Of all Unai Emery’s post-match interviews, I think I might’ve liked the Brighton one best. “This is football,” he said, after noting, and I’m paraphrasing, “We had a good week, and then a bad week.” Rest, recovery, Athens. What else is there?

It was tough watching Villa slump to a 1-0 defeat (in particular to a late penalty when a poor but valuable point seemed within reach), a performance that De Zerbi said was not indicative of Villa’s quality. I have to agree. The side is tired, and that can be every bit as much a mental issue as a physical one. We all saw Arsenal down the stretch last year. I think McGinn has now played 58 matches for club and country, for example. Luiz has likewise logged extraordinary minutes. Ollie. You know the drill.

We all know the about the injuries. And sure, it’s part of the game. But Villa were not particularly deep going into the season, and it’s only gotten worse. There’s basically no rotation available, never mind the waves of substitutions that can change games. It’s not helping the midfield with no Kamara, Ramsey, or Tielemans to even choose from. Tim? I’ve not seen him do much, I think the situation is a little too big for him at the moment. Otherwise,  he’d be playing because god knows SJM and Luiz could do with a rest.

And this does reflect back to the Academy, where we’ve long expected so many breakthroughs. But whether it’s down to poor development, the players’ natural levels, or both I struggle to think of anyone whose left that’s gone on to pull up trees in the lower leagues, never mind the PL. That’s something that’s got to get fixed so we can plug players in without breaking the bank. Players who are strong and can run, tackle, and harass relentlessly. They don’t have to be Rodri or even Harvey Elliott. We just need the odd 45 to freshen things or 2-3 games where they can fill a gap without really weakening anything.

All that aside, here we are, on the brink of elimination in the Conference League and 7 points to the good in 4th with two to play. Spurs will likely get at least a point against Burnley. Villa will face a Liverpool side Monday whose mentality no one can really predict as they’ll likely be unable to change anything with CL football assured. Palace? Resurgent and dangerous.

Tonight, well we’re all pulling for a 3-0 victory. A two-goal cushion and penalties? Okay, but I don’t know if I can watch that again. It’s a big ask, but not impossible. Villa should’ve had at least 3 last week, and this is a game they don’t really deserve to be chasing like this. But they are, a classic situation where Villa have to come out, force the issue, and open themselves up to the counter more than they’d like. Emery’s stated aim, wanting to be level after 90, makes sense. Don’t overextend, don’t be impatient, don’t make mistakes. Just even things up in a controlled way and see what happens next.

Will be disappointing if we do exit here without reaching the final, of course. But the bigger lesson is going to be the attrition coupled with bad luck. If we want CL football, the levels need to be much higher, the depth greater. No idea where PSR leaves us, but as we limp over the line, it’s clear some clever moves have to be made.

In the meantime, I hope Emi is fit (for penalties if nothing else) and sure would like to break some Greek hearts tonight.

Over to you.


Comments 118

  1. As normal good header post to start evening, thanks Jc for all the work,other blogs are definitely not the same quality
    As for tonight if and its a big if,some of injured are fit to play we are capable of overturning this match hopefully they used all there luck last week and after last night officials will not want to be in spotlight
    Don’t know if anyone seen hecks interview with gaby,it was good he came across very well,and moreless the money side of villa are chasing emery team,and leaving villa Park is not part of any future plans,another snippet I read we have think it’s 12 main sponsors the rest of top 8 range from 25 to 38,so work to get more spending power for emery

  2. Martinez is back but that’s the only good news,no moreno tielmens Rogers or zanilo even on bench.
    Konsa torres Carlos digne
    Cash Bailey mcginn Luis diaby and watkins
    Subs from
    Olsen gauchi lenget Tim Duran kessler kellyman munroe paterson

  3. JG, thank you.

    And that’s some seriously tough news on the injury front. I feared the worst when I saw Tielemans holding his groin (now now everyone). Had hoped Rogers and Zaniolo might be back by now.

    Bone-thin squad is going to have to put in some fairly heroic minutes tonight.

  4. Most troubling about the team sheet is how little we have to freshen for extra time, and then the levels of experience if it comes to penalties.

    Might well be a fairly cagey evening. Here’s hoping they learned a lot from last week.

  5. Pretty much a bench full of kids eh guys? I’m with John, it’s looking like a cagey evening. As always though, when Villa play I watch with hope.

  6. I think that some players are showing an ‘overabundance of caution’, MD. Which could also equal not wanting to make a costly mistake.

    But it’s just shaping up to having that feeling of not meant to be. We’ve played well enough, but they can obviously sit in and almost assure we can’t score three.

    So all I can say is that we have to play faster and just come at them. Only way we can get three is quickly playing into space, not letting it get so compact, and just let fly.

  7. Luis booking so stupid ,he is knackered in every sense,but what options does emery have,DURAN that’s it few kids,only thing we ate miles better than last Sunday v Brighton

  8. About the only worthwhile comment I’ve seen elsewhere is “Nothing is clicking, nothing is breaking for us. Tired minds and bodies. One touch too many or slightly overhit. Not as natural as it was.”

  9. Trailing feet ,keeps onside
    It’s going to be tough for emery to lift them for last games,really depends on city beating spurs,we are done,all over pitch absolutely knackered

  10. As far as the next two matches go, it’s funny because I’d feel like we ‘lost’ fourth and CL. And I hate Spurs.

    But. I’m not at all sure you can take this side, improve and beef it up enough to go far in CL (with expanded groups) and get back into Europe the following year.

    If we hang on, we hang on and you do your best. And of course, maybe we’d just be luckier with injuries next year.

  11. We played much better than we managed against Brighton. But I had the feeling we wouldn’t score if the game finished at midnight. End of this season’s Euro adventure. I’ve loved it, thoroughly enjoyable and I want more.

    Excellent first half except for the lack of marking on their 1st goal. Bit disjointed 2nd half as some players fell below par. Won’t name them, everyone knows who they are.

  12. Olympiacos are a tidy team and very well organised. If they repeat those performances in the final they can win it. We had no luck today but I’ve no gripes about the overall result.

    John, we remain a work in progress. Unai has called it a process. If we do manage Champions League next year it will really be about the money and nothing else. He will strengthen the team again over the summer as we must and it takes several years. It took Saunders 6 years. But I’m sure the squad will improve.

  13. Yeah, going behind pretty much finished it, Plug. Playing for 2-0 is one thing, but with them gaining more ground and now needing to score 3, there was very little chance they were going to extend themselves in any way to make it easier for us.

    Like we’ve said, the fact you can only swap in Duran and kids…We were always going to be struggling to break down 6-7 players in/on the box.

  14. We don’t have time to be disappointed. There’s a huge game coming on Monday night and we need a point. Get that and Spurs will have to win all 3 remaining games including beating Citeh. I’ll be down VP for the bindippers.

  15. It is a process, Plug, and I do trust Emery without doubt. The money’s a good thing, but West Ham, Newcastle, Brighton…different situations, but all cautionary tales.

    I’m with you, no real gripes. These things turn on moments, and a big one was the very smart save on Rogers in the first leg. That goes in, we might well be going back to Athens, I think. If Dougie had scored the peno, it would’ve been a different task tonight.

    But yeah, Olympiakos are a tidy side, got the rub of the green, and took their chances.

  16. JC and Plug,

    Yeah, Greeks are decent. I also watched other semi – 2 quality teams.

    We’re 7 points clear of Spurs and they have to play Man City.

    The experience tonight will be great for the young players

  17. In the end, really good experience for them all, MD. Some, like Pau, have been there, but for the most part, very different crowds and challenges they need to grow.

  18. Disappointed yes,sad yes but really proud of emery and his team,not once has he moaned about officials or injuries, if ref last night had done last weeks match might have been a totally different outcome, as would losing Rogers,zanilo and moreno
    On to Monday and Liverpool praying that some of walking wounded can return either that or Burnley can do us a massive favour
    On to next season hopefully monchi can have a few bargains up his sleeve,kamara won’t be back before Halloween and we don’t have any natural replacement and his position is vital,the rest of injured ramsay is a worry massive player last season run in and even with his injuries this season we looked better with him in side likewise mings a natural leader which we are crying out for
    Anyways candle lit for tielmens moreno zanilo and Rogers hopefully at least 2 will be ready to go

  19. Some really good comments after last night, and it does feel good that pretty much all villa forums are echoing similar sentiments. Emery, our owners and squad have done us proud, not just this season, but ever since they realised the error of appointing Gerrard (the one blip for our remarkable owners)
    This season isn’t quite over, and of course there’s still a risk of us not making 4th, but I had to pinch myself even to be typing that.

  20. It would have been great to get to a European final, and there were long spells in both semi final legs when I felt that we would do just that. As JG pointed out, last night’s referee did a good job, and had he been around for our first leg too, I honestly believe we’d be in the final now. We were much the better team for most of both legs, but maybe that’s being unfair on Olympiacos, who had a game plan and executed it very well.
    Against Lille, the roles were reversed, where they looked the better side for long periods, but we came out the winners.
    I’ve seen a couple of children on another forum suggesting that we played poorly throughout the competition and were lucky to get as far as we did. That’s petulant nonsense of course. We have played controlled, ‘European’ football through most of the competition and most of us felt rightfully proud to watch them. Let’s not forget, we’ve played more games than all the other teams we’ve competed against, and Lille for example, were given the weekend off domestic football before playing us. Emery, rightfully, would never use that as an excuse though, and that’s the. sort of attitude that’s got us this far.
    There may be a few twists and turns still to come, but I’m already looking forward to next season and us taking 1 or 2 further steps up the European competition ladder.

  21. I see a lot comments about how we failed,West ham won this competition last season and only finished 8th yet we r 4th West ham 3rd season in a row in Europe, semi finalists and then finalist,Newcastle suffered this season in Europe only playing 6 matches
    It’s all in building process one block at a time

  22. That was a big result for Villa after the Arse beat Manure today. It means Citeh cannot draw against Spurs on Tues night otherwise the title will be heading for Norf Laandan due to a superior GD of 3. Citeh have to win.

    I believe the Champions League is inching closer. Of course, if we beat Pool tomorrow it doesn’t matter.

  23. The online speculation about playersbjoining and players leaving is already starting to ramp up.
    Maybe there’ll be some hints after tonight’s home game?
    I remember seeing Ashley Young walking round the ground applauding the fan after the last home game of the season back in 2011 and thinking. . . Oh bugger. . . he’s off! Sure enough we then heard later on that he was heading off to United.
    I’m hoping no players break away from the team to do their own little ‘lap of honour’ after tonight’s game.

  24. Yes Plug, it was a relief that Arsenal managed to hang in there last night.
    It’s hard to imagine that City won’t see it through against Spurs tomorrow, but there’s so much at stake for both teams, with Spurs arguably having the bigger need than City!

  25. Just a quick thought on the financial pros and cons of Champion’s league v Europa.
    Does anyone know if you are likely to earn more from a prolonged run in the Europa league than a quick exit from the Champion’s league?
    In other words. . . could we find a small silver lining if we did end up being 5th?

  26. Watching sky sports,pointing out our problems,missing mings has been massive
    And kamara and half our team,
    On about xg scoring chances,bar Brighton think we had scored in every match since spurs
    Stats can be awfully wrong

  27. Tielmens back cash out injured never ends
    Konsa torres Carlos digne
    Tielmens Luis mcginn
    Bailey diaby Watkins
    Zanilo makes bench but no moreno or rogers

  28. Least we get Youri back. One or two key passes could be all the difference.

    Going to be very hard, but at least it’s at Villa Park.


  29. Well that was an eventful first half from two evenly matched sides.
    Spaces at the back for both teams.
    Villa the more creative team and should be ahead. . . But that’s not how it works dammit

  30. No one’s really been talking about it, but even a point buys us room in case Spurs manage a draw tomorrow.

    I think we can get that, but it’s going to be a nerve-wracking 2nd half.

    If we can pull level, the number of chances so far leads me to believe we could go on and win.

    SJM a big worry though. Hope they can just wrap him and give him an injection

  31. Hopefully Brighton was a blip,still fancy us to go to Palace playing like tonight, missing cash from rightback tonight,natural fullback will need him v Palace widemen

  32. Cash is a miss, JG. Don’t necessarily think he’s a ‘great’ defender, but better pace, and he would help provide a MF option if SJM can’t continue.

  33. Alan Smith used to like him as a commentator,thought he was a villa fan ,but never gives us credit or be critical of a ref decision against us

  34. JG. . . of course I loved JG’s goals, but more rhan that, I loved seeing him busting a gut to defend and win the ball back deep in his own half.
    THAT’s what we need to see from him all the time.

  35. JG, yes Van Dykes was in an unnatural position, and we’ve had a penalty given against us under almost identical circumstances, but I don’t think it should have been given tonight, as it shouldn’t have been against us.

  36. So, we can throw the kitchen sink (Duran) once in a while. I really thought fate was going to screw us at 1-3. Can’t argue that anyone gave up. Hope Duran is getting the message.

  37. As for Bailey having a go at Watkins, was it becusse Watkins had a go at Bailey for not leaving it for an onside Diaby?
    I do t like seeing players argue, but boy oh boy, you can’t argue with their commitment tonight

  38. Robbo
    Not 1 player in our squad I don’t love even Chambers done a job,loved celebrations on bench for 3rd goal
    Mcginn got battered tonight no protection from ref,really stood up as captain,diaby busting a gut defending near the end ,flared tempers from Bailey Watkins,Duran 2 goals and as robbo said back defending, we have signed another Colombian lad hopefully emery can harness Duran think he can be superstar

  39. Yes JG. . . I think we all believe that Duran has bags of potential, but I do still worry about his attitude. It was interesting that McGinn commented on the need for him to keep his feet on the ground.
    He probably CAN be a great player. . . . I hope he has the patience to learn HOW to be a great player.
    He’s being linked with moves away, but it’s hard to imagine a manager who will develop him better rhan Emery.

  40. JG
    . . Yes still.cross rhat MacAllister got away with that blatant elbow to the rubs. I felt that the ref had spotted it and was going to brandish a yellow, but then play continued for ages and I can only imagine he felt the moment had passed.
    No excuse, it was bad refereeing

  41. A big shout out to Diaby too. He fought so hard tonight. . . a superb run to set up the third goal and so unlucky thst Allison pulled a stunning save out of the bag to prevent him scoring what would have been one of the most memorable goals of our lifetimes.

  42. Also r0bb0, I didn’t see Watkins talking to Leon first (telling him to have left it for Diaby or whatever). That would make sense.

    I have no problem with players being passionate and wanting to win. In Villa’s case, I don’t think it has anything to do with unrest, just players right on the edge.

  43. JG,

    Chambers…I was just about to comment that seeing him come on equaled the white flag. Can’t believe he proved me wrong so wonderfully.

    Ref I don’t think really saw the elbow very well, running ahead and looking back, the angle might’ve not been good. SJM was letting him know, and he’ll feel silly (if he wasn’t on the take) watching back the replays. It was clear and someone should’ve seen it. On the tit-for-tats, at least he let SJM give Gakpo a full body blow in retaliation without the yellow (for that one).

  44. jbd…you’d like to think Emery will sit down with Duran and say, “See? You’re good, rewards come. I liked the goals, yes, but what I really liked was you playing the full pitch and being committed. Watch Ollie, learn.”

    And if we do get fourth, you’d imagine it’ll be easier to hang onto him. I do think he has bags of potential, but like everyone’s saying, he just has to play like he did tonight.

    You’d think there are enough examples of the effort required in the side to convince him that maybe that is what it takes.

  45. From post-match comments, SJM talking, and sounds like more than a couple of them are playing with knocks and pushing through the pain barrier.

    There’s fatigue, but I think some guys are literally limping over the line.

    Have to echo the comments that that was a true captain’s performance last night.

  46. JC. . . Did you have a peep inside the Bodymoor Heath recovery room before you wrote the headline to your intro above?

    Football at this level is a game of fine margins, and it highlights just how impressively the players who ‘have’ been able to get on the pitch have performed when you realise that they are physically well below the 100% that you’d normally demand.

  47. Such fine margins, r0bb0.

    Far as the treatment room goes, you’ve just seen the knocks, the minutes, the inability to sprint back, a boxer on the ropes. Digne has to be hurting. I’m sure Pau isn’t quite right. Luiz and McGinn have run themselves into the ground and been battered. You never see SJM taking a seat like that. Youri coming back from a groin pull that looked like a season-ender when he came off. Bailey’s knee. God only knows what else. I can’t believe Ollie has only missed the the scant minutes he has. What a beast.

    I really didn’t think they had a comeback in them. Thought we were in damage control. Then there’s Chambers so far up the pitch he must’ve had a nose bleed.

  48. I’m an emotional train wreck. Went through the entire spectrum. Despair at the world’s no 1 throwing the ball into his own net after 60 fucking seconds. Joy when Ollie got round his marker and set up Tielemans who buried it. More dismay with our defence giving them the freedom of Villa Park. Anger when we missed some sitters and then conceded a third. Hope when Big Jhon punished MacAllister’s mistake (couldn’t happen to a finer hatchet man). Then ecstasy when Big Jhons thigh levelled it.

  49. Years ago it was only the Holte End that made any noise. No more. The “Villa Boys from Aston” poured down from all four stands. It was deafening. The atmosphere was crackling and arcing. Then Big Jhon split the atom. Riotous pandemonium. Sorry guys, it was indescribable, you had to be there.

  50. I truly envy you, Plug. That was a night. The talking heads were all saying it was a perfect example of what makes the Premier League special.

  51. It was a huge point gained. We might even have won it at the death but had enough big chances to do that anyway. Tonight, Pep owes us. Our defeat of the Arse opened the door for him. Now we are calling in the favour. He has to open the door for us. It’s mandatory.

  52. John, I was in the North Stand and everything around me went apeshit. Didn’t notice Unai was also caught up in it until this morning. It’s going to be a long day. Can’t wait for this evening’s game.

  53. Unai’s reaction was priceless. The way he is on the touchline, the instructions, the organizing and then completely losing his mind when we equalized. Absolutely love him.

    If we’d won, I don’t think anyone could say we didn’t deserve it. Haven’t seen the stats, but looked like we created just as much if not more, especially Diaby’s two chances and Carlos’s whiff. Which was a shame as Ollie was right behind him and would’ve gotten his 20th, but that put him off.

    Pep does owe us. I’d like to think they’ll deliver.

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