Another interminable international break (well done, Ollie), and now another bogey team for Villa. Dunno what it is, but winless in 10 against the Irons since 2015 is something Emery will want to put right,  especially given the next three league matches are ones Villa should be winning.

I’ve often said it, but despite the ups and downs, early-season struggles, etc., both Newcastle and West Ham had a much better core of players than their results often showed over the last few years. Hanging around in the second-tier of the bottom half, they were never as poor as they might’ve looked. Which means their sudden ‘transformations’ are less remarkable than they might seem. Villa, by contrast, were very well suited to scraping 17th in our first season back up. That we’re now competitive with both is a true accomplishment.

The Hammers of course are just about everything Villa want to be this season, minus last year’s PL struggles while pursuing European glory. The reigning Conference League champions found the double duty hard going, while so far, Villa have managed to keep themselves up in the mix while coming to grips with the challenge of a European campaign. A win today would only see us move up one spot, back to fifth, but remarkably only two points off City and Arsenal. Which is pretty mind boggling.

But West Ham are obviously never easy. You might well say going in that a draw would do, and that would still see us move up. But of course Emery will not be entertaining that notion prior to kickoff. With AZ Alkmaar up Thursday, a win this afternoon would set Villa up nicely. At the same time, simply not losing wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Going to wait for a moment for the team sheet to be released, but Emery has basically everyone to choose from apart from Jacob Ramsey and Alex Moreno. The back six (however the shape is described) are going to have their hands full. I’m guessing Emery won’t leave Torres dangling out at left back, so if he does go with three CBs, I’d assume Konsa will be wide right. Regardless, Torres and Carlos will be facing a lot of pace and strength, which means Villa would do well to break things up further upfield. But West Ham will have their chances.

And in the time it took me to type that and get it wrong, Emery has decided to play a more traditional back four to deal with the attacking threat.

Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Torres, Digne, Kamara, Luiz, McGinn, Zaniolo, Diaby, Watkins.

It’s basically the strongest team he can field. Will it be enough? One hopes. As always, wouldn’t say no to getting the first goal.

And RIP, Bobby.

Over to you.

Comments 73

  1. I should also say I’d really love a result today to buoy me as I head to Mile High Stadium to watch my beloved, rebuilding Green Bay Packers take on the Denver Broncos at 9:25 GMT.

  2. JC,

    Was thinking the same. Some of the passing is amazing. I thought Zaniolo had a slow start, but he has burst into life

    Jerseys still look embarrassing with the sweat

  3. So Dougie quietly running the game as usual – good enough for man shitty? Separately in the clickbait press, we are interested in Kalvin Phillips. Developing clickbait theme?

    Just happened to notice that Duran isn’t even on the subs bench – more conspiracy?

  4. So far one best performances under emery ,deserved 2nd goal,Dougie in my fantasy team doing amazing
    Even better when you think no moreno ramsay or Duran even on bench

  5. OK, I finally have to concede that we might just have a reasonable team, Spam are no mugs and we just put them down. Last time I saw this stuff, Ron Saunders was starting to wind things up. Dougie MOTM.

  6. jbd,

    Not a starter for me, either. Shame he can’t pull his all-round game together.

    I still see him going in the summer, perhaps. But I’m obviously happy when he does flash quality.

  7. It’s hard to believe with JJ, Moreno, Mings and Buendia all injured.

    Douglas is developing into £100m player. Kamara improving. SJM excellent. Konsa – wow, he’s unreal quality. Pau getting better.

    Ollie and Diaby – is there better?

  8. ‘Aammered them at a rocking VP. Once again, I’ve headed home exhilarated. Patience was the key and Unai has delivered another masterclass.

    Dougie was sublime. Must admit I got the yips after Bowen scored and for a while I could see a second ‘Aammers goal coming. Then SJM found Ollie and his Exocet exploded the stadium. These are the best days since Ron Saunders. I’m drinking it in.

  9. Crack, fizz, glug, glug. Another top weekend. Two points off Citeh and the Arse FFS. Heady days. Even Bailey is finding the top bins. Incidentally, Dougie’s effort was going right in the top bin but their keeper pulled off a worldie. With Ollie’s earlier miss we might have scored 6.

  10. Thought we kept Bowen fairly quiet during the game. His goal took a deflection otherwise Emi would have had a clean sheet. Beating a bogey team gets another monkey off our backs. I’m on fire, one delighted bunny.

  11. I’m reflecting on the game yesterday. Still floating on a cloud. We did just hammer the Irons. Are we reaching a point where different questions should be asked? How far can this squad, driven by Unai take us?

    Players are young and still improving. As that happens and they perfect their delivery of the systems employed by Unai, even better results lie ahead. Am I getting ahead of myself? Can’t really say it depends on injuries. Yesterday we were without Mings, Buendia, Moreno, Ramsey, Carlos and Big Jhon but still gave a strong team a pasting.

    We will lose home games occasionally. But win most of them. Teams will come to VP with a certain amount of fear. The Laandan media seem to have finally woken up to our threat. The narrative has changed. How close can we get to Citeh?

    Despite all the positivity, Thursday’s game at Alkmaar is going to be tough. They are in form with 8 wins and a draw from 9 games. European games are always different, with skilful and intelligent teams. Some clubs make players sit an examination before signing and only sign those who pass it. And I’m not talking about a medical examination. Believe Alkmaar are one such team that does this. Fascinated to see what happens on Thursday.

  12. Full respect for digne,excellent yesterday again,defended attacked equally well,noticed in defensive phase he took up perfect position to head away,something he never used to do
    Moreno is not nailed on starter now

  13. Plug,

    Lots of good thoughts there…Been hearing that same question, just how much can Villa threaten for a 4-6 placing.

    I think the coaching and core team is good enough. The real challenge is consistency (and mental fatigue), any more injuries, and the days where we just won’t have our legs.

    The whole thing about staying up there is beating all those below and around you. Grinding out those 1-0 wins on the road against all the bottom-half sides when you aren’t feeling it, finding ways to offset bad luck (like the deflection for Bowen’s goal). Getting a tough three points on a day those around you lose or draw.

    That’s what makes it so hard over 38 games. But, we’re about a 1/4 of the way through. Next goal, hold our ground til Christmas, see if the window can help freshen/strengthen. We should have JJ and Moreno back in that stretch.

    All stuff we know…It’s just the “how good are Villa” question kinda leaves out a lot of significant caveats.

    We are good, though, and on our day can probs play with just about anyone. If we didn’t have the extra games, and got in a bit more depth/reinforcements (quality players, not just filler), I’d feel good about our chances to finish 4-6. I don’t feel bad about them, but, see above.

  14. Is Jhon Duran being a silly boy? Seems he thinks he’s already the dogs bollocks and should be playing more.
    He’s removed all mentions of Villa from his social media too?
    Well done Emery for dropping him completely if this is the case.
    The silly boy will get himself a reputation for all the wrong reasons if he’s not careful.

  15. When you look at Tielemans and the bad press he got and now it seems he isn’t disappointed with his place at Villa, I’m guessing Duran is the same.
    Just shit reporting.

  16. I hope you’re right Ian although it did seem strange that he wasn’t even in the squad on Sunday.
    It would be nice to think it was because he was being given time to recover from international duty but the overseas press seem to be reading more into it than that.
    I guess we may learn more in midweek.

  17. There’s been plenty of reporting on how happy players are under Emery. I think about how many top players sit on the bench at MC and seem to be happy with their lot. So I blame the news and like you said mid-week will be more telling.
    How’s retirement RObbO?

  18. Retirement? Well it’s proving far more physically demanding than work ever was.
    I’m now actively trying to find things I can ‘stop’ doing, to make time to ‘go back to school’ and keep myself mentally active too!

  19. Was just checking the fantasy team lists and noticed that Haaland has so far gained 64 points, but top striker in the premiership, with 70 points is our very own Ollie!
    Despite this some, people still like to criticise him when he misses an opportunity.
    Every striker misses opportunities. Haaland missed at least 8 decent chances in a recent game.
    Time for even the doubters to get on board I reckon

  20. In hockey every coach says put it on the net. Lots miss the net altogether but if you don’t shoot you won’t score. Keepers and the back four are very good at cutting down the angles. Goals only come when a mistake has been made or a great move by the shooter or the player giving the assist. The talking heads will be quick to tell you he missed a sitter. Most of Ollie’s misses are at the far corner, top or bottom. He’s usually in close and the keeper has the angles covered. It’s always he missed, never good keeping by the keeper. Most games a team doesn’t get more than ten or twelve shots in a game with 3 or 4 on target.

  21. Good points Ian. Too often, fans of a particular disposition, ignore the role of the goalkeeper and prefer to pile blame on the striker.
    Even after the game on Sunday, there were Villa fans focusing on a perceived Ollie ‘miss’ rather than his goal and assist.

  22. Ian, r0bb0…

    I know it’s not the case, but it’s almost as if people don’t watch any other matches. You see top strikers miss ‘sitters’ all the time. And it is generally just a matter of inches, slight bit of spin, little bounce, defender taking away other choices, keeper the same, forcing the issue and taking away time.

    Commentators don’t help either, “He should be scoring there,” “He’s got to do better there.” And 80-90% of them were never strikers.

    His goal Sunday was stunning, both calculating and instinctual. Finish superb, on his weaker foot even. He may never make us forget certain legends, but between scoring, assists, pressing, tracking back…He does it all, invaluable to the side.

    Indeed, r0bb0, he set Dougie up for the opener, then a moment of magic for the decisive third when we really needed it. Pretty big contribution.

    And it’s true, Ian, those are where a lot of the misses come from…and when you factor the ‘slope’ (distance across/distance forward), those are very small margins, especially at game speed.

    We love having Emi, because he does exactly what you say…in the right spot, narrowing angles, getting big, and into players’ heads/vision.

  23. Youri: “I’m working really hard and I’m becoming a better player and whenever I get to start showing that [then] I’m sure everyone will be really happy.”

    Bit of a recalibration?

  24. Maybe a bit of recalibration but I don’t think he had any visions of 1st team day in and day out. Emery certainly didn’t tell him he was going to kick Luiz, Kamara, or McGinn to the curb to let him in. He would know at the get go he was part of the rotation that needed to be created if Villa are to succeed.
    Perhaps he got a little frustrated but like every other player Emery got integration wasn’t fast. Bailey for example was frustrated. Remember his agent beaking off? Or Chuckwuemica although under Gerrard didn’t go right in nor at Chelsea either.
    It seems all of a sudden they see the light and start putting in the hard yards. So yeah, Tielemans probably griped a bit and a “reporter” heard it and blew it up. Didn’t mean he wanted to pull up sticks and go.
    These players know there is something good happening at Villa and don’t want to miss that.

  25. You never know, Ian, between players, reporters, agents, etc. If the statements were correct he did come across sounding a bit miffed. Perhaps they had a talk and Emery pointed to 5th, 2nd most goals, and an 11-game home win streak: “I think I perhaps need you less than you think.” 😉

    Regardless, those are better noises. I agree, not sure what he’d have been thinking coming in with Luiz and Kamara forming a good pairing in a team that’s winning. Given he was a constant at Leicester, I’m sure he was thinking, “I’m a starter,” but he may either be trying to sound less troublesome in case he does want a move out, or he might be buying into the fact Villa intend to compete on at least two fronts, and top-tier rotation is inherent to that.

    I’d also gather that Unai would be more than happy to sit down with any player, show them a couple hours of film and say, “Here, here, here, here…this is what needs to improve. We need to be strong in our structure and in our idea.” Which I’m pretty sure is Emery speak for “You will do it this way.”

  26. Newsnow clickbait trying to connect Tammy Abraham with a move to us, manure or chelski. Thought he was out with a bad injury just when he was about to sign for us last summer.

  27. We are also informed that Duran came back injured from the international (waste of space and time) break but might be fit for Thursday evening. His social media deletions were irrelevent.

  28. jbd,

    Seriously…when have ever not been linked with a Tammy reunion?

    Duran? I think he’s got it pretty good for a 19yo, playing in Prem and Europe after just coming over from MLS.

  29. Hope not too many changes tonight, probably a harder fixture than luton
    Carlos in for cash move konsa to right back,tielmans into midfield for kamara
    A win is important to try win group so we miss out a round in spring

  30. JG,

    Defo a harder fixture than Luton. I can’t be arsed to find out the Euro spots allotments for each league, but seems that each of the sides we’ve played so far are doing very well…unbeaten, leading their respective league, second, third, whatever. Alkmaar sitting 2nd in the Eredivisie, atm, I think. 8-1-0, only loss in 15 was to Zrinjski after they blew the 3-goal lead.

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