With the FA Cup replay Wednesday, and a chance to put 11 points between them and United on Sunday, Villa picked a good time to rediscover their mojo at Bramall Lane. It could’ve been a much less ebullient occasion, but Emery & Co look to have learned a little bit from a string of disappointing if not tragic results, especially against the bottom-half clubs who’ve taken to parking the bus. Sorry ‘playing a low block’.

Why five goals? Villa played it forward quicker, finding Ollie and Bailey in space instead of letting The Blades get set. That’s what they’ve needed to do, and they went out and did it.

So, tactical lesson learned, and confidence gained in executing it. Lots of plaudits to go round, but Douglas Luiz played a couple truly wonderful balls through to get the party started. Emery’s reaction to the goals told you everything you need to know. And Villa’s finishers were all very clinical on the day.

With Spurs conveniently stumbling, Villa reclaimed sole possession of 4th and padded the goal difference nicely.

Next up, Chelsea and United, two former Big Six clubs now struggling to be relevant. But they’re still dangerous and full of world-class players. They’re just not top-class ‘teams’ at the moment. If Villa are punching above their weight, well, what can you say about these two.

Doesn’t mean United don’t pose a threat position-wise…The winning culture they’ve developed over the years can carry them in spite of their very inconsistent and often underwhelming form. So you can’t discount a late charge, which is why the 11-point gap on offer is so important. That both of these matches are at Villa park, well, the set-up couldn’t be better. In answer to a famous question of yore, No, I wouldn’t want to bet against us.

Moving on to players, seems like Leon Bailey is about to sign a new deal, which is exciting the support far more than it would’ve done a few months ago: He’s finally become an impact player. Seeing lots of noise about ‘patience and support’, but to me it comes down to Emery and the staff. They may indeed have been patient and supportive (and I’d argue they didn’t really have a choice), but what they’ve really done is get Bailey to stop trying to do too much and just play within himself. And the better surrounding cast and system is giving him a framework that makes individual heroics less necessary.

What all this ends up meaning is that Bailey—and everyone else—know what they’re supposed to do and where they’re supposed to be. They don’t have to do it on their own. They just need to trust and follow the plan. This has seemingly allowed Bailey’s head and feet to reacquaint themselves. Instead of dribbling himself into cut-de-sacs, he’s showing and making the simple pass. And when he is taking things on, he isn’t generally looking at dribbling through three players, or trying to explode off the first touch which often saw a lot of poor control and instant turnovers. Like most everyone else, he’s gotten better under Unai.

Bottom line is that he’s no longer the player ‘where moves go to die,’ as I’d put it. So credit to Leon, credit to everyone. It’s great to see him come good and start to really enjoy himself. The decisiveness and quality in his goal was superb.

Which has led others to say Diaby and maybe Nicolo need the same ‘patience and support.’ They do, as far as that goes, but I also think it’s a bit too early to worry or be as critical as many, including me, had become with Leon. Yeah, it’s been 23 games, but we all know how settling in and playing different roles in a different system can work. I do think Diaby at least will start to shine again, and I hope Nicolo does too, down the stretch. But big picture he’s less of a concern since it’s only a loan, and Villa can let him go if need be.

And naturally, Villa will be hoping that Ramsey and Pau get back to fitness and be present for the stretch run. They’ve both obviously got big roles to play. Credit to Lenglet, he’s done a pretty fair Torres imitation and Villa were probably never okay with the loan possibly ending in January.

Anyway, it’s a big week, and very few of us imagined we’d be where we’re at at this stage of the season. If the players can pull out a couple more big results, big things become ever closer to possible.

Over to you.

Comments 229

  1. Konsa out for “3 to 4 weeks” according to Unai. If past updates on injuries are a yardstick, I’ll assume it’s 4 weeks minimum.

    Good news is that Pau may be on the bench tomorrow night.

  2. Any defenders on here,emery will be looking for bench fillers
    Injury hits keep coming and yet emery never moans ,either about officials, konsa got injured when we were 5 up its crazy

  3. Expecting a strong line up tonight. We need to get the job done. They will attack us so we’ll have every chance of picking them off.

  4. If Buendia can make a meaningful return, could be a big lift, JG.

    You never know with knees and healing. Some really do bounce back, and he seems to have been more present around the team, dressing room, and Bodymoor than Mings, with what we see from the OS.

    Would obvs take him time to get back into any kind of match fitness and to trust the knee, but if he could make some useful cameos, well…He and Youri might be able to unlock just about anything.

    Especially now that Dougie is playing like De Bruyne.

  5. Plug,

    I think the only time this year that we’ve gotten off to a fast start and haven’t capitalized was United. Would have to look at stats (maybe r0bb0’s feeling frisky again), but there’s a difference between blowing a one- versus two-goal lead. We’ve dropped a other points here and there, but you know what I mean.

    Fast starts are everything to this team. We’ll see how much Chelsea want to fight for Poch. Or themselves, for that matter.

  6. In furness, we’ve created a few chances you’d have expected us to score from, and (unlike me), I do feel that if we could score one, we’d have every chance of going on to win it

  7. Watching 2 goals again really poor fro. Us
    Kamara gave it away at halfway line ,sorry cash jogged back for me hiding not really doing anything
    2nd goal cash and Carlos had Jackson between them at edge of box but neither went with him
    So another 2 goals conceded that could easily have been avoided

  8. JG. You’re right that the defending is below par. The back line is looking raggedy too, compared with our usual tightness. It’s not surprising really bearing in mind recent enforced changes and that we’re without our first, second and third choice centre backs today

  9. Before that Fernández free kick I said to the wife that I’d be pissed off if they scored as I couldn’t see how it was a free kick when Fernández kicked Tielemans on his backswing.
    And then the tosser of a commentator says “who cares”?

  10. Was hoping we’d see Torres getting a bit of a run out tonight, but maybe the more sensible thing is to give him the extra few days recovery rather than bring him back in too soon.

  11. Work for emery between now and Sunday,just had a fb reel come up today showing us throwing away champions league spot despite been miles ahead of arsenal, think Everton reeled 11 points on last 10 matches under o neil

  12. Well…Just not on tonight. McGinn dithering, Bouba doing Bouba things, Youri not at the races.

    Main thing I saw was pace, pressure and physicality from Chelsea. If your passing and decision-making aren’t there, you’re probably not going to win.

    Moreno looked shattered running back at the end, and I doubt we’d have set up that way if Konsa had been fit. He probably gets the ball Carlos misses for the second. Chelsea a bit lucky for the first, and the free kick obviously sealed it.

    And not like we didn’t have chances, as disjointed as we looked. Tim could’ve scored, Carlos and Moreno, too. SJM, terrible call that, and he had a very good look but sent it straight at the keeper. There was another, can’t remember who, got blocked.

    Probs would’ve made the changes earlier, I’m sure Emery had his reasons.

  13. You’re right JC, although their second d goal was down to therefore, that’s not why we lost. I hate to say it, but Chelsea were just better than us tonight.
    Too many players were off their best, the backline was less secure than usual and our finishing just wasn’t quite sharp enough.

  14. JG,

    Didn’t mean to imply that. I didn’t like him, thought he was poor, and that a lot of decisions went against us when the game was still in reach, then sort of switched over to us more when it wasn’t.

  15. r0bb0,

    As with JG, yeah, he probs did cost us something if nothing more than any kind of momentum. I missed the lead-up to the second goal, and only saw replays, so if there was a foul in the buildup, I just didn’t see it.

    I thought it was odd that we were ‘heavy’ favorites given a back line of Cash, Carlos, Lenglet, and Moreno. They should’ve done better, but there’ve been only few minutes where Carlos and Lenglet have been out there without Konsa. I guess maybe some in ECL games?

    Carlos just doesn’t have the same pace, and Konsa has gotten to reading the game very well.

    Not risking Torres…goes to show Emery’s talk about the league being the priority likely had a lot to do with that selection. But we were just loose and and lackluster all over until the final 20 or so. Subs did bring us a spark, and Chelsea had lost their edge, but by then it was too late.

    The galling decision was the free kick and Endo naturally hitting a worldie to finish the game off. We’ll hear about Villa’s performance, or lack thereof, but Chelsea weren’t that impressive in front of goal and if we had been clinical it might’ve been different.

  16. I don’t subscribe to the view trumpeted by the Laandan media that Chelsea were brilliant. They merely put in a shift and worked hard for each other. In possession their players moved quickly into the spaces giving the ball player multiple options. Out of possession they pressed the ball player immediately often with 2 or 3 players.

    By comparison in possession Villa players offered no movement into spaces at all, choosing to stand still and of course they were already marked. Out of possession we had no pressing effort whatsoever. Beaten by a team that tried much harder than us with parallels to the game against the Wai Ayes.

  17. Of course both the performance and result were disappointing last night, but inevitably, that has given license for some fans on other blogs to criticise, the tactics, the players, the team spirit, the captain, and now even the manager.
    In fairness, it is a struggle to think of anyone who really came out of last night’s game with any credit. The substitutes made a difference, but at 3-0 up with not long to go, it’s not surprising that Chelsea’s intensity had dropped a bit by then. Having said that, Tim did look comfortable on the ball last night, and it was good to see Diaby get a goal. He’s been consistently getting himself into good positions but then getting a touch of the yips when shooting so hopefully, the goal will help to bring back a bit of the confidence we saw when he first joined us.
    Although Lenglet has done better than we might have expected, it would be good to have Torres back, although we’ve seen how others have taken a little while to settle back in to the pace of the game after injuries, and United are probably not going to be giving us much spare time this weekend.

  18. We still have Manure, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea again at VP. They will all put in a shift. If we don’t match them it’s going to be a tough stretch to the end. We can do it, see the Citeh game but these teams in this league will not allow you to stand off.

  19. Thought Tielemans and Kamara were sub standard last night. Too many of our passes went astray which is not surprising given the lack of movement.

    I am not privvy to the games stats but I would put money on Chelsea out running us by some distance not to mention pace or speed of passing. I even thought the 3 match official did more running than us.

  20. Just about recovered from the Chelsea mauling. Massive game coming up on Sunday. There is a lot more than 3 points at stake. A win will keep the chasing pack at arms length.

    The referee will be Rob Jones. VAR is David Coote. I hope we don’t get any contentious decisions from them.

    I haven’t seen us beat Manure very often. Hope Sunday is one of those rare wins.

  21. Massive game Sunday, looks like torres digne are available, very important we don’t lose keeping 8 point gap is vital
    Decent run of games coming after this so no real need to panic

  22. One thing I am struggling with is lack of our own youth breaking I to squad,shows how bad we have been run for years
    Other is size, physical build of our players,I know Canadian pete covered this in one of his shows but we need more big lads I team

  23. Pretty sure I’ve banging on about that long before Canadian Pete showed up, JG.

    Been an obvious issue for years, one of my things about Bailey, Traore, et al. Skinny, lightweight, no physicality and not any faster than that RW for Chelsea. So I love seeing the goals and assists, but out of possession…no help winning it back. Doku, Eze…many players have the same or better speed and control and more strength and explosiveness.

    You can play rings around teams like built like Chelsea and toon, but every player has to be one-touch and quick. SJM and Luiz are not fast, have short legs, can’t reach in. Bouba doesn’t seem to have a high top-gear, either, and isn’t very physical.

    Longstaff would come in very handy.

    Don’t know how widely players are scouted, evaluated in these terms in world football, but in the NFL, players have been evaluated and selected this way (their arm reach, leverage, vertical jump, hips/change in direction, ability to change direction dramatically at full speed in one stride…) for decades.

  24. And I know that was snarky, JG…not directed at you.

    I just haven’t heard him say anything that I or any number of us hasn’t already said. But the production values are nice.

  25. JG, yes, we do want to see a hard fast start and turn some of those 50:50 balls turned our way. I imagine fans of many clubs are the same, but Villa does seem to have its fair share of bipolar fans, and if we lose today they’ll be out and revelling in it. I’ve already seen one comment that “we are quickly being pushed down the table” and there’ll be a lot more over-emotional, incorrect comments like that, if the gap to 6th place was to fall to 5 points.
    Unfortunately, Ten Hag does seem to finally be creating a team spirit and nothing builds that like winning a few games. They have some very good players and a good manager, who is finally finding his feet so if we ‘do’ lose today, I hope the bipolar brigade don’t sour the whole mood of the club as there are still plenty of winnable games before the end of the season. Win half of them and the strong odds are we’ll be competing in the Champion’s league, despite whatever happens today.

  26. Plug, Thanks for the info on today’s referee and VAR official. . . . . I’m sure their past performances have filled every Vila fan with confidence for a fairly officiated game :-/

  27. Another comment I’ve seen is “we as fans are owed a big performance from our players”. I can imagine that a lot of fans feel that such highly paid footballers ‘owe’ the fans a good performance but I reckon it completely misreads what motivates footballers once they get on a pitch.
    Does anyone honestly think that they step over that white line and think ‘oh. . . .those fans have paid a lot of money, I’d better work harder’?
    No player gets to play at this elite level without having a strong competitive spirit and when they get out there I guarantee that every one of them passionately wants to win. The trouble is, like every one of us, they have good days and great days, and dammit, some bad days too. . . .it’s part of what makes us human. This is where the atmosphere in the ground can make a difference. Yes, the fans respond to what’s happening on the pitch but it works the other way too. It’s not that the players want to ‘repay’ the fans, but they do want to look good and gain more adulation.

  28. Whatever happens today, we want to win a few of our following games and try to keep within shouting distance of Spurs till mid April, when they have consecutive games against: Newcastle, Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool.

  29. r0bb0,

    I’m guessing supporters are the same everywhere…bipolar, as you say.

    You caution about expectations, the reality that this is largely the same squad that looked terrible under Gerrard, the fact the squad is thin, all of it, and people will still somehow think we’re some unbeatable force like vintage Barca.

    Emery has worked miracles, Villa have ‘overachieved’ to this point, and he wasn’t wrong that on paper there are 6-7 better teams.

    I’ve been ‘worried’ for a while that the slog of the season would catch up and that some were going to be very disappointed and overreact to the wrong things.

    Meanwhile, resurgent West Ham are getting absolutely dismantled at home.

  30. Not surprised by team,too soon for torres digne but at least there on bench
    Ramsay will give a better work rate than tielmens, hopefully Watkins and Bailey are on fire

  31. Also, yeah, the “players owe us”…they owe it to themselves.

    There are some, like Bertie, who maybe didn’t have the fire, but the core has fought and played hard to get where they are, given us a lot of joy.

    Sure, we don’t want to be disappointed, but we ought to be able to appreciate what it is we’ve done just to be in this conversation, atm.

    So I hope the players grasp what’s on offer today (how could they not?) and do themselves justice. It’s a day to be brave and leave it all out there.

  32. Philip’s has being a great addition to happy hammers,
    There fans are deluded moves has won them a trophy kept them comfortable in league but there not content they want flowing football

  33. JG,

    Yeah, think Ramsey has a better chance to bring the energy and drive we’ll need.

    Also not bad to have Youri in reserve. He’ll be a little unhappy, so he might be more on his game if/when called on.

    My biggest concern will be the flanks.

  34. We’ve responded exceptionally well but you’re right JG, it’s hard to swallow the awful officiating that led to their goal.
    The Rashford dive was so obvious that no impartial, and competent official should fall for it

  35. Today is a day to accept that the officiating will be poor both on the pitch and in the VAR room (it’s Coote), and try to get on with playing the game

  36. There’s been plenty of adverse comment about both officials even before the game so its not been a surprise that both have already made decisions in United’s favour (or avoided making a decision in the case of Coote)

  37. We need to make sure we stay in this. . . I can imagine United getting anxious towards the end of the game provided we’re still well in touch.

  38. Really wish Pau were out there. Think Lenglet needs to release Moreno more. He and JJ causing them problems. JJ just that little bit rusty mentally, but has been important otherwise.

  39. Even keane said neither free ,and offside should have been called,how can refs be so bad,surely var should told ref blow for foul when ball is in air ,would have happened at other end

  40. I must admit, alrhough the scoreline is disappointing, I’ve been enjoying seeing how we’re playing. Like you JC, I saw us as the better team that half, which confirms for me that we really do deserve to be towards the top of the table this season.

  41. I really feel for Diaby. . . .he has what we need, but you just sense his tightness
    Emery was calling to him to “calm down calm down Moussa”

  42. Awful feeling,6 points dropped v utd
    Emery hasn’t got much wrong but it’s not working since Xmas,we not getting rub of green at minute either not to mention since Brentford game refs have being brutal

  43. JG. . . I think it’s a bit more than just ‘rub of the green’. Somehow there are teams that ‘expect’ to win and we’re not quite there at the moment .
    We played the better football and made the better chances today but missed that belief in front of goal.
    We did have that belief at home but that was lost a few weeks ago.
    Emery has a job to reinstall that belief now.

  44. JG, yes Konsa is a big loss but ‘hopefully’ will be back again in a few game’s time.
    You’re right that Lenglet did OK, but Torres should be a step up, provided he can slot straight back into the form he was showing before the injury.

  45. If you want to raise a smile, take a look on the villa blog. . . the Bipolar Brigade are out in force and saying such silly things that I genuinely laughed.

  46. JG. I’ve just found our XG from our last game and again, we had the higher XG but scored one goal less.
    It’s my intangible ‘belief’ or maybe, your intangible ‘rub of the green’ that makes the difference.

  47. Your right, that the officials gave them their first goal so we were unlucky on the day, but we need to pick ourselves up and go again. . . there’s still so much to play for, and we saw again today that we do have what it takes to be right up there at the end of the season.

  48. Just watched a reel of our good chances
    Mcginn shot,Watkins 1st chance,Watkins 2nd chance,ramsay from baileys run and pass,Luis chance they were all goal scoring chances never mind all others we had,not emery fault we didn’t take any of them

  49. I was bored during the FA Cup run so mounted a Uni/Frem watch on the other blog. Said person was repeatedly called out and put down then disappeared a few weeks ago. No problem – they have all channeled their inner UniFrem today. Get the impression they have all put Emery on notice.

    I personally lost interest when their first goal was given without any VAR check for offside. Lenglet getting booked just put the cap on it. The ref was just a red tinged inconsistent twat!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  50. Normal service has resumed. Villa play Manure and…….lose. Just gutted. We had enough chances to win big but kept shooting at the keeper.

    Sometimes you don’t get what you deserve in football. We didn’t deserve to get nothing today. Piss poor officiating once more. Casemiro and Fernandes ranting, raving and objecting at decisions are all part of their plan. They deserve heavy punishment. They get smiles from the officials at the end. Fucking choked by this result.

  51. The performance today was much better. Pleased to see Tielemans benched. Not pleased to see Bailey subbed, he was giving them problems. Wasn’t impressed with Manure, still trying to understand how the hell they stole it.

  52. Another gripe was the opposition corners. Maguire goes up for them, he’s 6’3″ and we put Kamara on him at, well a considerable height disadvantage. Just knew one of their corners would deliver a goal from Maguire’s head. Sometimes we don’t help ourselves.

    This Indian Sign that Manure have on us is getting personal. We need to break them. Think Unai needs to acquire a couple of 6’3″ midfielders that can control the ball, run like the wind and demolish little shits like Fernandes.

  53. New day,still fuming,how must emery be,5 glorious chances squandered, first utd goal a shambles by ref,wonder will sky ref highlight it
    Our defensive set play has been poor for a long time,this mismatching of players (kamara v maguire) is going on since smiths final days al
    l leading to shaggy
    Emery has signed 4 permanent players and he hasn’t gone for big lads yet bar the young ones he signed in last window
    Fulham is reset time hopefully torres is ready to go then konsa it’s full squad
    Ramsay looked good in parts yesterday needs to get on goal scoring run,ollie missed 2 and maybe wasn’t himself yesterday but how many better are out there,one place emery is going to have to get more goals from is centre halves for big men they are poor in opposition box,kamara got a lot of stick yesterday, don’t know why,he was up against 2 whinging pricks, Bruno cassemiro

  54. Trying to find some positives even though yesterday still hurts.
    The outcome of the season is still in our hands. We still have a 5 point gap and much better goal difference than United.
    Yes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we’re slipping backwards, but the fact remains that we were the better team in both of our games against United so there is every reason to believe that we can gain similar points to them over the last 14 games.
    Ollie isn’t hitting the net as often as he was a few games ago, but we’ve seen before how it can click back into the groove for him at any time.

    We’ve had a few recent seasons where it looked unlikely that we could achieve the end of season outcome that we wanted, but good late runs of results gained us, seemingly unlikely end results:
    Our ‘promotion’ season
    Our ‘just escape from relegation’ season
    . . . . and last year, under Emery, our ‘European football qualification’ season.

    There clearly is the potential in the club to fight hard when the chips are down and there has to be a decent chance that we could do the same again this year.

  55. JG, you’re right, it is still galling that the referee gifted United two opportunities to score that first goal.
    Before the game, there were plenty of people making their concerns known about Robert Jones officiating our game. Now he couldn’t have known that giving a free kick for Rashford’s dive, or awarding a corner when there should have been an offside given (down to the assistant rather than the referee) would ultimately lead to a goal, but a game like that is decided by such small margins that ‘every little helps’.
    In England’s 6 nations match against Wales, I thought that the frankly, weird refereeing in the first half could have actually been what won us the game. I know how angry I felt about it ((although I did try to contain myself in front of my Welsh wife), and I did wonder if the feeling of injustice actually fired up the team to a much stronger second half. I guess that’s what our team and fans need to do when referees make similar mistakes in future (which they will). . . .use them as an incentive to fight harder.

  56. Plug, you’re right about Casemiro and Fernandez’s rantings at the referee. . . . remind me. . . . what was Lenglet booked for?
    Was he more vocal than both of those 2?

  57. Yes, it would be good to have a nearly full squad again. We’re all sweating on Kamara, but as Plug says, Ramsey seems to be returning to his previous levels, Digne is back, and Torres appears to be close too. It would be lovely if Konsa’s injury turned out to be a 3 week one rather than a 6 week one so we could be back to 4 out of 5 centre backs fit and ready to go again, which would enable Emery to play the formations he really wants to.
    The other big question is whether Diaby is able to get back into the groove this season, or if, like Bailey, it may take a full season and summer break before it clicks for him

  58. On diaby a goal plus an assist in last 2 appearances hopefully with easier games on paper ge will regain early season momentum ,I know games aren’t played on paper

  59. JG, I’ve not been able to find any half way reliable information on Kamara’s injury. . . .have I missed something? I saw one of the usual clickbait headlines on the totally disreputable Villa News site saying “closer to the tendon” but didn’t waste a key impression on opening it.
    I imagine it quoted their resident quack doctor saying something along the lines of. . . . it might be close to the tendon and if so, then it’s vaguely possible that it’s within the realms of possibility that (insert name here) is injured and will be out for between (insert random length of time here)’

  60. Villa News will also have a story saying “0% villa player needs to be axed, in which they’ll have found a useless stat and made an equally useless story pout of it along the lines of: “Martinez scored 0% goals with his head on Sunday and should be axed”

  61. I’m still seething about yesterday’s result. Hate the shit that Manure get away with. Not always obvious at a live game but I definitely thought Rashford was not touched at all and looking at the TV replays since, he wasn’t.

    Then the cross was offside FFS. How difficult can it be for a linesman to miss that when it involves a free kick? That said, we must defend the corner. Hope the players are still seething too, it will be our best motivation at Fulham.

  62. For the life of me I can’t understand that football can follow rugby and only captain speaks to ref,so simple to implement at all levels,saying that we would need to change captains ,nobody could understand mcginn

  63. For the life of me I can’t understand that football can follow rugby and only captain speaks to ref,so simple to implement at all levels,saying that we would need to change captains ,nobody could understand mcginn
    Plus let everyone hear the var chat,

  64. Another annoying habit is late flag or like yesterday attacks leading to a corner or free kick, use the European lines it was plainly clear cassemiro was off,same with nonsense of players standing in then running out

  65. On crosses and set pieces:

    As mentioned, we’re not tall at the back. Carlos wasn’t in a terrible position for their winner, he just wasn’t tall enough/didn’t have enough vertical leap.

    Those are balls Mings gets to almost every time. Same with one of the Chelsea goals. Just over Carlos’ head by an inch or so.

  66. With Bouba, I will say this: At times he’s been impressive…ever since he came back from injury, he’s very up and down and usually within the same game.

    High standards, yes, but he’s not a dominant player, has a few errors in him, and, well…Hasn’t quite convinced me that he’s a long-term answer.

    Which isn’t to say he isn’t a ‘good’ player. But me, I think you want more in that role for the next level. A good source said a while back that the profile is that he isn’t particularly good with the ball at his feet under pressure, which is likely why he didn’t get picked up by a CL team. I can’t say I disagree with that.

    In our current context, though, it’s a big blow.

  67. JC, I was thinking just the same about Mings. We’ve managed so well that we tend to forget just how influential he was for us ‘especially’ in the air. To be without Konsa too, really does leave us exposed on balls into the box. It further highlights what a stellar job the manager and players have done to get us to where we are right now without him.

  68. r0bb0,

    In all honesty, playing matches where so much is at stake with Carlos and Lenglet as your CB pairing…Nobody draws that up.

    Again, not terrible. But nowhere near the Konsa-Mings pairing. Pau, yeah, he’s good. If we were playing a back three with him, Ty and Ezri? That’s a whole different ballgame.

    But we’re not. And getting as far as we have with these kinds of injuries has been impressive.

    Even though Pau isn’t intimidating, he’s smart, composed, and might well have provided one of the missing passes that could’ve changed either of the last two games.

  69. After the violence at VP from the Legia Warsaw fans, UEFA banned them from attending FIVE away games in Europe plus a 100K Euro fine.

    Last night, Legia lost 3-2 to Molde in Norway and they happily saluted their away fans behind the one goal. UEFA are just a laughing stock.

  70. Impressed with Lenglet today. Cool, calm and collected and has been unobtrusively very good. Perhaps having Pau back has been good for him. I would take Lenglet over Carlos every time. Keep Lenglet – flog Carlos.

    Oh, and Ollie’s goal was quite OK!

  71. Good half according to reports, var fcuked us over again today
    Emery is going to have change tact and complain about officials, his was ain’t working need to be like all rest moan about decisions

  72. Credit to Unai and the players for coming back despite recent results and injuries. Seems we were much the better side for most of the game, even if it was painful towards the end.

  73. Ollie won the game, Martinez saved the game and Pau hugely influenced the game. Lenglet was unflashily good. SJM bustled Fulham out of the game. Not a hater but Diaby just couldn’t do anything. Villa back to winning games that they should win.

    Ollie and Martinez my joint potm.

  74. Results at Newcastle and Spurs are welcome but also show how you can’t take anything for granted in the Premier league.
    Can you imagine the meltdown if we lost to Wolves or drew with Bournemouth? (not on here. . . .but elsewhere)

  75. Tough professional win, r0bb0. Could’ve had more (that offside was very tight, and I think they called it on Bailey, not Moreno, which was questionable), looked like a peno on Ollie, but it was just the out-of-nothing goal that got Fulham and the crowd fired up.

  76. Considering that Unai prefers to keep a consistent team, we’ve done really well, bearing in mind how frequently we’ve been forced into changes across out back line. It’s felt recently as if there’s been a change every other game. You wonder how well we might have done had we been able to play our best team every game. . . . .but then I guess every team could say that!

  77. Phew,hard watch at end ,fulham picked up 5 yellows from 86 minutes on, ref poor the tackle on mcginn should have been red,never mind the var decision to disallow moreno Goal
    Martinez what a keeper he save of month for January in with a good chance for February now
    Watkins brilliant, emery has a week to recover not too much training, needs a rest too
    Happy villan this Saturday night,hey even dingles done us a favour

    Martinez is a god,

  78. JG, you’re right, there were anxious moments towards the end, but no other team that has dropped fewer points from wining positions this season, so we do seem to have more resilience than we give the team credit for.
    As you say, Martinez is one of a kind, but let’s not forget the other end pf the pitch too. We talk about Watkins’ goals (no player has more non penalty goals this season) but his all round contribution is unsurpassed by any player, as no player has more assists either. It’s a truly amazing performance so far.

  79. Just imagine how many goals Ollie would have now if he received the service that Haaland does!
    Haaland squandered a number of chances again today and I think only has 5 assists this season, so he really should be doing better in that team.
    Pep, quite rightly gains many plaudits for what he’s done in various clubs, but would Luiz have developed into the player he is now if he’d stayed at City. . . . .we’ll never know, but my gut feel is no. Jack has won the medals, but would be a better, and more admired player, if he’d gone elsewhere. . . . . and then there’s Kalvin Phillips, who has been destroyed by Pep. Hopefully he’ll regain his mojo, but he must rue the day he decided to say yes to Pep.

  80. A fabulous weekend is assured with our result yesterday. Having watched the highlights, Moreno was never offside. How the lino can put his flag up for that beggars belief. And John Brooks on VAR duty has obvious problems drawing lines. He’s screwed this up before wrongly wiping out a Brighton goal against Palace when he drew the lines in the wrong place. He got a 2 game VAR ban for it. This time the lines looked extremely thick and some Twatter picks show a bent dotted line but that could be fake of course. Nonetheless, between Brooks and the lino we got stitched up.

  81. With 13 games left I’ve been reflecting on the situation to date. As always, the team will focus on one game at a time and Forest will have been under the microscope on the team coach home yesterday.

    I’m hoping our poor patch is behind us now. It’s more than a coincidence that it aligned with Pau’s injury. He’s become huge for us having made the transition from LaLiga to EPL inside one season following in Moreno’s footsteps. Maybe it’s easier for defenders, but Bailey on the wing took a full season to transition from the Bundesliga and Diaby hasn’t yet managed to achieve it.

    For the home stretch, we need Pau fit throughout and hope Ollie stays fit too. Ramsey is getting to look more like himself. Konsa and Kamara will be big misses though. So overall this Lifer remains optimistic about our chances of Champions League qualification but there are no guarantees.

  82. Plug, we really shouldn’t still be having this discussion about VAR and offsides. If there were any half competent people making the rules they would have found a way of adapting the rules to eliminate this sort of discussion.

    There are a few ways of doing it, but here’s just a couple of suggestions:

    1) Do what they do in cricket, and give a margin of error, maybe with thicker lines, and if they touch each other, go with the original officials decision. (you may still get numpties like Brooks drawing the lines in the wrong place of course)

    2) Automate it, as they have done with goal line technology. All players now carry a tracker, and use that to automatically determine which player was the closest to goal. There’d need to be some amendments to the law so that the position of the tracker was the determining factor rather than the potential goalscoring part of the body nearest the goal line (was it Bailey’s heel or Moreno’s bum yesterday?). Every player would have to have their tracker fixed in the same place (where their shirt label goes?), so long legged players would have a bit of an advantage, but we’d soon get used to that and players would have to adapt to it.

    The last thing is that the referees need to grow a pair and let us all hear what they’re saying. . . . we deserve it.

  83. What frustrates me even more though is the defeatist talk of scrapping VAR because it gets it wrong sometimes. I refuse to believe that football is the one ‘special’ sport where technology can’t be applied. The rule makers just need to apply themselves to the problem and sort it out. Even with the imperfect versions of VAR we have now, there are far fewer wrong decisions, but it should be better still.

  84. Thoughts on how many points we need to grab 4th (or possibly 5th) needs historic investigation. Reaching 71 points might get us 4th. That has to be the aim. That’s 22 points from 13 games. Seven wins and a draw. It’s doable and means an average return of points per game less than what we’ve achieved so far. Which means I see Forest next week as must win.

  85. R0BBo, your VAR improvement suggestions are excellent. It should not be beyond the wit of man to implement them. But then conspiracy theorists like me will say such changes defeat the object of having VAR in the first place i.e. to provide a further platform to muddy the waters even more in favour of the “chosen six”.

    Bringing in a salary cap with demotion to the 4th tier for any club that cheats it remains my favoured football improvement option. Any automated VAR improvements will be welcome too.

  86. Plug, what automated VAR solutions could do away with is assistant referees. Would we need them if we ‘knew’ who last touched a ball and where and when it had crossed the line? Maybe assistants could be retained, but concentrate on assisting the referee with fouls instead (where fans could listen to their deliberations).
    We could also use automated VAR to ensure that throw ins and free kicks are taken from the point designated by the referee or assistant and if the ball is moved from the spot then the free kick is reversed.
    And finally, an automatic electric for players who argue with the referee, delivered by their sensor device. . . . .oh I’d look forward to watching Fernandez the first time he wore his!

  87. oh. . . . .and a further electric shock for players rolling over more than once when they go down. No genuinely injured player ‘ever’ rolls over more than once and I’d have enjoyed watching Saka get 3 shocks yesterday for his customary roll play acting.

  88. Haha…wouldn’t mind seeing Bruno get tased.

    Offside? Simple: The feet. And if one foot is in the air, it’s the plant foot. That’s where the player actually ‘is’. Elbows, shoulders, arses…they’ve got nothing to do with an unfair advantage, to my mind.

    If you’re using sensors, you’d have to have them all over the player, as one sensor in the middle of the back wouldn’t necessarily show a different position to the defender’s if we’re talking knees, heels, elbows, etc.

  89. Plug, in the past decade, the highest points a team has had to achieve for 4th place is 76 points, and for 5th place it’s 70 points. The ‘average’ points needed over the past 10 years though is 69 for 4th and 65 for 5th. This year feels likely to be tougher than average, if us, Spurs and United stay in the game, fighting it out to the end.
    You’re right (barring further injuries to key players), 5th place at least does feel very doable.

  90. JC, I meant to say that. . . . there’d need to be a change to the rules of the game to say that it’s the position of the sensor that determines off side. As you suggest, why does it need to be over complicated by allowing ‘any’ goalscoring part of the body? That way, you’d just need the one sensor. You could put it in the boots or jockstrap or implant it in their neck if you wanted, as long as it was in the same place for every player.

  91. Got to laugh at sky commentators, yes it was a bad challenge from Holgate but was it worse than mees for Brentford against us
    Referees are appalling bad no consistency getting worse with var ,fulham got 5 yellows in a 10 minute spell but you won’t hear about it

  92. Last night city players got in refs face over every decision but they made sure like there tackles it was a different one every time,surely some ref has balls to react properly,
    One simple rule like rugby only skipper speaks to ref,plus let us hear var chats

  93. Contentious calls by referees has been a problem for as long as I can remember. Hair pulling decisions by VAR happen every week end.
    Idid some digging as to why this is such a common occurrence and I think I’ve found an answer.
    Fouls aren’t cut and dried and a lot of what is handed out to players is due to the referee’s opinion of the play and whether a foul has been committed. It’s not the foul per se but how the ref sees the infraction and how the players are involved. All the rules are open to interpretation by the referee. And for a player, manager, or fan we don’t have any idea what the ref is thinking and of course “our” interpretation is slanted towards our team. For example, a slide tackle does not take ball possession at the moment of interception or not interception into consideration. The tackle itself is looked at, not if the defender touched the ball before bringing the opposing player down. Is it a clean tackle or is it late or is it too aggressive? These are some of the criteria for a foul to be given or not. And it’s the refs opinion on what level he/she is going to give the penalty. So you could have no penalty and a continuation of play, a foul, a yellow card, or a red card. All this to be dealt within a few tenths of a second. It leads to late calls, no calls, or to everyone else a questionable call.
    Then you get the commentators who probably don’t have a 100% grasp of the rule(s) moaning on about the play in question. You have managers who I suspect are pulling for their team and also moan. And the fans who call for firing squads at every possible infraction that goes against their team.
    The refs job is not an enviable one. The onus is on him/her to get it right and the rule book says it’s in his opinion. So with that in mind how is it possible to have consistency amongst 100 refs at 100 games played on any given week end?

  94. Watching luton dominate utd even they are losing, barkley at his brilliant best,but main pitch is awful ref,maguire twice clattered through back of luton lad stopping an attack ref doesn’t book him,then cassemiro gets yellow for nothing, consistency is not hard

  95. I see Gerrard’s not the only one under pressure. His mate Beale has lasted 12 games at Sunderland. He only lasted 10 months at Rangers and QPR was a flying visit for him too.

  96. Forest up at weekend, if ever a reason to drop a player it might be now,tielmens not very robust maybe Tim in there would help us,and probably as good a game to see what Tim’s like
    Mcginn is getting awfully close to a ban 5 bookings came after first cut off, but he is only 3 away from 2 game ban which cuts off at game 32,7 games we really can’t afford him out until at least konsa Carlos and Duran are all back

  97. Ian, your right of course that a lot of refereeing decisions are inevitably subjective. Their job is made even more difficult by players play acting (cheating) and the need for marginal decisions to be made instantly. Its why the ‘Clear and Obvious’ proviso for the VAR assistant is such an important one as it acknowledges that many decisions are not cut and dried, so it’s then best to stick with what the on field referee says.
    I don’t think their cause is helped by ex referees pretending that the rules are clear and that referees decisions are clear cut. Maybe we all need to accept that there will always be some ambiguity . . . . as long as the referees are as consistent as they can be.
    I do think it would help if we could hear what officials are thinking, and saying to each other though, otherwise we’re left bemoaning the fact that Bailey’s foot was in front of Moreno’s bum, and which, if either was in front of the defender’s foot?
    The big surprise in that instance was that the assistant actually flagged such a tight offside as they do seem to have fallen into the trap of waiting for var to make those decisions these days. Having flagged. . . . it was probably right that they stuck with the onfield decision as it was such a tight call.

  98. Villa published their annual results (for season End May 21 to End May 22) on 1st Mar 2023 and we made a small profit. Results for year 22/23 must be submitted to Companies House by 29th Feb 24 so we can expect to see them published in around 10 days time. Due to EPL and UEFA regs, they had to be submitted to the EPL by 31st Jan 2023 so that there is enough time to action and appeal any Profit and Sustainability transgressions (PSR which used to be FFP). From this exercise, we know that only Everton and Forest failed the PSR regs and await punishment, everyone else passed.
    Deloitte got hold of every team’s results in Europe and published Villa as the 21st richest club for 22/23 based on turnover of 250.5 million Euros which is approx £217 million based on the exchange at end of May 22.
    UEFA have now published their findings for the same period and they are dreadful numbers for AVFC who made a loss of 138 million Euros which is approx £119 million based on the same exchange rate. They also show that our player salaries stand at 70% of turnover (approx £152 million) and total salaries at 92% of turnover (approx £200 million). The additional £48 million for all salaries probably include Gerrard’s entourage payoffs and Unai’s Unai’s appointment compo.
    So the loss of £119 million over the year must be down to player recruitment, amortization sums from previous years, agents fees and the like.
    During the period in question, we purchased Coutinho (£17m), Carlos (£26m), Kamara (signing on fee), Duran (£15m) and Moreno (£13.3m). We sold in the same period Targett (£15m), Ings (£15m) and Chuck (£20m).
    We are not privvy to the sale and purchase payment terms for players but with exemptions for youth team, ground development, training facilities etc. the loss falls within PSR acceptability if not accounting acceptability. It explains why Heck significantly jacked up entrance costs this season and parked up the redevelopment of the North Stand in favour of smaller attendance changes.
    The present year should be a further improvement in turnover with European football contributing and a higher league finish hopefully. We need Champions League next season Lifers.

  99. R0BB0, consistency is the answer and that consistency would be consistency of said referee and linesmen as no two refs are the same. Hockey has the same inconsistencies but it appears that the teams know what to expect with the different referees. Still that doesn’t work out some of the time. The offside regarding Moreno was tight and like you amazed the lineman caught it. It appears that he was anticipating the infraction so his brain was already ahead of the offside happening.

  100. Ian, totally agree, that the most we can hope for is consistent officiating from each referee from one game to the next even if it is bound to vary ‘between’ referees. (as long as that consistency doesn’t involve ‘favouring the top six’!)

    You’ve highlighted an interesting point. We all ‘know’ that referees will see things differently. There are tables of which ref’s give most yellow and red cards for example and we sort of accept that, but that is just one demonstration of the fact that different referees see things differently and react differenty.
    I guess that’s why Forest have appointed a ‘referee watcher’, to analyse the foibles of each referee and make sure the players are coached to take advantage of them.

  101. MD,

    I was saying further up that I’m not sure about Kamara. There are moments when he’s looked really good. Others when he hasn’t. To me, he’s not yet proven he’s a CL quality player.

    Tim? I honestly haven’t seen enough. But he does have an opportunity, it seems, if he’s able to convince Emery and take it.

  102. for what it’s worth, I’ve felt that Kamara and Luiz have developed a good understanding with each other which gives us some stability in central midfield. Tielemans, when on song, gives us that creative spark that opens up defences but doesn’t have quite the same stamina and ability to break up opposition attacks that Kamara has. In the last game, Iroegbunam looked quite comfortable and y0u can imagine that he could do a decent job for us, but I wouldn’t have thought that any of us have seen enough to be able to judge yet. I guess we all ‘want’ our academy players to make the grade and the fact that he has actually made a few appearances suggests that Emery thinks he’s close to making the grade.
    Fingers crossed for him(and us) as it will give us that extra bit of comfort if we have more back up in that area.

  103. r0bb0,

    I think the two of them do have a good understanding and I think Bouba understands his role well. So together, that’s the real downside of losing him.

    More big picture, my ‘concerns’ are his tendencies to have more than one Mings-type error per game and his overall physicality: doesn’t seem terribly fast or strong. Or, he might be strong enough, but isn’t consistently physical in the ball-winning dept.

    That said, I’ve seen him look really good, and other times not so much. Not saying he’s a poor player, but I think we’d see a better Villa if we could find a non-£100m Rice type, never mind a Rodri, etc. Course, that would be true for most other teams as well.

  104. Heading off to VP shortly. We need to get back to winning ways at home. Expecting a tough game but reason we have enough to claim the points. COYVB.

  105. JC, Kamara does have the occasional brainfart, but as you say, brings a lot to the team otherwise.
    I guess that when a goalkeeper, centre back or defensive midfielder make a mistake, there’s far more chance of it leading to a goal so we also notice them more

  106. Hope you have a great afternoon Plug!
    Had hoped to be there as am up in Brum but wasn’t able to get tickets sigh
    Going to try out a new restaurant for early dinner before going to see Ross Noble tonight.
    Hope I don’t ‘need’ cheering up!!

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