Off the flat showing at the City Ground, Villa are back home to host AZ Alkmaar in their return fixture. Will AZ pose a tougher test than two weeks ago?

Emery’s made a few changes to freshen things up a bit and rotate. In come Carlos, Lenglet, Tielemans, and Bailey. Duran is back on the bench.

One thing I know I’d like to see is a side a little bit more switched on from the whistle. I didn’t think Emery was wrong to point to the early goal away, but then there was always the seeming lack of urgency and incision that followed from the players.

So, it’s a chance tonight to both improve Villa’s group position and regain a little momentum.

Over to you.

Comments 118

  1. I think Tielemans did OK but he is just not Dougie. Diaby has been a bit off for the last few games. Wish Duran had come on instead of Zaniolo. Need a bit more muscle in this game.

  2. I deliberately avoided doing a pre-match Bailey slag off. Don’t know if I did the right thing. Don’t remember him going down hurt today or being delicate so I suppose that’s an improvement. Kamara did a lot of unflashy good work today for the whole game but Dougie comes on for ten minutes and nails motm.

  3. AZ goal was clearly off-side. VAR is bizarre. My thoughts

    Lenglet and Carlos- but great backup. Hope Carlos is not injured

    Konsa – could play #6. Quality player

    Digne – wow, Mr Consistent

    Kamara – best I’ve ever seen him play for us

    Tielemans – maybe he needs a run of games. Still looks average ti me

    SJM – needs a rest. He’s jaded

    Bailey – flashes of greatness. Needs to run at defenders more.

    Ollie and Diaby – jaded

    Zaniolo – poor again

    Douglas – wow. So creative. Tielemans should watch

    Cash – good energy

  4. God. Another mistake admission?

    That going in while we were all over them early would likely have led to a rout.

    Never mind the ref letting every move-killing foul, every pull-back go without consequence. If you can’t stop a team playing without fouling them, what’s the point of the game?

  5. Happy enough heading home last night with 3 points in the bag. But Lenglet’s goal left me confused. The free kick was taken from the corner flag so deduced it was Bailey offside? How so? Watkins puts a header on goal, defender clears the attempt from the goal line out towards Bailey who’s then flagged. Scandalous decision.

    But looking at the replay this morning I see Kamara’s big miss was not deflected for the corner that Carlos the Jackal scored from. So I’ll fume a little less.

  6. Bottom line, we must beat Legia to finish top and move to the round of 16. Anything less and we’re likely playing a Europa League play off tie.

  7. Constructive criticism from last night is the slow pace of our tempo. Moves need to be carried out at a faster pace. I didn’t like the game management after Watkins goal either. Hanging onto the ball around our area until the very last moment by which time the opposition was on us, is the stuff of soiled pants. Why we can’t keep possession in the opponents half where they can’t hurt us beats me.

  8. Morning after,getting used to this winning lark,yes some of the play is mind boring,some of it leaves me pretty close to soiled pants but most of all is the like of ollies goal beautiful
    A win is a must against Warsaw,yes a clear 2 goal win means we can rest a host of players for last match plus avoid 2 matches in February
    Roll on Fulham then international break with hopefully moreno and ramsay back well rested and eager to go
    Tielmens had decent game but hard to beat partnership of kamara and Luis
    Worrying diaby is out of form,nico needs a goal to spark him off
    All for emery to ponder on

  9. Plug,

    On tempo, was interesting hearing Unai after: ‘Staying patient’, ‘not panicking’.

    And I think this is the fine line you try to walk, being controlled without being turgid.

    I’ve complained about so many Villa teams in the past, trying to play fast, always shooting forward, turning it over and having it come straight back. Players always trying that killer pass, whatever, getting stretched, instead of being calm and pulling it back. I usually complained about it in the context of ‘decision making’.

    Flipside, though, is that quick ‘countering’ moves, or moves off high turnovers, often present really clear chances in space.

    Villa were playing fast and firing to start, and I think if Lenglet’s goal stands, we might’ve seen another 4-1 type performance. But they weathered the storm and the match gradually changes.

  10. And there at the end, there were some less-than-ideal decisions that helped keep us under pressure.

    At the same time, AZ were desperate and had the five fresh sets of legs to pressure really hard. I know we’ve all sort of taken it in stride, that change, but it’s massive in terms of how it looks when seeing games out.

    You can be facing what’s essentially a new midfield-attacking unit that can give everything for 20-30mins. Depending on who you’re playing, that can be a number of dangerous players that completely upset the rhythm/expectations the match had grown into. Wasn’t that long ago where that wasn’t the case.

  11. The intensity from AZ (and the stakes, probably) was why Unai decided not to give Moreno some minutes down the stretch.

    We could see him Sunday, depending on the situation, but maybe not with the break coming up.

    The quality of Digne’s crossing seems to have dropped off, but I have to think that’s due in part to how much work he’s put in. I’m expecting Emery to go back to rotating them within matches.

  12. John, I’m inclined to believe that Unai will not risk Moreno before the break even though he’s stated he’s fit now and raring to go. My comment (not a gripe)about game management after Watkins scored is where the ball control takes place. I watch Citeh and in such circumstances they play it among themselves in the opponents half, not trying to necessarily prise the opposition open but maintain control away from their own danger areas. It’s something we need to work on.

  13. And I’m all for patient build ups. When mixed with a sudden move forward it can be lethal. This happened with Lenglet’s goal. But then we went back to the patient game and forgot about Diaby and Bailey which resulted in AZ getting a toe hold in the game.

    Unai knows all this of course. He’ll have been on the case with them today. It was a significant fight back last night and sets us up for Legia. It will be interesting to see how the Poles set up. Will they come for the draw? Or will they try to win? Either way, I’m sure there will be much fouling from them like in the first leg. Hope the ref is prepared to jump on it, unlike last night.

  14. Understandably, there’s been a fair bit of criticism of VAR in the last few days and some of it justified (I don’t include Arteta’s hormonal outburst), but the fact is that VAR is here to stay so there’s little point in complaining about the principle, but there is justification in complaining about some of its application.
    I actually see a positive in them admitting to a mistake in our game on Thursday . . . .that’s what we want to see more of because without it, they’re obviously not willing to try and learn from their mistakes.
    Yes there have been mistakes (like JG, I thought that their goal was offside on Thursday and was waiting to see lines drawn, but it didn’t happen), but in the vast majority of cases, VAR has either confirmed the original decision is correct (or not wrong ‘enough’ to overturn), or, it has correctly reversed the decision.
    As far as I can see, the only justification that there has ever been for complaining about VAR, is that it slows the game down, and potentially stifles the immediate excitement from a goal. It was always going to reduce mistakes and it’s doing that very well. . . . . but not flawlessly.
    They do still need to reduce the cock ups and the first step, is admitting that there are some!

  15. Prior to last week, we’d gained 22 points from 10 games, which was our best start to a season for a quarter of a century. We’d won 7 of our top 10 league games for the first time in over half a century, and we’d scored 26 goals, which was the most for very nearly a century.

    I really haven’t seen our build up play as pedestrian. . . .I’ve seen it as controlled, which is what I think we’ve pretty much all been looking for for years now. I do remember exciting times under Martin O’Neill and I enjoyed our exciting quick breaks, but it was blood and thunder stuff with cross after cross into the box, so also quite one dimensional.

    There have been times when I think we’ve made a bit of a break and missed opportunities to find that incisive pass that opens up the opposition, but it’s unrealistic to assume that we’ll find that pass every time. Fact is, we’ve found it more often this year than we have for nearly a hundred years!!!!

    If we have concerns about our play then the biggest reassurance is that the man that really matters will have had them too and his workaholic nature will mean that he’ll do everything he can to sort out how to overcome those concerns and will be drilling it into the players.

    As JC said in his last post (I think) it’s largely now down to the mental attitude of the players . . .plus their injuries and fitness levels too.

    Am i nervous for tomorrow. . .yes of course, I still haven’t got used to winning, but that means that I still get a real thrill when we do (I wonder if Man City supporters still get that?)

  16. Everything seems to be going wrong for Spurs at the moment and I might be alone, but I do feel a little sorry for them.
    Their expectations had risen so high, but perhaps they hadn’t noticed that they’d had the second, easiest run of fixtures of any team in the league (we’ve had equal tenth easiest for comparison purposes). Their injuries are really unlucky, particularly Maddison, but no worse than ours. Their suspensions are self inflicted but then we’re likely to suffer a few of those soon due to the build up of yellow cards.
    Our game against them is feeling increasingly important . . . . .but hey. . . let’s hope we can get more out of tomorrow than they’ve got out of today!

  17. A pet hate. . . clubs with small grounds and few supporters that think that some idiot banging a drum creates an atmosphere.
    I remember going to watch us at Wigan and being close to the braindead prat who banged his drum throughout the whole game.
    I wanted to watch tonight’s Bournemouth game but have been forced to switch over to Strictly. . . .THAT’S how bad it is!

  18. Villa MD, apparently, Southgate said he was bored in the Chelsea spurs game because of VAR. Irritated maybe, angry, possibly, but if you were ‘bored’ in that game then there’s something seriously wrong with you. Obviously he wasn’t ‘bored’ but it just shows once again that everything he says is for effect and you can’t trust a single word the man says.

  19. R0bb0,

    Southgate is a strange cat. He has the best job in the World and he’s still grumpy. The best crop of English players ever. Can he get a tune out of them? I think Eddie Howe would be ideal International manager

  20. So this afternoon, we have the opportunity to consolidate our position in a breakaway group of 5 at the top of the table. What a contrast to just 12 months ago when we were hovering 1 point above relegation.
    Having said that, the next month sees us playing the top 3 teams so we’ll have to do exceptionally well not to see us slip towards the middle of the table after that run of games. This afternoon’s game feels pretty important and recent results elsewhere have shown that no game is a gimme so I’ll be sitting here with just the same level of nervousness as usual. . . . . not sure I’d want it any other way?

  21. I wonder if Unai is putting in Tielemans for a more defensive lineup with Spurs, Man C and Arsenal in mind?

    It seems like only yesterday that we almost went out of business under the Chinese ownership. Now we have one of the best managers in the World, great owners that care and understand sports, and great management and players.

    Out of the current Villa squad I’d only release Olsen and Dendoncker

  22. Villa MD, totally agree about Southgate and Howe.
    Southgate seems to set us up to be the perennial ‘nearly’ men. Yes it’s all very structured and secure and safe, and in fairness, that has served us well in qualification for big tournaments. The worry is that to win things you need that little bit extra. We have the players that ‘can’ do it, but is it in his nature to find a way to use it?

  23. Villa MD, I thought Tielemans did much better on Thursday and has earned his start today.
    He has the creativity but in previous games he was probably a bit rusty, was trying too hard, and 50% of his attempts were failing and then putting us under pressure.
    If Emery can get him back to his best then he can be a huge asset for us.

  24. Fair play to Fulham, showed plenty of fight once it was all but over.

    Again, some lapses, but I think there were some tired legs, too. Second-best in midfield for stretches there.

    But I have to think big-picture, what Emery has done with this squad is truly remarkable. 13 in a row at home, unbelievable.

  25. Some good classy stuff from Tielemans. SJM just savaged Fulham – obviously motm.

    Anyone remember Dave Mackay? Is SJM his long lost lovechild? While I’m being silly, Does Marco Silva remind anyone of John Gregory? Think I’ve seen too much football for too long. The long term memory is wiping out the short term memory.

  26. Just allowed myself a look at the league table. We are currently 2 points off top and league top scorers. The last time we did better than that was when JG was manager with his all English team more than 20 years ago.

    I might just finally allow myself a glimmer of optimism, but then man shitty have just kicked off.

  27. Well done the Villa Boys. Another winning performance and I’m overdosing on them. Better first half than second but Ollie’s goal settled me nicely.

    SJM (as others have stated) played a fine game and Tielemans also showed signs of improvement. Thought Digne and Kamara looked a bit leggy and will now hopefully benefit from an international break.

  28. Unfortunately due to some missed chances we failed to get another four bagger. Not that I’m in any complaining. It’s been a solid and successful 3 days. This team has plenty of goals in it.

  29. A clean sheet, a clean sheet. My kingdom for a clean sheet. But hey, who cares when we can hit the onion bag at the other end.

    The ale taps are open. Three points off the summit. One point off a Champions League place. Cheers Lifers. I’m absolutely buzzing after years and years of mediocrity and worse. Another top weekend.

  30. Still wondering how Ollie missed that open goal. VillaMD, I don’t think Big Jhon would have missed that header but would he have been Jhonny on the spot? Think Unai is letting him know who’s boss after some words of complaint from him. With regards to Diaby, I think his game might be more suited to matches against the better teams who don’t park the bus. When opponents attack and space frees up for him to race into it then comes down to quality of delivery from the midfield that feeds him. Get that right and he could be lethal.

    R0BBo, brain dead prats with drums or Strictly? Hmmm….tough decision.

  31. 656, you have to say Konsa’s call up to the national squad is fully deserved. He was my No 1 guilty suspect in our back 4 a year ago. His progress under Unai and his coaches has been nothing short of incredible. Obviously Deano saw something there when he was purchased but his career has taken off in the last year.

    Beaky has been as slow as ever in recognising the change to his status, preferring to select his favourites and even now, only selected as a reserve call up. Perhaps he’ll change his mind once he sees Konsa at close quarters. Time will tell.

  32. “Arsenal could offer English attacking midfielder Emile Smith Rowe, 23, in a cash-plus-player deal with Aston Villa for their 25-year-old Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz. (”

    Hahahaha…..couldn’t stop laughing when I saw that statement. It does however show exactly what the Laandan media think of us……. serfs to serve their every need. Dream on tossers.

  33. Delighted for konsa on a personal level but one we could have done without this week
    A rest would be more helpful, city players dropping like flies from international sides

  34. Moreno played an hour in under 21 so hopefully be fully fit by time Bournemouth appear
    Word is Jacob is going to be back training after international break ,just in time for Xmas rush

  35. Think there’s some learning/obstinacy issues with Duran. I’m guessing Emery would keep giving him cameos if he understands and sticks with the plan.

    Diaby does need space, and when we have breaks we need to hit him quicker. We seem a little shy of making that early pass, a tendency to carry just a bit too long. Also, I’ve noticed he’s often getting the ball with his back to goal, and often the passes aren’t great. Something for everyone to work on, but I’d like to see him on cutbacks and perhaps hanging a little further toward the edge of the box. But naturally that depends on play (has he driven deep, for example) or instructions.

  36. Fcuk these international breaks,especially with our squad travelling all over the world
    Busy spell coming up from now to middle of January
    Had time to look at teams in and around us
    Man City 1st team and subs miles above us and everyone else
    Pool they have salah world class still ,other than him We are fairly matched apart from depth of squad
    Arsenal over rated along with there manager,all money spent no really special players
    Spurs over achieved so far ,next few weeks will tell injuries suspensions and African Cup coming up,there only light is Son a really special player
    Chelsea couple good results don’t paper over cracks,1 billion spent yet Silva is most important player still
    Man u what a shambles on off field no special players
    Newcastle decent manager ,decent players haven’t went stupid in transfer market,suffering with expectations and injuries
    All in all think we can claim top 4 but it will take big effort and some luck to mange it

  37. James, Emi played 90 mins too. And Dougie got a subs appearance. But both Argentina and Brazil lost. Big Jhon was not selected in Columbia’s squad. Maybe fuel for more friction with Unai? Hope not. Columbia won without him.

    Yep, a big stretch of games coming up. Hoping the far east travel has jaded Son. The Africa Cup of Nations being every two years and in the middle of our season is reason enough to avoid signing players from that continent wherever possible. Impact on Villa has reduced these days with just Bertie affected?

  38. Anyone out there who thinks the EPL is not bent need look no further than Everton’s 10 point deduction with immediate effect. Whilst Citeh with 115 alleged breaches and Chelsea with alleged backhanded payments are ignored.

    Anyone out there who thinks football in general is not bent need look no further than Saudi getting the 2034 FIFA World Cup after the competing nations pulled out due to lack of conkers compared to the oil men. PSG? Another rotten apple.

    The playing field is definitely not level these days. Football is riding the stage coach to hell if the controlling bodies sit on their hands.

  39. Mighty Malta….ranked 171 in the world. And Beaky has England playing back, sideways, back and back again. The fans who turned up at Wembley have been taken for a ride. Dick Turpin has nothing on Beaky.

    Tactically, not a game for Rashford. He was duly crap. Round pieces in square holes with Tomori at LB. All over the park it was extremely poor, Foden excepted. Sooo glad neither of our boys were called upon for that garbage. Paper airplanes and empty seats with 10 minutes left was very telling. Seen more exciting dog walks.

  40. Hi JG, close, but they’re slightly further South West than us. I’m actually venturing over the border on Wednesday to deliver Crackling, Sweet and Sower to be ‘processed’. Yeah. . . . I was warned not to name them. . . Did I listen? Sigh

  41. Plug, the official line seems to be that Everton’s case was a single simple misdemeanor so they were able to reach a conclusion quite quickly whereas City’s 115 transgressions are taking longer to process.
    Yup. . . . sounds perfectly plausible and reasonable and before the end of the season I’m sure we all expect City to have been docked 1380 points.

  42. During the current round of internationals, Gavi suffered an ACL injury playing for Spain. Mundo Deportivo are reporting that Barca will receive up to 7.5 million Euros in compensation under the FIFA Club Protection Program (a type of insurance).

    This led me to investigate those rules further. The program covers a players salary for the period that he is unavailable to his club up to the maximum mentioned above when the injury occurs on international duty. Payment does not start accruing for the first 28 days, meaning minor injuries are excluded.

    So Ramsey got injured on England duty and we haven’t really seen him since. He came back briefly before the injury was healed but then out again. The compensation only covers his salary and Villa get nothing for “loss of opportunity” such as missing out on next season’s Champions League because of it and the lost millions that go with it. Are we expected to be grateful for small mercies? Meanwhile, Citeh and Chelsea have been mopping up squillions by alleged misdemeanours.

  43. I see that Ollie has admitted it was a tough night for him in an England shirt last night.
    He said he felt isolated and wasn’t able to make the impression on the game that he’d have liked to
    Of course it didn’t help that Kane was in close attendance when the goal was scored, but the truth is that he made very little impression on the night either.
    The point is, that our midfield was lacking in creativity and spark and just weren’t creating that many chances at any time in the game. It did improve in the second half but it still wasn’t good.
    The most guilty party to my mind was Grealish. Im sure it wasn’t deliberate, but in the first half he was just hopeless. I got told off by my wife for saying. . .”backpass” . . every time Grealish had the ball in the first half but that’s what he did. He’d take the ball down the wing, run into a cul de sac, turn round and pass the ball backwards . . . . every time. Was Ollie being told to just stay in the centre and wait for crosses, because normally you’d expect him to get himself more involved all over the front line.

    Once the goal had been scored there was an immediate change in Grealish’s play. He was cutting inside more, and nearly every time, he found a forward pass. I’m sure he wasn’t ‘trying’ to avoid passing to Ollie in the first half, but the fact is that he did him no favours.

    Hopefully someone with a better knowledge of how the game is played than me will have a different take on things?

  44. I’ll cut Beaky some slack for last night. He used Grealish and Saka wide to get in behind the defence but neither player produced much. Certainly Ollie was isolated and that didn’t change when Kane took over. It’s difficult breaking down formations that are 5-5-0 out of possession and 5-4-1 in possession. Prising that open is beyond Beaky and Co. The playing surface was also poor. And of course, his selections are very suspect welded as he is to his favourites. The penalty decision was risible but on the other hand, Maguire got away with one after giving the ball away.

    It’s great to see Tyro via Twitter giving an update on his rehab physio. He’s working hard in gym and pool. Look forward to the day I see him at VP again. For certain, that day will come.

  45. It all kicked off in the Maracana last night. Not only a clean sheet for Emi but also climbing the barriers as he reportedly tried to grab a truncheon from the riot police who were charging and clubbing the away support. My kind of player.

  46. Guess everyone is so chuffed at the state of play regarding AVFC that they have nothing to complain about?

    Spurs tomorrow will be an indicator to the fans going forward. Move into a Champions League position and we’ll be well and truly above the radar.

  47. Plug, you ‘might’ be right that if we were to win today we’d be “well and truly above the radar”, but I’m not so sure.
    After the Man City, Liverpool game, the TV pundits commented on how the draw had “really opened it up for Arsenal and Spurs”, not even a mention of Villa. It reminded me of the Leicester title year when it really was only in the last quarter of the season that they started being taken seriously, and even then, they rarely gained the credit they deserved.
    If we ‘were’ to win today, i dont actually think our profile would change that much. People would still see it as a temporary quirk of the season, and to be honest. . . I’m not unhappy about that.

  48. This gives a bit of an insight into John Mcginn:

    I liked the bit where he says: ‘Whether you are the star striker like Ollie Watkins or someone who’s a part-time cleaner, when you are in this building you are the same.’

    I wasn’t sure if that was his personal philosophy, or that of the club, but I’d like to think it’s the latter.
    I’ve seen a few interviews with players where they’ve used the word ‘humble’ and if that ‘is’ part of the underlying culture of Aston Villa, then that’s another reason to feel good about the club.

  49. If being humble really is part of the club’s ethos, then maybe it goes some way towards explaining why some individuals haven’t fitted in?

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