It took virtually every second available, but Villa’s relentless second-half pressure was finally rewarded in the 94th minute as John McGinn headed home Cash’s cross to give Villa the three points they deserved. Zrinjski sat deep and defended very well, but as is so often the case, had that one lapse that proved decisive in the late going.

With AZ Alkmaar beating Legia, the group ended up back at parity.

Emery once again rotated the squad, and with Ramsey, Diaby and Kamara not even on the bench, it’s clear he had to. Think he would’ve done anyway, because players like Tielemans, Dendoncker, Carlos and Lenglet are going to have to be able to step in and execute Unai’s plan. Putting Emi back between the sticks, well, a no-brainer and it makes us a lot better. Dunno that we’ll see Olsen again barring injury.

I know I urged him to select a stronger side since the game was a self-declared must-win, but Emery’s showed a lot of nerve giving as many of his starters at least 45 minutes’ rest midweek as he could. He clearly thinks any sensible Villa XI should be good enough at this level, and again, he doesn’t really have much choice but to ask them to make that belief a reality.

Apart from a couple expected counters, the side did enough first half to control the game, avoid conceding (thanks Emi), and shorten the time Luiz, Watkins and Cash ended up having to play. I thought Villa’s initial tempo was good, though it did fall off a bit as the half progressed.

Luiz’s introduction changed the game, and obviously Cash found more joy down the right against an increasingly beleaguered side than Digne did down the left when they were fresher. But at halftime, apart from not having scored, I didn’t really have anything bad to say about the performance. It was steady, professional, and patient if not overwhelming.

Opponents are always going to get chances. Zrinjski had two good ones, and Emi did what a world-class keeper should on both occasions.

So, yeah, Tielemans and Dendoncker aren’t yet looking like a pairing that’s going to frighten anyone. I’ve seen it said Tielemans would be better in a midfield three, and I can’t disagree. Duran is young. Bailey is Bailey. Chambers and Olsen deservedly didn’t figure.

But I thought Lenglet did well enough. Konsa oozed class. Digne didn’t quite have his sniper boots on and kept cutting inside, I assume on instruction for different angles/interplay, but his opposite number was pretty stout. Carlos had a decent enough game. Zaniolo is still finding his feet, but he works hard, wants the ball, wants to run at people, has a combative side, and is very unlucky not to have opened his account yet. He’ll be handful once he does.

I think some reaction to the match is a case that we’re all (maybe it’s just me) having to adjust expectations a touch after brushing Hibs aside so easily. Whatever the relative level of competition, both Legia and Zrinjski are top of their classes on good runs. We’ve seen they’re solid, well-coached, and desperate to do well. Villa, being the PL side tipped by many as favorites for the title, represent a fat target that’s going to get these sides’ best efforts. They’re all cup finals. (I know.)

Remembering also that it’s group play, you’re going to run into nights where an underdog side will be ecstatic to come away with a point from Villa Park. Had they held out, Zrinjski would’ve been top of the group and over the moon.

Which brings us to another of the funniest football clichés of all: Goals change games.

Legia getting ahead obviously set the tone for that game. Villa, not chasing, were increasingly in the ascendency against Zrinjski, who were forced to try and just see it out. I sort of shudder to think what it would’ve been like needing to score two against that defense.

General Thoughts
Overall, Villa, like any team, very much want to play with the lead. It’s no guarantee of anything, but it gives you every advantage and very much suits Emery’s possession style—as we’ve seen. If the goal had come earlier, Zrinjski obviously would’ve had to come out more at some point, and then the space would’ve been there to exploit. We’ve might’ve seen the 3-0, 4-0 scoreline some would think we should ring up. As it was, the number of bodies to work through in their box was nuts.

If I have one criticism, it’s sometimes the pace of play and not getting the ball wide quickly enough. I don’t know how much comes down to instruction, how much to the players’ caution. As predictable as the pattern can be playing out, it’s not helped by players taking the extra touch, telegraphing passes (allowing a marker to close), or choosing not to hit the FB/winger on the touchline sooner. We could also use a winger that can reliably beat a man to ignite moves.

A win’s a win, and it was an important one, but the big thing is that Villa didn’t quit. You could see the frustration, but they resisted thinking “it’s just one of those nights” when it looked for all the world that it was just one of those nights.

Villa are coming to that stage of development as a side who want to control possession where a lot of teams are going to let us have the ball for stretches. They’re going to try and deny the middle. They know we can score a shedload if they stretch out and give us space to run into. They know we play a very high line and are going to try to catch us out: they’ll succeed sometimes. But we’re going to have long periods of ‘meaningless’ possession, just like City, and like them, we’re going to have to learn to break teams down when there’s no space to play in the final third. Not saying we’re anywhere near their level, but we’re often enough going to have similar puzzles to solve. And like Liverpool, we’re going to have to live with the high-line risk/reward equation.

The other part of the development is making teams pay more often when they decide to press high, and we’re getting better at it.

Anyway, Villa have found their feet in the competition and are showing resolve. We’ve bounced back from losses with quality wins. We’re managing to rotate. We’re still suffering unfortunate injury setbacks, this time with Ramsey. Really atrocious luck, and I’d imagine Emery’s hoping they can hold out til January and get one or two reinforcements in.

So far, though, Emery’s managing the situation as well as can be expected.

Finally, congratulations on the call-up and new deal, Ollie. The point was made on the previous thread that Deano did well by us: Ollie, Mings, Konsa, Luiz, and Martinez, which would still be our spine if Mings weren’t out, and like I say, I think Buendia would’ve been fairly influential this season. So I agree, not bad at all. And let’s not forget Cash, who, despite doubts about his defensive prowess, is offering a lot going forward.

Over to you.

Comments 92

  1. John, lack of pace was my big criticism of the first half. Everything was slow, deliberate, predictable, pedestrian, military medium. There’s nothing like pace and movement to shift the opposition players around. Instead we had touches galore before deciding what to do with the ball.

    On the positive front, we got the 3 points and Ollie has signed up. Happy days. Hope he celebrates with a goal at Molineux.

  2. Got to say I was impressed by the Zrinjski goalkeeper.Perhaps he looked good because he was so busy that he had no time for nerves or time to think about what he was doing. Olsen looks like he is always on edge and perhaps overthinking. There must be a good goalkeeper in there for him to be an international player.

  3. I used to dream about a Cash and Guilbert right wing. Now I’m formulating a Moreno and Digne left wing. I’ll inform Unai in the morning.

  4. Plug,

    Seemed like we started decently, noted it at the time, but it did fall off after we didn’t get an early breakthrough.

    Watching United and Brentford, and there’s always this moment when you’re trying to break someone down that space appears when the ball comes out. That’s where you want the quick, incisive ball. You have to be waiting to pounce on those moments. Villa were lacking a bit there. Some of it might’ve been the occasion, needing the win, etc.

  5. Don’t know if anyone is watching rugby World Cup, but must saying reffing is first class ,var simple and easy to understand
    Only captain speaks to officials, so simple to implement in football
    Just watched one incident in Ireland Scotland match, Scottish lad made a petulant trip ,started a whole skirmish in which worse things were done yet ref got advice from var and sin binned the lad that started the entire thing

  6. James,

    Yeah, I like the team. Pau will probably play #10

    TMO in rugby is amazing. VAR should have a look

    Win would be amazing, but I’d take a point

  7. Drives me mad how we go from being so good against Brighton to absolutely dreadful today

    Few things. Cash is not a right winger. Toress can’t run or defend 1 v 1. Digne crossing was shambolic today

    We don’t have the squad to compete in Europe and prem

    January is a big window

  8. Good point
    Good bloc of fixtures, especially with injury list
    Missing ramsay runs,mings leadership
    Takes time for new lads to get up to speed
    We are not going to win every match so next best option is not to lose

  9. Ollie unlucky ti hit post. Moreno and JJ are huge losses. Bailey finally looks better. I prefer him to Zaniola.

    We don’t have squad for Europe and League. Tielemans a huge disappointment

  10. I would have taken a point beforehand. I would also have taken a point at HT. So I’m not unhappy. We might have won it at the end but maybe a draw was fair.

    Wolves have been a bogey team of late. This time we got something and the match came less than 3 days from our previous one. I’ll take the point and let the players have some recovery time.

  11. Fifth in the table. Four points off the summit after 8 games. Two points behind Citeh. What’s not to like about that. Right now, we are in contention for a Champions League place. Time for an ale or two.

  12. Must say the gushing and crowing by the Laandaan commentator covering Sky’s Arse v Citeh game at the end was over the top. Spurs and Arse….top of the pile….title race blown wide open…. all things Laandaan shine out of their arses. And they wonder why the rest of the country despises them.

  13. Some things just have to go down in Villa folklore. Like the Scottish Cafu’s solo goal against small heath. Pau has now joined this exclusive club. His goal, scored while the Wolfie fans were in full cry shitting on the Villa was priceless.

  14. Jbd, I wouldn’t mind betting that your outburst was justified, and I must admit, it did make me chuckle. We’ve seen frem come and go too many times to imagine that he is capable of behaving rationally, so this time when I saw he was back, I told myself just to skip his comments. If he ever does actually manage to gain bowel control, then hopefully people on here will let us know that his comments are worth reading, but I’m not expecting it.

    It’s no comfort, but it was surprising to see on another blog that there are others who suffer from similar need to blame others when things don’t go the way they want. Even though we’re 5th in the table, despite a really unfortunate number of injuries to key players, they lashed out at anyone they could, just because we didn’t win this weekend.

    It feels like immature behaviour, but is likely to be symptomatic of more deeply rooted psychological problems, so unless they’re lying on a couch near you, it’s probably best to just feel a bit of pity for them, ignore them, and let them carry on talking to themselves.

  15. VillaMD, Tielemans is a funny one. There were times in midweek when he saw a pass that few others would have done and when they came off, they created opportunities, but as others have said, he just seemed to be trying a bit too hard and trying too many of those passes, which then left us exposed when they didn’t come off.

    I’m still convinced that he’s a class player and if anyone can bring it out of him then it’s probably Emery, but in the meantime we probably need to be a bit patient and let Emery try and work his magic.

    Having said that, he hasn’t helped himself by publicly criticising the manager and he’d be well advised to just quietly put in the hours on the training ground and wait for his turn to come round which it surely will if he starts to play to his innate ability.

  16. Cheers r0bb0

    Got an OCD compulsion to read everything written by EVERYONE on the blog. I blend it all in to my own Villa experience and modify or reinforce my own thoughts. So try as I might, I couldn’t block out said sad person’s rants which then hit a very raw personal nerve – if we had a BLOCK button….. well that would just be nagging.

    That other equally passionate Villa blog does indeed have a vary nasty and spiteful troll who goes on there with the express intention of picking personal fights with any one they can – nothing to do with Villa.

    I end on a positive note, Frem was never personal, it was only about Villa frustrations.

  17. 2 weeks before next match ,bar meanless internationals with our players gallivanting all over the world
    This is our best chance of climbing back into the top 8 club sides in England with our maybe best squad since magic days of Ron Saunders
    Previously deadly doug destroyed big Ron, Brian Little and Gregory chances,and the yanks dalliance ruining o Neill chances,
    We have had better players but not squad numbers
    Maybe JC could do a post on past players favourites and waste of spaces

  18. R0bb0,

    Hopefully your right about Tielemans. Maybe he just needs time to settle.

    16 points and 5th place from 8 matches. Can’t get much better.

    Striker is the hardest position in my view. I think we’re lucky to have Ollie and Duran. Oh and Diaby. I’ve a sneaky feeling Bailey will come good.

    International break is a pain!

  19. Frem,

    I agree with a lot of what you write, except for Ollie comments. Ollie runs his butt off for the shirt. His attitude is amazing. Maybe he’d be better to go back to just in the box area and stop going out wide.

    Can’t see more than one player in Jan. JJ, Moreno will be like new players. Tim I getting match fit. Hopefully Buendia and Mings by March. Carlos and Zaniola looking better.

    Anyway, we’ve gone from being a Championship team, to fighting relegation, to having a world class manager and not having to worry about relegation. UTV – only good days ahead

  20. Hmmm…favorites versus wastes of space. How much time have you got for “WoS”? 😉

    In all seriousness, I’ve got a pre-internet blind spot for a lot of Villa doings, so not best positioned to be fair or even close to comprehensive.

    However, for those who have lived all those years up close and personal, I’ll happily let someone take the lead in kicking off the conversation!

  21. So it’s now confirmed that small heath have appointed Wayne. I think Wayne’s first act should be to front up at the pub on match day and buy beers all round.

  22. VillaMD. . . . I hope I’m right about Tielemans, but if you believe the online chatter, he’s had a run in with Emery. I’m not sure I ‘totally’ believe it because Emery has continued to play him and I suspect he’d not do that if the two of them had ireconcilably fallen out.
    I guess we’ll find out in January.

    You may well be right about very limited recruitment in January, and that will probably be driven by FFP restrictions as much as anything. . . . . aligned with the fact that Emery doesn’t seem to be prepared to bring in players unless he really believes in them and wants them, and that type of player will be even harder to find (at a sensible price) in January than the summer.

  23. We’ve had previous managers who seemed to be happy to take on players and then not use them. Martin O’Neill was probably the worst for that

  24. As you’re stepping back from kicking things off JC, I’ll just mention that one of my favourite players has been Dion Dublin. . . . .and even ‘before’ Homes Under the Hammer! 🙂

  25. Me most of my favourites came late 80s 90s
    Players like Chris price,Derek Mountfield, Paul birch inter Milan match,shaun teale,Kevin Richardson,,Ray Houghton, Ian Taylor tommy Johnson, unsung men

  26. It never rains but it pours
    Italians and gambling who would thought
    Zanoli kicked of italian squad after him and new geordie lad questioned by italian police

  27. Dammit, I just got sucked in by another ridiculous Villa News clickbait headline.
    I started reading the first few lines and realised the article was total bollocks, and at that point I thought. . .damn it. . .it’s going to be Villa News again isn’t it . . . . . I scrolled up and sure enough, yes it was.

    I guess my click will have earned them another penny so it’s mission accomplished for them .. . . . . I must be more vigilant!

  28. oh. . . .I should have said. . .it’s not just the clickbait headlines from that site. . . they specialise in gratuitously negative headlines about specific players. . .that’s what I really don’t like from a Villa focussed site

  29. On a more positive note. . . .another favourite player has been John Carew. I can’t even type that without hearing his chant going round in my head. It was always a great one to sing and I still enjoy seeing him at games . . . . with his mate, the future King of England.

  30. I was in attendance at VP when Dubbers nutted Gobbie Cabbage. I was on my feet screaming and I wanted that wind up merchant decked. From memory, Dubbers went through him with a heavy tackle. Savage leapt to his feet to confront Dubbers who immediately did the needful. Then of course I realized that the red card was a big handicap and from that moment on Savage became public enemy No. 1 even though he was already despised.

  31. Not good news about Tonali and Zaniolo. But we must await the outcome of the investigation before jumping to conclusions.

    At least Zaniolo is only on loan whereas the Wai Ayes paid about 70 million Euros for Tonali.

  32. Ollie scores the only goal of the game for England tonight. Should have scored a second one. His replacement Nketiah is not currently up to standard and should never have been selected. Likewise Rashford when he came on barely looked interested. Has electric pace but only when he can be arsed.

    Bowen poor. Henderson invisible. TAA not in his best position. Beaky will point to the score but the crowd looked bored.

  33. And indeed, well done Ollie. Couldn’t watch the match, by all accounts didn’t miss much.

    But good to see Ollie pop up with a goal assisted by our Jack, if I read correctly.

  34. Tielemans and Emery…

    Interesting one, that. Youri seems to harbor some misapprehensions. Being the main man for Leicester and a fixture in a perennially disappointing Belgium squad isn’t quite like arriving Barca for 100m on the back of a CL trophy and MOTM in the final.

    My read on Emery is that he really doesn’t care what Youri thinks. He’s going to use him because he has to and expects him to do what he wants.

    If he doesn’t, I can see him being offski. Unai won’t keep anyone who thinks he’s bigger than the team. And he likely won’t hesitate to marginalize him once he has more options. He came on a free, after all.

  35. Tielemans. I have to query his intelligence. He’s not happy with his game time and publicises it. His captain says that players have to deliver what Unai wants or be shipped out. No player gets an automatic right to selection, it must be earned. If he’s not selected, he’s not delivering what Unai wants, or at least he’s delivering less than other players selected ahead of him.

    Here’s where his IQ is limited. By opening his mouth in public, it will not convince any coach to select him. It will more likely hasten a departure. But prospective employers have been alerted to his selection stance and possible trouble ahead if purchased. Options are then reduced for the player. Not smart.

  36. Plug,

    What puzzles me is that he knew coming in that Kamara and Luiz are different players with different strengths. And that they were pretty key in Villa’s play under Emery.

    Seems rather arrogant to assume he just walks in replaces one of them when he has to know he doesn’t offer the same characteristics.

    He might argue that he needs to start and play every game to see the best from him, and who knows. That sort of seems the crux of it, that he sees it that way, and that Emery is obviously not convinced and isn’t going to break faith with a pair that have delivered for him and work well together.

    Anyway, see things like this all the time, but it just seems a little odd there’d have been this kind of misunderstanding so early on, and that Youri can’t look to the starts he has had and see he hasn’t made much of an argument.

    Dunno how things are at Bodymoor, but beyond putting himself publicly at odds with Emery, he can’t be endearing himself to Dougie or Kamara, either.

    Me, I might be a bit humbled to see Luiz come on and start running the show.

  37. 2 of the recent signings look to be below what we need. Tielemans and Zaniolo have not performed and have in different ways caused the club embarrassment.
    Also Clement doesn’t impress me. Come January/Summer windows there’s a great amount of players,who don’t fit the model being built by Emery and co.

  38. Desmond, Tielemans is an odd one. He has the attributes but is not yet showing them consistently.
    Feels too soon to judge Zaniola I reckon

  39. Phillips on the other hand, is not getting good ratings. Doesn’t Gareth “I can’t pick stars who don’t play” Southgate ever feel embarrassed by his own hypocrisy?

  40. Do you think that Gareth “I will pick players based on form not reputation” Southgate, knows that Konsa has been in great form and playing regularly for his club whereas Macguire. . .

  41. I think Gareth “I will pick my favourite players, so up yours” Beaky sticks to his predictable selections. He heavily favours picks from Laandan clubs to get himself an easier ride with the media. Gazzetta Dello Sport raved about our 3 midfield players behind Kane (Rashford, Bellingham, Foden) after the game saying Italy has nothing that potent. For me, they can have Rashford. Yes he scored a superb goal and he’s quick but he’s also sooo lazy. Guess he was only picked because Saka wasn’t fit. Now Foden, Bellingham, Saka in midfield is lethal. Mugwire, Henderson, Phillips, Stones were all short of match practice.

  42. Des, I’ve not been impressed by Tielemans or Lenglet. Both have played EPL previously but haven’t stood out. With regards to Zaniolo, I’ve yet to make up my mind since he hasn’t played EPL before and needs to adjust to the pace. Of course, he’s under investigation in Italy for gambling so until the outcome is known, I’m pleased he’s only a loanee with us.

  43. James, yep we owe Fulham so much and our gratitude to them is unlimited. A year ago they were the reason we now have Unai as you say. And 5 years ago, their result against us at Wembley did for Dr Skint and brought the arrival of Compass.

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