While not exactly cranking out the wins, Luton Town have started making it very hard going to play against them. So here we are, the proverbial banana skin that isn’t really a banana skin because every manager will tell you there are no easy games.

Doesn’t mean there aren’t games that break wide open for you, or those where the opponent is committed to having a poor day. But by and large, there aren’t any matches you can bank as wins without expecting to be challenged. For Villa on the day, this is simply about whether they’re once again up for the desperation of the danger zone as the season ticks ever closer to its end.

Course, would’ve and probably did say the exact same about Forest, and their first-half timidity is the flip side: sometimes the pressure shows in hesitance, being afraid to overcommit or make a mistake, that kind of thing. And as we saw, it only takes a half to dig yourself a hole when the opponent, Villa, is poised to take full advantage.

So, no idea what to expect today. I’m assuming it’ll be scrappy, that they’ll be in our faces trying to force the issue. They’ve lost their awe of the league’s heavyweights and will see Villa as beatable. They’ve put four past Newcastle and Brighton, took United to the wire. They’ve also lost heavily to Liverpool and City the last two times out. The performances have been improving, the results haven’t always been there.

Funny thing, was reading Emery’s pre-match, and as I digested, “I don’t remember the last match we played against one team being very demanding against us in duels and man-to-man,” I thought, “Well, how about Newcastle?” and he goes on to say, “Maybe the last match we played like that was against Newcastle and we lost at home. Tomorrow could be something similar. When some teams are playing against us like that, sometimes it’s very difficult to win the duels, to try to avoid their aggressive man-to-man. We didn’t do it against Newcastle.”

And there’s the match preview, really. Liverpool and City will take your aggressive marking/pressing and just play around and through it. That’s the next step for Villa. We’re close, it comes and goes, the assured takes and fluid quick passing. Emery knows what the key element is, it will just be down to Villa executing to negate that pressure and turn it to the Hatters’ disadvantage. But as Emery pointed out, they’ve faced deficits against top sides and clawed goals back. They aren’t quitters. So, I agree with Emery: Very tough game.

Good news on the injury front is that both Ezri Konsa and Pau Torres will make the matchday squad. Emery was hedging his bets about either of them starting, but Konsa will go with Lenglet and Torres will get some more rest. That makes me feel a lot better than Chambers and Lenglet.

Elsewhere, the team’s basically picking itself at this point, no other changes. In the end, it will be Luiz and McGinn who’ll need to be the telling factor for Villa, I’d think.

So here’s to a smart, disciplined performance where Villa deal with the pressure and are clinical with their chances. Given the early results, the pressure remains on to come away with at least a point, but preferably all three. It’s a game Villa don’t want to come away from empty handed.

Over to you.

Comments 87

  1. Yup JC, you’ve crystallised my nervousness in that intro, and I’m guessing most Villa fans feel the same. In some ways, I’m glad that we’re still not ‘expecting’ to win games, and one benefit is that it feels all the more exciting if/when we do!

    It looked for some time as if Palace were going to do us a big favour, but somehow, Spurs managed to keep ratcheting up the pressure, and finally, Palace broke . . . . makes it even more important for us to get something out of this afternoon, but like yours, my chickens are staying uncounted.

  2. Very good half, JG. Really like how Emery’s approaching this. Getting Ollie to the left to get the outlet from Moreno has worked well in beating the press.

  3. What a wonderful player Ollie is. I wouldn’t swap him for any striker in the Premier league and yes, I include Haaland in that. It’s not just the goals and assists (best in the country) but also the hold up play.
    Today, when Luton are pressing our defence so hard, he’s an invaluable outlet, receiving and laying it off for team mates. He’s being restricted by constantly being fouled and really poor refereeing from Michael Oliver (sadly, no surprise there), but still co tributing so much to this team performance

  4. That winger is playing for free kicks. They’re the third best scorers from set pieces so you can see why he’s doing it.
    Oliver falling for it of course

  5. No kidding, r0bb0….when that scramble went in, you knew we’d see what Luton have been good at.

    Wasn’t on for long, but Diaby to Digne, the suns did it.

  6. Phew relief
    Luton are the new Millwall Wimbledon but by god the ref was atrocious
    Fair dues to emery the subs worked ,Rogers started well but after half time was not in it brave call to take him off ,diaby looked sharp and digne the winning goal superb

  7. Wasn’t that just like Villa. Get 2 goals ahead and then decide to hold what we’ve got. It invited the predictable pressure and even more predictable the goals. Fortunate to escape this game with the points.

  8. James, the stats don’t lie. They also show the level of incompetence from Oliver. Either he has interests in Manure or Spurs or else he’s plain shit. He has demonstrated why UEFA will not be interested in him for duty at the Euros.

  9. The fouls count is interesting JG. Oliver was played like a fiddle by the Luton players. You can’t blame them. . . they know they don’t have the skill of other teams so they have to try and find a way of winning and theirs is to play for fouls and get Doughty to deliver the free kicks into the box (It’s why I have him in my fantasy team). I doubt they have such a compliant/gullible referee every week though!

  10. Watkins is right up there with the best. Not just his goals but his running. But Tielemans had a poor game in my book. Think James was commending Lenglet’s first half performance. I thought his second half performance was poor.
    After half time we stopped playing. Gave away corners for freebies and also so many free kicks that allowed the opposition to load dangerous crosses into the box.

  11. Don’t mind admitting that I was comfortable at half time with the 0-2. Convinced we’d never let another Manure happen. What an idiot I am. When the first Luton goal went in I was thinking Manure take two. Couldn’t see anything other than a Luton win. So I’m relieved big time at the 3 points and the weekend’s enjoyment is assured. But phew, it was a stained underwear job.

  12. I know it’s one game at a time and no doubt Unai will be on his computer on the team bus home checking out Ajax.
    But if I allow myself the luxury of looking at the horizon, maybe 5 more wins will clinch us 4th place.

  13. Plug
    Yep I thought lenget was excellent in first half ,2nd not so good but I also thought moreno was very poor in 2nd half,we really miss mings,we have no dominate player or big lads

  14. Just watching lutons goals
    First one pull on martinez
    Second one blatant push on mcginn ,but no mention of either fouls by commentators or from officials var

  15. Good observations there. I thought Lenglet did ‘ok’ second half, but first half I actually felt confident when he had the ball, which is all you can ask for.
    I hadn’t noticed how Tielemans did and that probably says it all.
    Bailey is such a tricksy player. . .you’d hate to be up against him, but more than that he worked his nuts off for us too and was often right back in defence helping out.
    Diaby showed why we bought him. . . .more of that please Moussa!
    Bravearse. . .used it to great effect today but that doesn’t do him justice, he held the midfield together much of the time.
    . . . . . . . and breathe (which is something I’m not bothering allowing the red wine to do tonight!)
    Have a great weekend!

  16. JG. . . no idea what Zaniolo was booked for I’m afraid. It must have been an off the ball foul which an official noticed. . .unlike that blatant pull down of Lenglet in the first half

  17. Oliver pointed to the touch line when he booked Zaniolo. Guess Zaniolo appealed for a throw in. Dougie got booked for standing next to a Luton player who threw himself on the floor.

  18. Ollie mentioned after the game that we have a problem with 2-0 leads. He referenced Forest last week and Manure. He suggested we relax too much and it’s something that needs addressing.

  19. I can understand why Rogers was brought in – he’s decent at tracking back. I would have brought Diaby on. For Sours I think it will be
    Konsa, Lenglet, Pau, Digne

    Cash and Moreno not t he best defenders

    Ramsey injury is a disaster. He was back to his best. Hopefully just a bad bruise

    On 2-0 leads, I agree Plug. Unai needs to figure it out.

  20. I went through the full range of roller coaster emotions yesterday. Guess plenty of others did too. The first half was thrilling as we put them to the sword despite the best efforts of dismal refereeing. The opposition were lucky to be only 2 behind.
    Then the desperation as we stood off and let them load our box with cross after cross. Just asking for trouble because at 2-0 the next goal is critical. However the final substitutions by Unai delivered the points and total exhilaration. Diaby to Digne to the onion bag.
    The one thing Rogers does give us VillaMD is height. At 6’3″ he should be effective at defending corners and set pieces into the box. But of course, thank goodness we have Ollie.

  21. Recovered after last night hum dinner
    Luton have proved all season they are force at home and can score goals
    Us we are maybe a bit inexperienced not many true leaders (that’s not disrespecting anyone)we are quite a small side as well and along with a joke of a ref
    Forward now to ajax what does unai do rest for Sunday or go for it
    If torres is fit does he play him to get match fitness up,could go to back 5 especially if ramsay injury is leaving him missing spurs
    I would go
    Cash konsa torres lenget digne
    Tim mcginn tielmens
    Diaby zanilo
    Other thing we have to manage is both Luis mcginn have 5 matches to go with only 2 bookings each allowed

  22. Yesterday I said I’d rather have Ollie over any other premier league striker. . . Including Haaland.
    I must have missed Haaland’s other contributions (I honestly can’t remember any) but his miss from 1m out without another player within 1m of him makes you wonder is his family are being held hostage by some man united supporters group.

  23. I wish we’d had this referee yesterday. He’s letting play go on and isn’t being suckered by cheating players (Rashford has been particularly

  24. Yes Plug, that feels a whole lot better doesn’t it. I have looked at the league table several times, just to reassure myself.
    If we carry on gathering points at the same rate as the rest of the season (a fraction over 2 points per game) then United can’t catch us. If we were to drop right down to just 1.3 points per game then we’d beat the highest points total any team has needed to take 5th place over the past decade. United would have to achieve 2.4 points per game to beat that number. . . . not impossible, but it would be quite a step up from the 1.6 they’ve achieved so far this season, and more even than the 2.2 per game that they achieved during the very best spell of 6 games they’ve had so far this season.
    We’re Villa fans, so of course we’ll still worry that United have improved and have been grinding out results even when they’ve been the poorer side (against us in particular), but despite that, we’ve actually pulled further ahead of them even over the most recent run of 6 and 10 games.
    I know football is played on the pitch rather than on a statistics chart, but we’d have to drop off badly, and they’d have to pick up considerably, to finish the season ahead of us.
    The oh so knowledgeable Gary Neville thinks they can still do it of course.

  25. I suppose the serious question which is still in the balance, is whether England will indeed gain the 5th Champion’s league place. It puts our Ajax games into a bit more context. It’s just possible, that our performance in the European conference will end up determining whether England gets that 5th place. It may not come down to whether we win the tournament or not. If it got ‘really’ tight, (as I understand it), our results against Ajax may even end up being pivotal, and deciding if the extra CL spot goes to an English team.

  26. Beating Spurs at the weekend would of course ease the pressure considerably and leave them needing to average an extra half point more than us in each game till the end of the season to match our points total.
    If we do lose, it’ll feel horrible, but we’ll just need to try and keep in touch with them over the next few games, till mid April when they have their horror run of Newcastle away followed by consecutive games against City, Liverpool and Arsenal, all of whom will probably still be fighting hard to win the league.

  27. RobB0, I think the team have got the smell of Champions League in their nostrils and it’s going to take some shifting to remove it from them. That Manure are chasing our spot also just adds to the players determination given how our games against them went. What more incentive do we need?

  28. It’s also clear to see the hole that Chelsea are in over PSR regs if they fail to make Europe for a second season running which is a real possibility. Hope Chuk is enjoying himself!

  29. Watching United lose was lovely…and one can only hope Chelsea continue to struggle and miss Europe.

    Chuk? Yeah, I can understand, but. And then Jack. He got his big payday and silverware, now back in no-man’s land. All that glitters, etc.

  30. r0bb0,

    It’s another big week. Can’t help but feel a win over Spurs would be a nice springboard.

    Haven’t kept up on the complexities of the extra CL spot. Rather interesting it might be in Villa’s hands, given how much it could mean to the club.

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