5 changes to his starting 11 with the bench looking strong should he need to react. It didn’t work. Does he do the same tonight or does he start with a strong 11 and if it goes well use the bench early to hold what we have? I’m guessing he will decide that Everton’s need to make changes are more pressing and therefore more likely. His Legia template may then work. We will know very soon.

  2. Plug,

    Yeah, a lot depends on Everton, which I think you’d said earlier as well (I didn’t want to pilfer).

    Like you, I thought he’d do the reverse against Legia, start strong, then rotate out if possible.

    The only caveat with the cups is that sooner or later we run into a side that’s simply going to be better. Doesn’t mean you can’t win on the day, but they’re like the boss at the end of a video game you have to get past.

    So I’m guessing he fancies his odds in Europe backed up by a strong league position and then perhaps going all in on cup ties depending what’s in front of us. Probably the more so should Europe turn sour in between.

  3. Me, I think 5th is a bit aspirational purely in terms of a season’s-long grind. Just not quite there to be dominant as consistently as required given the number of games. January might change/help that, we did clear a lot off the books as summer wound down.

    As with Legia, we’ve got a significant PL match following this tie, and I’d think Emery will want a result at home against Brighton, as they’ll almost surely be one of those in that 5-8 bubble.

    Going to be a real scramble, seems to get harder every year just to stand still.

  4. Also just a guess, but given Emery’s drive and ambition, I’m thinking he’d at least want to step up to Europa league (NSWE, too) to keep the positive momentum and recruitment going. Conference will do if that’s what we can get.

    Anyway, no win is a bad win, and we’d certainly take any silverware. The cup ties just present funny bits of ‘math’ along the way for a team so delicately poised.

  5. Kind of a theme…getting into a stately pace, moving it around, creating early chances, seemingly getting a bit complacent and then getting caught out at right about this stage of the match.

  6. Yeah…I mean, it seems like Emery wants to treat these as development exercises, and I get certain players need minutes, etc., but they’ve just got to be better. There’s almost no way to field anything less than the preferred XI.

  7. Over and out
    Plainly obvious our squad players are not good enough ,not emery fault
    Diaby has gone off the boil worrying, nice free kick tho
    Needs to start best team in Europe now

  8. Well, that’s that.

    Poor again, obviously. Certain things come to mind, but I might question fitness/players saving themselves; the pressure of being favorites; necessary levels of concentration (which fatigue can affect), that kind of stuff.

    Beyond that, we certainly don’t have two players for every position, and we lack physicality when we need it.

    Have to confess, it was a concern I had after the summer, and certainly after the two knees. Lots of expectations, but sometimes progression is not a linear path.

  9. Jc
    Can forgive most things ,but a real lack of effort is not one of them,we never pressed Everton all night,last 10 mins like last Thursday night.no natural width is hurting us

  10. JG,

    Yeah, the effort…that’s why I questioned the things above. Found second gear (or close to) there at the death, but that was it.

    It has to be a lot different staring down four competitions with a pretty thin squad than riding a wave like last year with only the league to worry about.

    So, now there’s only three. That’s my silver lining.

  11. And yeah…Certain wide players being near useless or always injured isn’t helping. They’re taking up spots and wages, but offer nothing like a Gordon or Barnes, for example. Or Harrison.

  12. I agree with both of you JG and JC that lack of effort is unforgivable. We’ve too many second raters.
    A good friend of mine is a long time Leicester supporter and he said to me before the start of the season, best of luck with Tielemans. He said last season Tielemans was extremely poor. Thank goodness we got him on a free transfer.
    The other Belgian,Dendonker,is really poor also.
    I’ve been hearing rumours that Carlos could be long term injury candidate. My problem with him and Moreno they are both over 30 and it becomes mentally tough to overcome major injuries. Let’s hope they are back soon, because we need reinforcements.
    As you say JC only three competitions to worry about now

  13. Desmond,

    I’d heard that about Tielemans, and thought during preseason it didn’t seem to be the case. But he’s not adding much, and seems to me like there’s something bubbling behind the scenes with him vs Kamara.

    I can see playing him in the deeper-lying playmaker role, but he just isn’t fast, active or physical enough up front, and the Kamara-Luiz pivot asks more. Tielemans playing limits Doug’s attacking chances (for having to cover). But Kamara has been very unsettled-seeming himself.

    Dendoncker, yeah…waste of space. Again not fast or aggressive, never really does anything progressive, just takes and plays safe. Or comes under pressure. I wondered, and probably Emery, too, whether game time (since he hasn’t really played that much) would get him playing quicker/better, but it isn’t happening.

  14. It appears that Ramsey will be missing for Saturday’s match against Brighton. No Moreno,Carlos and Bailey.

    This squad is looking wafer thin. Not much room,if any,for any further injuries.

    We only signed 4 in the summer window.
    No decent experienced goalkeeper, full back area both left and right doesn’t look particularly well covered. Striker to back up Watkins was not properly addressed.

    I don’t understand what our fitness team are achieving.

    This is going to be a long hard season for Villa.

  15. Another bad night last night,becoming too common ,10 matches played 4 defeats,along with 13 goals conceded and could have been more
    Back to basics for villa,pick best side to start maybe make changes if ahead ,hope some injuries clear up sooner than later,if Carlos is fit back to a back 5

  16. The atmosphere was so flat at VP last night. Empty seats everywhere. Seems people know something about our League Cup intentions and don’t expect much. Same with the players, just going through the motions. Contrast that with Everton who pressed and used energy.

    Have no complaints at all about the result. The only pressure we really exerted was at the death. Dendonks? I’ll say no more than what others have said. Same with Tielemans. And yes, Carlos the Jackal was on the bench but no idea how fit he is.

  17. I’m now looking for a big response from the team against the Seagulls. These poor midweek performances are showing the true value of our squad. Not as solid as hoped. Hope Unai selects his best 11 for the Euro games going forward. We need to be very careful about this otherwise another competition will pass us by.

  18. The squad is thin, Desmond. Obviously don’t know what all was going on in the summer window (FFP and the like), but I was a surprised we didn’t at least get another midfielder. I’d also say RB, but maybe the back 3-5 idea was supposed to make that superfluous.

    Maybe had something to do with the crazy valuations, the Saudis dipping in to either screw things up or fill some clubs’ coffers. Seemed like a lot of caginess with players and agents angling for dream moves up until the close.

    All that said, I understand about being careful stewards with spending, but Brighton and others have shown you can unearth quality players without breaking the bank. Some tough squad depth would be coming in handy right about now.

  19. Why can’t we be this aggressive and mobile every game? Great pressing. Great running and movement off thr ball from attackers

    Then other games like Everton and Warsaw we look like we stuck in mud

  20. Was nervous ahead of this game but what a performance! Ollie hopefully will now continue this scoring form. The press in the first half was insane, Brighton was second best. Second half was a slow start but Ollie’s hat trick goal settled things.

    Frem – can’t maintain this pace every match especially with players out. Going to be a long season and can’t burn out mid way. Carabao cup could be a blessing if we go far in the league and ECL

  21. Did not see this result coming. I’ve hit the ale already. Don’t care about any other result. Kamara and Dougie solid in the pivot. Best game to date from Pau. Ollie dynamite.

    Must admit I was very nervous after the Seagulls scored so soon after HT. Once Ollie bagged his hat-trick though the celebrations started. Riotous atmosphere thereafter.

  22. JC. . . .let’s be honest, none of us can have seen that coming.

    The thing that really strikes me, is the ‘awareness’ of Villa players now. They’re playing one touch passes, often without even looking to see where their team mate is. That must surely be coming from the training ground and Emery and the other coaches giving the players the freedom and confidence to play that way.

  23. Before the game I was reading an article about the similar playing styles of the two teams which should actually create a good game rather than cancelling each other out. Well they got that right!

    One online blogger/channel that I’m now boycotting and avoiding giving them the income from a click is ‘Villa News’. The articles are far too often speculative and negative. it’s clearly deliberate and I really don’t like it.

  24. Great day for SJM too. But VAR pissed me off. Seems Atwell had a problem with all of our first 3 goals before he decided to take a back seat. It was not possible to finish the day above Brighton, but we have. Floated home from VP.

  25. Plug, good point about Pau. We’re starting to see the range passing we’d been promised, but he also just seems much more up to speed with the game and anticipating much better.

    He’s still well short of even 10 games so he’s adapting pretty quickly in fairness.

  26. Plug, I’l take issue with you on VAR. I thought that it ‘could’ have gone against us on more than one occasion and I’d have struggled to find too much fault, but there were some genuinely tight calls.

    The fact that they had to look for ages meant that the original decision should stand as there wasn’t a ‘clear and obvious’. . . .and that’s what happened.

    I agree with you that they took longer than they should, but they did get it right.

  27. Frem, good to see you back. We’ve raised the bar again today. The game against Zincski now takes centre stage. We simply must win. Best available team to start this one please Unai.

  28. R0Bbo, maybe it was just me but the ref Madley pinged us for everything. March was the worst culprit. A Dougie shoulder charge and he falls down holding his face FFS. Got him booked too and I didn’t see any foul. Every time a player fell over the ref blew. He was waving cards around like it was Xmas.

  29. Stating the obvious, but it’s been rather interesting seeing other teams losing in Europe, getting dumped out of the cup, as well, etc.

    But Villa have managed to notch the league wins, while some others haven’t. (Everton seemed to have shot their wad midweek.)

  30. Plug and JG, I’m not saying the ref had a good game, just that I was happy that when there were marginal VAR reviews, they stuck with the referee’s original decision.
    On the Diaby/goalkeeper incident, my first thought was that it was a clear penalty. . . . after the reviews I really wasn’t sure what to think!

  31. Great performance. Hopefully Diaby and Kamara are ok. Best game for Ollie in a Villa shirt? All players were great. Think Zaniolo needs more time to see the best of him. JJ back to his best, up to match speed after 1/2 a game. Also thought Martinez long kicks were great.

    It was cool to see soooo many players making heart signs to the crowd afterwards. Unai building a great team spirit

  32. Yeah and now they’ve come out and apologized for the cock-up on Diaz’s goal, JG. Farce.

    Not that I have any love for the scousers, but I didn’t want Spurs getting all three points today.

  33. JC,

    Great stats. Thanks for sharing.

    Never watch Wolves, but watched today hoping they’d win against Man C. They deserved to win

    Best player by far on the park Joao Gomes, played 6 and 8. Unreal engine. Never heard of him. He ran sooo much, had to be subbed for a #6 on 70mins. Traore – he was excellent

    Pedro Neto on RW, skinned Ake for pace and skill

    I think we’re playing them on Sunday. It won’t be easy

  34. I still have a warm glow the morning after. De Zerb taking pelters from the natives on the south coast. After all that he’s done for them. The flak guns are out.

    Wolfies won’t be easy next Sunday VillaMD. But I personally don’t think we can worry about them right now. There is a huge game on Thursday against Zrinjski and we simply must win it. Injuries permitting, I’d start with the same line up as yesterday since we’re not up against any mugs and we need to break them open. But who am I to tell Unai what to do. He’ll have a plan.

    His plan yesterday destroyed the Seagulls. Battered them. I’m looking forward to seeing how we deal with the Bosnians.

  35. James, I would run with your team selection. Two changes maximum for me.

    Yep, the bindippers were royally shafted by VAR. You didn’t need the lines to see that the scorer was onside. It was on a par with the VAR lack of action when Kevin Fraud disallowed our last minute leveller at Palace a few seasons back when Jack was felled in the box. We didn’t get the goal, or a penalty, just a booking for “diving”. It’s not incompetence, it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s just plain bias using another tool to fix results. I know other Lifers think differently about VAR, but I would bin it.

    Some might point to our 3rd goal yesterday as getting one back from VAR when March was “fouled” in the build up. I disagree. March leapt like a salmon and the ref ignored his theatrics. You don’t rule goals out for this kind of thing. There were enough defenders around to clear the ball but they didn’t. Bit like someone scoring from a corner that was actually a goal kick. It happens, once awarded a team must defend it.

  36. r0bb0,

    Hope you’ve been well.

    Yeah, that anticipation definitely comes from the training ground plus playing together. When it hasn’t been the preferred XI, we’ve seen more of the little one-touch givebacks, flick-ons, one-twos not working and players not expecting them.

    I do hope it ends up spreading deeper (and sooner rather than later), which I know is what Emery’s been trying to do, give himself some depth, players who can slot in and give each other breaks.

  37. r0bb0,

    My reply sounded kind of trite. You have to have an idea you want to drill in practice to make that happen. Which is what I think you’re saying, and that’s why he’s a great manager.

    Has an idea. Knows what it takes. Works with the players at very fine levels to communicate how it happens.

  38. Just want to say what man Uni Emery is

    It’s a pleasure watching us now most the time. Knowing we go into games and compete and have a plan is just brilliant

    The tactics on Saturday were just fantastic. Never seen anything like it how Toress stepped up on welback and we dropped into a back 3. Luiz pushed behind Watkins and disby off the ball. Mcginn was playing more narrow. We went direct and passed Brighton press

    Uni is just the best manager I’ve ever seen

    We’ve never had a tactical manager. I’ve had to watch MON ball and Bruce and Smith and lambert in my life time. Just all no tactical knowledge between them. Everything was basic and simple run backwards run forward and hope something happens

    Emery is just brilliant and to do it with a limited quality squad is just amazing. I was really disappointed in our summer business we needed a right back and another forward in and we didn’t do it. Hopefully January we actually back him. If we can give Emery a quality right back and another diaby quality forward just imagine

  39. Also in January I think we need another cm. Telimans looks very very poor

    Can’t wait for Thursday

    It will be strongest 11 right ?

  40. JC, yes I’ve been well thanks, just not got the hang of this semi-retirement thing yet!

    Completely agree with your comments about Emery’s coaching. You get the impression that the players respect his knowledge and attention to detail, which makes it much more likely that they’re going to take his ideas on board. I imagine the whole squad will be getting similar advice and coaching, but there’s nothing like the adrenalin of a real match situation to test it out so it’s to be expected that the more peripheral players are going to take a little longer to really put it all into practice.
    Fact is, when it works, its a joy to watch. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has thought ‘is this really Villa?” and been so impressed that players who have been with us for q while now are adapting so well to the new styles of playing

  41. Welcome back frem. I’ll admit that I say that slightly nervously because of past history, but it will be great to have you back if you can add your thoughts whilst joining in genuine two way discussions on here.

    With that in mind, I wasn’t surprised to see that you weren’t happy with our summer recruitment as you, probably more than most, do like to see new players coming in. I suspect that this summer we were to some extent working within FFP constraints and we all have to accept that it just isn’t possible to bring in all the players we may ideally like. The transfers of players like Archer and Ramsey were surely indicative of that, but allowed us to bring in Diaby, Torres, Tielemans and Zaniolo. I agree with you that Tielemans hasn’t yet shown consistently high quality play, but we all know he has it in him, so I certainly won’t be writing him off, and it’s pretty clear that Emery isn’t either (and let’s face it, his is the only opinion that really matters here)

    We’ve been really unlucky with injuries, so early in the season and the fact that we’ve performed at the level we have, without the likes of Mings, Moreno, Carlos, Buendia and Ramsey speaks volumes for the manager and all the other squad players.

    It seems that every single Villa fan is grateful that we have Emery on board, but let’s not also forget our owners. They’ve backed the manager, probably as much as they can under FFP, and (apart from the Gerrard cock up) have shown great leadership themselves so far. . . . long may it continue!

  42. Can’t wait for Thurs, surely we will put iut strong side,win ,international break coming hopefully beakey will overlook konsa ramsay and watkins give them a breather

  43. Frem
    On recruitment looks like unless emery is getting player he wants needs he is prepared to wait
    ,50m players hard to buy more than 2 a season,don’t understand the grief tielmens is getting takes time to fit in,when he starts it’s usually a different side,likewise with nico he needs 10 to 15 games to get up to speed ,hopefully ramsay back with moreno to follow we have a decent core of15/6 players to mix and match with
    Hopefully monchi has a few bargains to come in January

  44. I’m comfortable with team developments to date. We do only want players now that are better than the current incumbents. Those kind of players need some landing and as our owners have stated, the club must be self sustaining. We have seen significant improvements in SJM, Dougie, Mings, Moreno, Konsa, Ollie. In fact, all of them are up a notch, some several notches.

    Those improvements are Unai’s work together with his staff. He’s a master tactician, serial winner and is developing a team that excites the fans. As Frem says, we have not had this level of coaching in place previously. And I’m with RObb0 in saluting the owners first and foremost. What a job they have done. Yep, they have piled in eye watering sums of money, but the value of their asset has soared by even more. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve felt this positive about us. Can’t wait for tomorrow night.

  45. Frem.

    Glad you’re enjoying the new style Villa under Emery.

    You have to go back to the days of Ron Saunders. What a squad of 14 that was,who won the 1st Division and then went onto take the European Cup. Magic days and the team played the most progressive and entertaining football. I think we might be on that road with Emery.

    As Robbo has stated FFP put a break on recruitment in the summer.

    We continue to have niggling injuries with no Diaby,Kamara or Ramsey for tomorrow’s match.

    Let’s hope the replacements put in a proper shift this time. A win is a must,otherwise we’re going to be up against it somewhat to get through to the next stage.

  46. Beaky must be running a temperature or something. He’s selected Ollie for his latest squad. Well done Ollie.

    Revving up now for tonight’s game. I’ll be heading down to VP shortly.

  47. Great to see Ollie in, but how the hell does Dunk and Maguire get in and Konsa can’t. I think it’s just tabloid pressure that got Ollie selected, he still hates the Villa. I wonder if he blames us for his marriage as he married a Villa fan in his time at B6 if I remember correctly!!!

Leave a Reply