Sometimes, after watching an Aston Villa game, fans can feel hard done by. You can feel as if we gave it our all, played well on the day, and were unfortunate in the end. No such feeling is running through my head after today’s disappointing 2-1 loss at Molineux to Wolves.
A first-half performance can utterly destroy a team’s chances of winning a match, and today Villa fell foul of that. Before the game, signs weren’t positive, with Heaton, Engels and Grealish all injured. Steer and Konsa came in, and within ten minutes the former was off injured himself. Targett also went off injured on the stroke of half time with what appeared to be a concussion.
Five senior first-team players are all injured going into the international break, with little real idea on when they shall return. Grealish himself has been pushed back week after week, and you’re left wondering whether he’ll make the next five games, let alone Newcastle.
Injuries aside, in the first half we were absolutely flat. Villa could not string three passes together to formulate an attack; it was desperate and as bad as we have played all season. Aston Villa looked like the side that had played 90 minutes on Thursday in European competition, we were that jaded and tired; Wolves were sharper, hungrier and far better. In particular, Wolves’ Neves and Moutinho had both played the full 90 on Thursday and against Villa had an easy game in midfield.
Villa deserved to concede the first goal. In typical claret and blue fashion, it was an easy goal that blossomed from nothing. How can you leave Ruben Neves, today’s man of the match in my view, in acres of space on the edge of the box from a set-piece? He’ll inevitably score. It’s his trademark. He’s been doing it ever since he joined Wolves. If you aren’t going to study the way Wolves operate set pieces with Neves, then don’t bother Villa, honestly. That goal was deserved, for the pitiful way in which we defended it.
After a desperate first half, Smith’s team-talk seemed to galvanise the players. We were much better. Never looking too threatening, never forcing a real save from Rui Patricio, but looking in control to some extent. Low crosses to Wesley, runs from El Ghazi, and more, none ended in a goal. We couldn’t create the killer chance we needed.
Dean Smith made a wise tactical decision with twenty minutes to go by bringing on the more attack-minded Henri Lansbury for Marvelous Nakamba. A good risk, nothing to lose, we need the point, but it cost us. We threw everything into an attack, Traore steamed down the right, pulled it back for Jimenez and Wolves had won the game. 2-0.
Trezeguet’s consolation aside, the game was done and dusted. A deserved defeat after a poor Villa showing, who couldn’t make up for the first-half performance in the second period. Now, the individual player review.
Individual Player Review
Jed Steer played five minutes, so it’d be unfair to rate him. Nyland came on, having only played U23 football this season, and I thought he played well. The keeper made a couple of saves, commanded his box well, held onto the ball. He didn’t really put a foot wrong bar one goal-kick, so my hat goes off to Orjan Nyland.
At the back, Mings played well. A solid game from the captain. Konsa looked good, calm and composed but also made some good defensive contributions. The centre-half came forward when he needed to and in my view was Villa’s best player today. Targett was poor before he came off, but his replacement Taylor was fairly solid. Tried hard. Shades of Hutton with the lack of quality but he left it all on the pitch today. Guilbert was the worst of the defenders today, apart from a couple of tackles. Diogo Jota made a mockery of him for most of the 90, and the Frenchman continues to look lightweight defensively.
John McGinn had his worst game in a Villa shirt today. A couple of bright moments but contributed nothing over the game, and that’s the same story as Douglas Luiz. Nakamba did all he could and was decent, but his lack of aerial presence sometimes worries me; he ball bounced over him a couple of times today. Lansbury was invisible when he came on.
In terms of the forwards, Trezeguet ran his socks off once more but nothing came off it except his consolation at the end. El Ghazi had a couple of decent moments but he was invisible for large periods. I usually criticise Wesley, but today I was impressed. He moved well, won some headers, helped at corners, dropped deep to get the ball, and showed desire. That kind of Wesley, with proper service when the wingers are on form and Jack Grealish is in the side, can get you goals. I’m feeling more positive about him after his performance today, well done to him.
Overall it was a poor performance by the boys in claret and blue. Villa paid for awful play in the first-half by ultimately finding it too much to snatch a point. Disappointed with the injuries that didn’t help, but more so disappointed with the individual players that didn’t turn up today. Guilbert, McGinn and Luiz are the particular trio that need to step up in future matches. Glad the international break gives us chance to slow down and catch up, then it’s a vital relegation clash against Brucie’s Newcastle. Let’s hope we can bounce back after three consecutive defeats.