Over the course of five days Villa swept aside reining Conference League champions West Ham and their semifinal opponent AZ Alkmaar, each by a 4-1 scoreline. I was somehow suddenly a bundle of nerves after AZ pulled one back, so the ghosts of Villa past certainly haven’t left me. But the performances have been real.
The sides Villa have faced so far have been on very good form, domestically. They’ve been well-drilled, athletic, mentally tough, and play nice football. Alkmaar, currently unbeaten in league play, have only lost once in their last 15: to Zrinjski. It’s also their sixth consecutive season of European football. And of course Alkmaar were West Ham’s semifinal opponents last year.
Another interminable international break (well done, Ollie), and now another bogey team for Villa. Dunno what it is, but winless in 10 against the Irons since 2015 is something Emery will want to put right, especially given the next three league matches are ones Villa will think they should be winning.
A win’s a win, and it was an important one, but the big thing is that Villa didn’t quit. You could see the frustration, but they resisted thinking “it’s just one of those nights” when it looked for all the world that it was just one of those nights.
Emery has targeted some kind of success this season, but the Carabao has to be fourth on his list of four priorities.