It’s Forest who come calling at Villa Park today desperately in need of points. Villa are almost equally desperate for points to stay ahead of Spurs and United in the race for Europe. Would be a good time to resume normal service under Unai Emery at Villa Park. There are, at most, 13 games standing between us and the dream scenario of finally clinching a Champions League finish. There are also four games standing between Villa and European silverware.

So. 17 games. But maybe not quite that many if Villa can rediscover their home form. We’ve seen the various breakdowns about what we probably need to clinch 4th or 5th: all achievable. But home form will obviously be crucial. As will somehow getting through with the side we have remaining and getting a couple players back.

And, of course, there’s taking all the points you can hoping that others stumble, the gap widens, and the margin for error increases. Games like today, that’s what it’s all about.

Over to you.

Comments 59

  1. Won a game again that we should win given our ambitions. Stark difference between Villa + Torres and Villa – Torres. SJM my potm just for gluing the side together in the way Kamara usually does.

  2. Well we could hardly have asked for a better start to the weekend eh?

    I’m clearly a really nice person. . . . . I’ve not even texted my Man united supporting mate

  3. It was an exemplary first half. We put them to the sword. Joy and ecstasy unconfined. A great team performance with the only caveat that Forest didn’t look up to much. But this is Villa. Don’t get too excited, there’s a kick in the teeth coming. It came on half time. And again straight after the restart. Back to nervous worry. Why had Pau been subbed? Hope it’s not a serious injury. We look a different team when he’s not there. Forest missed a great chance to level it and I’m bricking it. Enter Bailey to detonate VP once more.

  4. It was good to see Ramsey and Moreno looking more resourceful down the left. Getting back up to speed. Solid performances from midfield with SJM taking the carrot for me.

  5. One of Spud’s quotes seem relevant right now. “Be there or thereabouts when the daffs are out”. Right where we are in the battle for 4th place.
    Guys, it’s been a long time since we’ve had it this good. All eyes now focus on the Hatters at the Kenny. Another one we need to win.
    Seems Pau’s injury is a new one and not his ankle. Could do with Konsa back for next weekend. Otherwise as JG suggested, Mark King will need to clean his boots.

  6. Poch moan about officials is working, van dyke goal ruled out for a block,klopp going mad not used to refs going against him,carragher having meltdown where as michael Owen is agreeing with var

  7. Would definitely improve behaviour if the ref was miked up and only captains permitted to talk to them James.
    Mind you, watching Fernandes berating the ref at the end of yesterday’s game would have been pure theatre if the ref had been miked up. We’d have been treated to some choice expletives.

  8. Luis goal,his first what magic,52 seconds all 11players touch the ball,if it was media darlings arsenal spuds or utd they would still be showing it
    Emery is unreal

  9. JG,

    Agreed, yet glad we’re still flying under the radar. Or at least not getting a lot of attention.

    As I’ve been watching, it’s interesting how much I recognize of Villa in City’s style, for example. Not the same thing, obviously, but certain patterns and principles, the way we’ll build and then possess, the emphasis on keeping the ball rather than forcing it and creating midfield turnovers.

    It’s also interesting how certain teams don’t do anything more with their ‘dominance’ than Villa have achieved.

    And it really hit home seeing Lenglet and Chambers out there second half how much Villa have had to overcome. For a squad of Villa’s depth to be sitting fourth with the number of truly significant players who’ve either had season-ending injuries or long battles/layoffs…It’s incredible. I don’t think any PL club can be more aggrieved by the attrition.

    So while I’m happy to be overlooked still, I do hope that Emery ends up getting the credit he deserves. The way he’s changed the club, culture and philosophy in such a short time is almost miraculous.

  10. JC: – “The way he’s changed the club, culture and philosophy in such a short time is almost miraculous.”
    It also highlights the critical importance of hiring a master coach which although extremely expensive is actually money wisely spent. During my many years of supporting Villa I’ve always felt we’ve recruited coaches from the second tier rather than the top tier. Not for us the likes of Mancini, Mourinho, Ranieri, Klopp, Simeone, Conti, Guardiola, Wenger, Ancelotti, ten Hag yet these are the types of quality needed to properly compete in the EPL. It needed a shed load of funding to attract such talent of course and the lack of it has always held us back.
    Enter Nassef and Wes and for the first time real funding and just as important knowhow have been made available. They have been able to attract Unai and the results have become apparent. The changes on the pitch have indeed been miraculous and the asset value of AVFC has soared. As the owners grow turnover further improvements become possible. So different from the days of Normansell Smith, Herbert, Lerner and Dr. Skint.

  11. JC and Plug, the vast majority of fans are indeed giving due credit to both our owners and the manager. There are of course a few on other forums who like to throw in a few barbs, so that they can say ‘I told you so’ when we go through any leaner patches, (or maybe just because it makes them feel better when they’re negative about others) but, unusually, they are in the tiny minority.

    JC mentioned our injuries to key players and how remarkable it is that we’ve been able to rise above them, but I loved this quote from Emery: “As tempting as it can be to think of the injuries and setbacks as an excuse, we have a no excuse culture at this club: We must be ready to win,”

    What a great, philosophy, which seems to be holding us in good stead. When we lose our first, second, third and fourth choice centre backs, our 5th and 6th choice options are ready to step into the breach and are clearly ‘expected and trusted’ to go out there and fill the gap. We should therefore also give credit to the players, particularly those like Lenglet and Chambers who have been ready to do exactly that, and have stepped up when called upon. Let’s be honest, they have both done better than most of us might have feared, but you suspect that Emery would have ‘expected’ no less of them.

  12. Plug, you’ve made the point that investment in the manager is possibly the most important investment a club can make. We’ve been ready to invest tens of millions on signing on fees and wages for players but appear to have been less ready to make a similar investment in management.

    We shouldn’t ignore that when players move on to other clubs, we usually recover a proportion of our initial investment, or even make significant gains, but when a manager leaves, clubs are usually left having to pay compensation to both them and presumably to the rest of their management teams that tend to be released at the same time.
    I’ve often wondered how differently, player and managerial contracts are drafted, such that a manager may be sacked (and compensated) when they are deemed to be underperforming, but players like Ross Mccormack can just sit back and continue to take the money, even when they can’t be bothered to go to training because their “electric gates aren’t working”.

  13. I’ve seen some interesting discussions about whether Grealish would come back and whether we’d want him.
    I loved him being at Villa, but I can’t see how he’d fit in an Emery side. We’ve seen stats that show that although we play the ball around a lot, and build slowly, many of our goals are coming quite quickly after we cross the halfway line. In other words, we are at our most dangerous when breaking quickly into the opponent’s half. That wonderful goal at the weekend where all 11 players touched the ball was a prime example.
    Jack was great at controlling the ball, holding it up, and laying it off for others, but for ‘control’ you could also read ‘slowed things down’ and I just don’t see how that would work for us now.

  14. r0bb0,

    Some good thoughts…Grealish? Yeah, interesting insofar as he had to play differently for Pep, so I’d think he’d understand Emery’s system, etc., and play like he does/did at City.

    But I can’t see us paying what he’d cost.

    Oh, and I think the vast majority of Villa fans see what Emery’s done (and NSWE), I just meant the broader commentariat. I doubt it makes that much difference to him, personal awards vs winning things, but he really ought to be manager of the year.

  15. JC, yes Jack has had to adapt to Pep’s way of doing things, but it does seem that it’s been a struggle for him at times and he virtually lost a year of football trying to get the hang of it. He’s still wonderful to watch when on the top of his game but I wonder how he’d be used by Emery.
    As you say, it’s all academic anyway as we’re most unlikely to afford his fee and wages. . . . . maybe he’s more likely to go and play for Dean Smith in America as apparently they do still speak regularly.

  16. How Emery would use Grealish is also interesting. In this setup, seems like he’d more or less replace Ramsey, but might be thinking about it enough.

    I’m guessing you’d want him to carry, drive, provide the options from the left that Bailey has been delivering from the right, but more from the channel, and then the overlaps with Moreno/Digne.

    Not sure what the story’s been at City, why Pep went with Doku when they’d been winning things, JG was combining well with Haaland, etc. Insane to think he’s got a £100m player on the bench.

  17. Guess I’m saying you’d want a fair chunk of his old game, really, not that I think about it. Given the way we sit and possess, I don’t know that even pre-Pep JG would be detrimental.

  18. Watching the Blackburn Newcastle game and for the first time, I can see a case for a blue card, sending a player to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
    Several times, players have had a chance to take a run at the opposition goal and have been totally cynically brought down or physically held back, like a rugby tackle.
    The players have learned to be savvy, and spread thevyellow cards around the team. The ‘professional’ foul surely needs a greater sanction

  19. I’ve seen it said, the sin bin, r0bb0, and I can’t say I’m a fan…Just seems such a break from the traditions.

    Me, I think they just need to be quicker to send players off. That would clear it up. Being a man down for 10mins, not sure that does much and just gives him a blow.

  20. With penalties in hockey, for example, they have an instant impact…2 or 4 mins equals a goal a fairly high percentage of the time (last full season the highest conversion rate was almost 33%, the lowest 15%). So it’s consequential, but not overly so, and a big part of the game’s structure—it’s been in force (with variations) since 1904. It’s what everyone knows as the game.

    I guess I’m saying it just seems like ‘gamification’ to introduce it to football.

    But I absolutely agree with the pulling, tactical fouling, spreading them round. It’s become too much of a science rather than a once/twice-a-game do-or-die professional foul. I’d be more inclined to look at the total number of fouls incurred by a team, like accumulation of yellows for individuals.

    Maybe if you have +10 in a game you play the next game with 10 men for 90! Or maybe you just give more yellows to speed up the accumulation/suspension for individual players.

  21. I’ve never been a fan of red cards. There is too much incentive for a player to be tossed to affect the game. With the amount of gambling on sports and the importance of placement within the league it’s too much of a temptation for criminal behaviour.
    Are yellows or reds much of a deterrence for players? Do they get docked pay by the team? Perhaps a penalty that is closer to the bone for the player and less on the team would be more appropriate. A financial penalty that actually stings.
    If you want a blue card implemented is 10 minutes at ten men enough of a penalty? How about the perpetrator and a player of the oppositions choosing and make it more of an advantage.
    Bad behaviour needs to focus on the player and not so much on the team. Teams need to reign in the bad actors by not playing them or financial penalties.

  22. Grappling with players and holding them (at corners and free kicks) plus rugby tackles when a player breaks forward have definitely become more prevalent. Everybody is doing it. Some form of suitable punishment needs to found to stamp it out. Do I trust the law makers to find that solution? Not a cat in hell’s chance.
    Just look at the FFP (PSR) efforts. Everton get 10 point deduction reduced to 6. What is a permitted loss and what is not permitted precisely? All very grey and vague. Platini started the ball rolling in 2008 when England had 3 clubs in the Champions League semi finals. He was charged by Blatter to find a way to stop it happening again. The “solution” actually set the big clubs in stone and left all others with no way of joining them. It’s bumbled on for 15 years. More tinkering is happening by UEFA whereby a club will not be able to spend more than 70% of turnover on salaries. Suits the big clubs down to the ground as it craps on all the other clubs. It’s not an effort to level the playing field says UEFA. Why not says everyone else.

  23. I am pathetic!! It’s official!! So says Mr ten Hag who calls anyone pathetic who criticises Fernandes on social media. It follows the video circulating on line of his antics against Fulham last weekend where his cheating attempts were clearly exposed. Mr ten Hag says Fernandes had a serious injury!! It was so serious, he played against Forest last night a few days after the Fulham game. Mr ten Hag has gone down significantly in my esteem.

  24. Just seen an article about Moussa Diaby’s valuation and while these things are speculative because a player is only worth what someone will pay, these stats might be interesting:
    “When compared to forwards across Europe’s top five leagues over the previous 365 days, Diaby ranks highly in a range of performance metrics.
    Not only does he rank in the top 2% for assists per 90 (0.34), but he also ranks in the top 4% for progressive carries per 90 (3.99), the top 11% for successful take-ons per 90 (1.77) and for shot-creating actions per 90 (3.41), proof that he is among one of the finest attacking players in the continent for these metrics”
    This is not necessarily how it’s ‘felt’ to us fans, but then I think he has suffered from the level of expectation that has been heaped on him. We can all see that he isn’t quite at the level he was in his first few games, and certainly doesn’t show the level of confidence that currently exudes from Bailey every time he plays, but you have to believe that his time will come and his skills will shine through again . . . . . . as they finally have for Bailey!

  25. r0bb0,

    It is funny, the story in the numbers. Barring injury setbacks, I’m backing Moussa to come good in goals and assists quicker than Bailey did.

    But you’re right about the expectations, his start and then the drop in confidence. He’ll have an important part to play as we double up games again, and if Emery was able to persist and give Bailey the platform, support, coaching to find his game, I’m guessing he can do the same with Diaby.

  26. I’d also say that while Villa obviously look to Ollie to lead the line, distributed goals are huge.

    Obvs you’ve got Leon and Dougie pitching in, McGinn to a lesser extent, but we’re due Youri and Ramsey getting more involved. Although, Youri’s assist/key pass contributions have been there, they’re just flying a bit under the radar, not as dramatic as Leon’s.

    You get Diaby back flying, and Jacob too, and there’s enough.

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