You’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s City going for the double tonight, but hey, in this time of wonders, it’s Villa who could actually claim that honor. So that’s fun. But the odds seem pretty long given City’s need to win and far better health (never mind their overall depth), and I think most of us realistically are penciling this in as a loss. I’d think about 18 other teams in the league would, as well.

But we are seemingly living in an age of miracles. It wasn’t that long ago Villa comprehensively outplayed a weakened City side at Villa Park, and Villa have had very few truly poor performances this season no matter who they’ve played. Hosting Arsenal at the weekend, we watched City toil to little effect against a resolute title contender. You don’t get many 0-0s at the Etihad. The question is whether the currently bone-thin Villa squad that will travel north can replicate that. Coaching wise, they can. Physically, it’s tougher, especially without the tireless Ollie Watkins leading the line.

As we’ve all noted, the number of key players missing is kind of astonishing. Yes, others have had significant injuries as well, but they’re also deeper teams overall. Spurs have been there or thereabouts for years now. Newcastle were never as bad talent-wise as they looked at times in years past. Same with West Ham. Of the big sides, seems to me only Liverpool have the same kind of depth issues as Villa, but even then they’re starting from a higher floor, obviously. With McGinn and Kamara both missing, well, there simply aren’t replacements.

So where does that leave us? Fortunately, you’d have to say Spurs dropped two points Tuesday against West Ham, which takes a little pressure off tonight. Lose, and we’ve only conceded a point in the race for fourth. Also on the plus side, Diaby seems to be regaining confidence and is getting played to the right way. Zaniolo has started showing signs of the player we thought we might be getting. Rogers is also starting to find his feet, showing both an ability to carry forward and track back…with good pace. While I assume our wrecking ball, Jhon Duran, will take Ollie’s spot, Rogers might be the closer analogue in terms of overall contribution. But I’m thinking he’ll continue to slot in more like Ramsey would.

Besides Ollie, the biggest miss obvioulsy will be McGinn and his ability to hold, pass, scrap, and generally glue things together. That will fall squarely on Luis tonight. Tielemans will have to dig in and avoid some of the lazy balls.

I think I’ve probably given every Villa manager this advice over the years, which is to sit back, be compact, and look for goals on the counter and set pieces. Most of them haven’t taken it, except those who always set up that way. But Mikel gave it a whirl and it worked.

I think if I’m Emery, I’m challenging the squad to show they’re Champions League quality tonight. To show that even in adversity, they can come out and be smart, disciplined, and committed. That they can frustrate and deny if they stick to the plan. Think of it as an away fixture in the knockout rounds.

The biggest trick is to be switched on from the start, not go behind early. Oldest cliché in the book, but it’s there for a reason. Between Duran, Morgan, Bailey, Diaby and Zaniolo, you’d like to think there’s a goal or two in us if we’re smart about it. It’s mainly the middle of the park I’m worried about in terms of ‘control’, and then how we hold up on the flanks in terms of penetration and cutbacks. We’ll see how committed City are to high pressing, or whether they’ll be content to look to win it back in the middle of the park. I might limit our typical patterns in playing it out from the back and look for quicker outlets upfield. We’ve seen it a few times. It’s just a matter of whether the quality is there on the night. Could well be that just one perfect Tielemans pass will unlock something, or a Bailey drive that creates a good chance.

Bottom line, we don’t want to lose our heads, get stretched, turn it over and give them all sorts of room to play and run into. Just as we’ve seen with Villa, they can get frustrated when everything is compressed, and they will commit a lot of bodies forward. Villa need to show discipline not just in keeping their shape and not switching off, but in their decision-making.

So there’s my masterclass. If Villa do pull a rabbit out of the hat and win, well, it would be one hell of a statement and might just see them over the line, mentally. If they can come away with a draw, that would be extremely credible. If they lose, it’s not the end of the world or the race. Regardless, as always, I only ask that they put in a shift and give a good account.

Over to you.

Comments 105

  1. Good evening Lifers. Another good write up by John.I think we have the tools to deliver a statement win. My gut tells me we could to it. Morgan Rogers could be pivotal if he plays tonight. He has all the tools nail down a regular position in this team.
    Man City like playing central defenders at full back positions. We need Bailey and Rogers to run at them (Gvardiol and Akanji) tactically.
    Regardless of the outcome, we will still be ahead of Spurs which i think is also a good thing.

  2. Thanks John. Team news is interesting, some big players are getting a rest. Eye on Brentford?

    Aston Villa XI: Martinez; Konsa, Diego Carlos, Lenglet, Digne; Zaniolo, Iroegbunam, Douglas Luiz, Rogers; Diaby, Duran.

    Subs: Gauci, Olsen, Tielemans, Pau Torres, Moreno, Chambers, Kesler-Hayden, Bailey, Kellyman

  3. Plug
    I tend to agree with emery yanking, giving lads a rest,Europe is next week with a match before that is winnable especially mcginn will be back raring to go,if Luis gets booked tonight him and ayesha can have weekend off and rest

  4. We look a bit wobbly at the back. Citeh always seem to have 5 men in space. Olsen shifts the ball a bit quicker than Emi which gives me less stress. But Zaniolo has lost the ball a couple of times in critical positions and stays on the ground rather than getting up and chasing. Think Grealish and Doku are stretching us.

  5. Sickness for emery
    Martinez pulls out before match,out his control, zanilo jumps out way in wall ,again out his control, first half we had done ok especially with side out,probably have to look at swapping out Luis for tielmens can’t afford a red,Luis will have to sit out Brentford now too a rest won’t do any harm

  6. No can’t complain, but I’d like to see a bit more toughness, and don’t like some of the body language. Rogers and Duran need to work harder, imo.

  7. City can do this to any side even our best side just a pity the way couple goals have been conceded,this season when we loose we loose heavy but always pick ourselves up ,so hopefully that continues v Brentford

  8. Just arrived home and switched on to the second half. OK its not nice to see your team coming cede goals but I’ve actually been impressed with some of our football. I know it’s only goals and results that really matter but our B team has created some good chances against the best team in the world tonight.

  9. Of course it’s the weekend d’s game that really matters rather than this one, and let’s hope we get our usual bounce back from defeat.

  10. They are, JG.

    But effort is the one thing you can always bring…The slumped shoulders, the hands out, Duran (who took his goal very well) complaining about service then jogging back.

    I don’t want to be too harsh, but like was mentioned about the tackling, you have to dig harder to come away with something in games like this.

    And yes, City can do this to most anyone, especially given how well they’ve been playing tonight.

  11. Gutted with the final score. Wasn’t expecting much but I also wasn’t expecting a thumping. But then again, they are the world’s best at football as well as cheating.

  12. JG, I’ve not caught up with all the comments, and haven’t seen criticism of Emery, but what’s it for?
    The replay of their goal before half time shows it was a player turning his back and breaking the wall. . . Can’t blame Emery for that, and we’d then have gone in at 1-1 at half time, which would have been an exceptional result.. . . anyone who doesn’t think so just has an agenda

  13. Even though I clearly expected we’d likely lose, I think more than anything I’m not happy with circumstances that leave us bringing on Chambers, etc.

    Obvs agree the more important game is at the weekend, so we lose Dougie, get SJM back, hopefully Ollie.

  14. My only regret is that our goal difference has taken a bit of a hit. My positive, our potential next generation got game time together on the pitch. Always wanted to see Digne and Moreno on the pitch together but they didn’t form a left wing partnership, tiny second regret.

  15. Thought Rogers did OK. Thought Zaniolo had a poor game. Tim looked off the pace but that was down to the opposition. The positives for me (if there was any) were some of our crucial players got a rest. And we did make Citeh look open at the back more than once with a threadbare team. Now it’s recovery for the Brentford game.

  16. jbd, there’s that.

    But yeah, GD took a hit. And of course it was a real mish-mash of players. Not saying Emery chucked it, he didn’t have much choice.

    And players have to take their chances…not saying City away is the best stage for that, but I do feel a bit let down by some aspects of the performance in that we really do lack the necessary depth, and I’m not sure how (pre-Emery) we’ve managed to stay so thin.

    Thought Duran might have a heroic night after his goal, but he fizzled. I’m glad we’ve shifted the academy, etc., because I’m not necessarily seeing the qualities we need when we do have kids come in.

    But I’ll step away for a bit. Where we’re at is still miraculous.

  17. I thought Tim was good. Olsen MoM. Agree that Rogers and Duran are young. I wish Duran would stop moaning so much.

    Zaniolo did some good stuff, but cost us 2 goals. His atempt to block the cross for 1st goal was really poor. He looked lazy at times

    Positive was Luiz didn’t get sent off. He definitely should have!

  18. So…I figured out what was bugging me about the loss: City worked much harder off the ball than we did. Relentless, fast chasing, closing down all the time. Saw Silva running flat out while chasing at 3-1 up.

    Of course, City recover in possession. Because they’re so good at retaining the ball, they can do enough resting to keep it up. We did show them up a little for pace at the back. But as I’ve long said, I don’t like our overall athleticism, atm. We’re a bit slower, a bit shorter, a bit lighter than our competition if we’re looking to stay up and around here.

    I mean, the more I think about it, the more unfair the matchup gets. But anyway, that’s what I was getting at with Rogers, Duran, etc. Young and unaccustomed, absolutely. But they should at least be able to run all day and willing to do so.

    Bad pass, bad decision, it gets turned over? Don’t mope, go get it back or close down the nearest outlet.

    So that’s what ended up bugging me. The result? Doesn’t really matter. But I want to see Duran leading by example, like Ollie, taking his chance and not whining and moping. That he hasn’t learned that over the course of the season is disappointing.

    If I’d been thrown in there with the big boys at 18, I know I’d have tried to emulate the best of each of them, and when we’ve seen Liverpool turn to the kids, they acquit themselves much better than ours in both attitude and application.

    And I know we couldn’t give him away, but to have our depth be such that Chambers was called on? Ugh. The years of mismanagement in a nutshell. When I saw him warming up I thought, “Just how many players do we need to replace?”

    Which, again, only tells you how good Emery is to get us where we are.

  19. Reflecting on a tough night. We still have plenty of winnable games in the 7 left. We can assume that 4 wins will do it. Maybe less.

    Every team in the league is complaining about their injuries and players running on empty. Poch, ten Hag are the latest. Picking up points between now and the end of the season is going to be a tough gig. Too many games with little recovery time equals players going through the motions. I’d much rather be in our position with the points on the board.

  20. I share John’s views on just how thin our squad is. Unai has worked wonders even miracles getting this team to 4th. Citeh’s bench last night was disgusting. Ours very thin.

    But we are on this journey. I’ll be at VP this weekend and I have my ticket for the game against LOSC. Villa will keep going regardless, driven by a master.

  21. Pressure is on emery for Brentford, does he rest Luis which for me is a no brained,sit 1 out rather than missing 2,and even if Watkins is fit I would leave him on bench Brentford are dirty shower Duran might suit them
    Me I would go
    Martinez,konsa Carlos torres digne mcginn tielmens Bailey Rogers diaby and Duran
    Subs from olsen lenget moreno kessler Tim Chambers zanilo Watkins kellyman
    No word on ramsay of late it’s nearly 4 weeks since luton game

  22. Wow. Manure winning with 2 minutes of overtime remaining. They lose. Fantastic result for us. As mentioned, points in the bag at this time of year is king.

    Gutted last night. Highly delighted tonight.

  23. David Coote showing his colours again on VAR. The Mirror ran an article on him some time back saying he’s a Manure supporter from Nottingham. He denied it and stated he’s Notts County. Bullshit as he tried everything to delay the inevitable hoping to put pressure on the penalty taker. Some things can’t be hidden.

  24. We often hear commentators and journalists talk about the Premier league being the best league in the world, but I tend to take it with a pinch of salt as bit of parochial nonsense. . . . . . however. . . It’s hard to think of another league that could come close to serving up a dramatic game between two mid table teams like the one we’ve seen tonight.

  25. Plug, I’d not heard that about Coote, but I said to my wife “this guy just has to be a United fan to be fannying around like this!”
    And JG. . . absolutely right. . I know we all want quicker VAR decisions, but the City goal VAR decision was indecently hasty given how tight it was.

  26. Yes, it’s really sad, for both the player and supporters, to see JR miss out on so much of the season. Emery said this week that it’s hard to maintain the sort of form we’ve had over a long period and you can only imagine the extra stress that a manager has to work under when he loses players like Ming’s, Buendia, Ramsey and Kamara for such long periods when we haven’t been allowed to cheat our way to building the squad depth of a team like Manchester City.
    I’ve seen suggestions that the mooted new rules are a good thing, but from a brief look at them, it seemed that it’ll make it easier for teams with money to buy success. Yes, that may have helped us over the past 12 months or so, but it’s not good sport is it? I like sport to come down to hard work, and maximising the talents at your disposal. . . . not simply writing ever bigger cheques.

  27. Emery will have to lift them for lille
    Missing kamara so much ,how many goals have we conceded since his injury ,torres looks lost without him
    All forest fans now I think
    Every match is going to be tough hope cash is soon back move konsa inside

  28. Unai needs to learn how to shut up shop when we’re 2 up. How many times has this happened!

    I’m done with Zaniolo. He offers little. Totally useless today when he came on. Can’t understand why Diaby did not come on ahead of him. Again Zaniolo was lazy, not able to tackle, thinks he’s fouled so sits on his ass complaining.

    Ollie and Bailey are class. Luiz silly yellow

  29. Two points wasted. How many times Villa. Everybody knows 2-0 is a dangerous score and the next goal is everything. We just switched off. And I could see the coming catastrophe before it arrived when we started strolling. FFS.

  30. Pau’s worst game to date for us. He’s been good but he was poor today. Watkins keeping us afloat. Nice goal from Rogers in front of the Holte End but it signalled a down tools effect. Bailey was dangerous and it was nice to have SJM back. But it was 2 points dropped and I hope they don’t cost us.

  31. Of course. you just knew Dougie would get a booking. Two minutes from the end FFS. Weekend wrecked. We needed the win today.

  32. Got over (just about) the need to kick holes in the door , the walls or anything else in my eyeline.

    My positives, Rogers looking better and better (Ramsey might just have strong competition and Duran looks more and more expendable) and Villa stole an undeserved point. What do they say – if you can’t win, then don’t get beat.

    I think Emery picked the only team he could except me being such a highly experienced football manager, I would have Lenglet ahead of Carlos for his greater coolness and less need to be a macho man. Seen sites slagging Emery off for his subs. Don’t think the subs could have done any worse than the numbskulls he took off. Only mistake was not subbing numbnuts Luiz.

    Anyone remember Steve Bruce Villa winning 10 games in a row then losing 2 home games in a row to lowly QPR and Bolton(?) and then missing out on automatic promotion?


  33. With goal difference we’re effectively 13 points ahead of Man U, so they’d need to win 5 games to go above us. Yesterday’s point was important. They have 7 games left

  34. Frustration yesterday but what an unbelievable season in what is emery first full year,preseason adding his players
    If we finish 5th and not get champions leagues the football gods are firmly against us
    For first time since brian littles days as manager we have excellent players all over squad just a couple additional players will improve us maybe get a chance to rest some,we have to keep faith and belief every roadblock so far this season be it injuries, bad officials, suspensionsemery has picked us up and delivered results,lille Thursday chance to clear heads ,up the villa

  35. JG,

    Yep, Unai is great. We also have Mings and Buendia for next season and Ramsey missed most of the season. Hopefully Kamara will be back before Christmas

    Crap, Man U drew

  36. Now the dust has settled on the weekends fixtures, I’d say we need another 3 wins to be sure of 5th place….maybe 2 wins will be enough. Manure remain a threat. They are 11 points behind us with a game in hand. Problem is they have the easiest run in between us, them and Spurs with 4 home games and 3 away and they only have to play Arsenal once, not twice VillaMD.

    Manure are a tough gig for anyone at OT hence why we may need 3 wins. But they are still in the cup and have fixture pile up too so that may help us. Can’t worry about the others though, we need to get the job done ourselves.

  37. 2 matches end up draws
    Kane should have seen red for his deliberate elbow then sako tried to con a penalty, thought what I seen of refs in both games brilliant, var didn’t get involved, maybe kane would have walked if they had
    What entertainment Madrid last goal magnificent

  38. According to my calcs, the England and German coefficients are now dead level after last nights games. Of course, the Germans will go ahead again if Dortmund get even a draw in Madrid tonight. And then there’s tomorrow night!!

    Things MAY become a little clearer by close of Round 16 ties next Thurs.

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