Hard Fought Win, VAR and the Grealish Factor

First off it’s great to see Badger back following the positive results to his recent scan. I know how tough it’s been for him and I’m sure I speak for every Villa fan in wishing him the best for the future. In the short time I’ve helped out, I’ve realised just how much time and effort Badger has put into running this blog and I’ve not had to deal with the techie issues the site has recently encountered (in fact I wouldn’t know where to start!)

Without him we wouldn’t have this excellent forum to air our views so a big thank you from all of us.

Following the ‘throwing away of three points’ (Dean Smith’s words – not mine) midweek in a game we should have won and without a single VAR controversy we could blame, it was important that Villa came away from St Mary’s with a result.

Our recent results against Southampton have been dire (I’m getting a bit bored with this statistic of late); without a win in 8 and Southampton looking for a fifth straight win having scored a hatful of goals in the previous four. Their recent results have not been great but we are also enduring a bit of a wobble ourselves with only one win in five and on a run of four away games without a win albeit against some pretty decent sides.

Not probably a surprise then with Smith going back to the Project Restart mantra of being hard to beat – and we were that although we perhaps rode our luck on occasion, or maybe not!

Once again Smith went with the same side and seems reluctant to rotate or rest players – it raises the question of whether he really does trust his bench? Even though there were obvious signs of tiredness in the last 20 minutes or so, particularly Traore and Barkley, he didn’t make any substitutions until the 96th minute!

This raises a serious question of burn out risk – particularly given the high tempo attacking football that we now generally play.

Throughout the game we defended superbly with Southampton failing to get a shot on target until the 70th minute; none less so than Cash and an ever improving Targett (nine tackles – the most of anyone on the pitch), so often a target for criticism in the past.

Although Martinez’ distribution was shaky by his own high standards his saves to deny Adams (70 minutes) and Bednarek’s late header from a corner were exceptional as was the double block that followed from McGinn and Cash. Mings not only marshalled the defence but made two blocks and a team leading five clearances whilst Konsa was, as usual, impressive in his positional play and all round commitment. 

We also know how dangerous Southampton are from free kicks / set pieces and, apart from one instance I can remember, we didn’t commit needless fouls in the final third to give them the opportunity to repeat the their Villa Park feats.

And Targett deserves a mention for his contribution further up the pitch; his looped pass to Grealish before the goal was one of many that got Villa moving forwards. Grealish’s excellent delivery and a stretching header from Barkley did the rest. Smash and grab perfectly executed.

Whilst Traore definitely offers something extra going forward his inconsistent tracking back left Cash horribly isolated at times and I really can’t understand why Smith didn’t bring Trezeguet on for the last 20 minutes or so. It also raises the question as to why Barkley, who visibly faded later in the second half wasn’t  substituted earlier by Nakamba.

I can fully understand why Smith would not wish to bring on Sanson given the circumstances so we’ll have to wait for his debut, possibly at Villa Park in one of our next two games.

It seems to me that football is being suffocated by VAR; there is more spoken about VAR decisions or non decisions that there is about the actual football. So the headlines are Villa were lucky with two VAR decisions rather than being applauded for a top class defensive display.

In fact I don’t believe we were lucky – yes two VAR decisions went our way (which is a rarity in itself) – but both followed and supported decisions made by the onfield officials; if there was no VAR the result would have stood. I’ll leave the penalty decision for others to debate (although we’ve had our fair share of dodgy ones given against us) but, whilst as fans we may not like the marginal offside decisions being given, there is now a consistency to them which we have to accept. 

Personally, I still think if VAR is going to be accepted by the majority of fans, it needs to revisit its protocols in the summer (can’t very well change them mid season) so that it serves the game rather than being bigger than the game itself.

We all know the Grealish factor is massively influential on the pitch but it seems that it may be playing with coach’s thinking as well.

To cope with Grealish, it appears Hassenhutti decided to play, arguable their most influential player, Ward Prowse out of position at right back rather than in his normal central defensive midfield role. It’s always a risky move; Grealish stayed out wide and found a lot of space behind the Southampton defence which ultimately led to the goal as well as a number of other good chances.

In summary, another battling win, not unlike that at Wolves which proves we are not just an exciting attacking team but one founded on top class defensive principles. Maybe our VAR-Kama has also balanced out.


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  1. Avatar
    Badger123 January 31, 2021 at 10:28 pm .

    Yes, I saw that about Guilbert.
    Smith says he wants him back in the summer, but I really don’t think Smith likes him for some reason.
    Elmo’s out of contract in the summer, I think, so why would you push Guilbert out?
    Hopefully I’m seeing that one wrong.
    Guilbert is good enough back up to mind and I hope he stays.
    Even if some don’t agree with that, I’m sure most would agree that we need back up in other areas before RB. LB springs to mind, for a start.

    As for players being tired, I don’t get the monitoring part at all.
    You can have all the monitors you want, but you can’t beat your eyes for seeing when a player lacks energy.
    I’ve read around and the 99%, if not 100%, opinion is that our mid three were totally shot, particularly Barkley and Traore. McGinn is like a Duracell bunny isn’t he?, but even he didn’t look right later on.

    What Smith is saying, when he says he doesn’t see it, is total rubbish, simple.
    If a player looks tired, his stats will be down and Smith bloody well knows it.

    Like I said, he has his reasons for not subbing players, but to say they’re not tired, well, I find it insulting. The fans aren’t all stupid and there’s an Abraham Lincoln line that springs to mind.
    And I’m a big Smith fan.

    How you can’t bring El Ghazi on when he was banging them in for fun before he got dropped is beyond me.
    Don’t lots of Villa fans remember MON for signing players and not playing them? (I don’t agree with that necessarilly, but see the similarities).

    Smith needs to be careful, else he’s going to alienate some players.

    Who’d be a manager eh?
    I’ve very often said you should play what you think is your strongest side, regardless.
    No. It just highlights the complexities of football.
    And some people think it’s just a load of blokes kicking a bag of wind around 🙂

    1. Avatar
      nath February 1, 2021 at 8:23 am .

      yeah reading around the fans opinions, you would think that villa are shit. you want a decent manager. but won’t allow them to manage. the three midfielders you say are fooked, these monitors are crap trust eyes lol. well the thing is these monitors tell the whole picture, how much work each players does, how much energy they used or have left, probably tells how how much shit they talk.

      alienate players like el ghazi. listen the manager brings on el ghazi for grealish how much alienation would that cause. you don’t sub your best players when the games is in the balance, cause you think they are fooked by your eyes.

      these players are athletes, they train much harder than they play a full 90, so when it comes to match days they are more than able to play the whole game if needed.

      i totally give up write the shit you want believe the shit you write, smith has assembled a decent team and fans still invent b/s to moan over. its so unbelievable.

      as for you always say play your strongest team, no badger you always say things to annoy ppl just to get a reaction and sit back and watch. smith is playing his strongest team. if he had your eyes and bills he would be subbing grealish too as he has looked very tired in all the 3 or 4 games we have been back. that would have gone down nice with the whole squad and fans.

      sack smith bring in tinkerman Italian what ever his name

      1. Avatar
        Hitchens60 February 1, 2021 at 10:22 am .

        But of an over reaction Nath.

        Nobody on here is saying sack Smith, quite the contrary but it’s not unreasonable to ask questions over some of Smith’s decision making around the use of subs.

        I fully accept your arguments but even top athletes need rest periods.

        A subs bench is there to be used either strategically or to remove players from a risk situation. Observations are that Smith seems reluctant to use our bench and is pretty much the only manager in the EPL not making some team changes or using the bench – for whatever reason.

        You have put forward your reasoning; that doesn’t mean to say that others cannot disagree.

        I return to my main point though – no one on here, as far as I can see, is anything other than supportive of our manager – but that doesn’t mean he always gets it right.

        1. Avatar
          nath February 1, 2021 at 11:01 am .

          only over reaction is claiming i am over reacting

          if i were the one claiming to know more than the manager. or claiming to know when a player was needing to be substituted. then you would guarantee i would be receiving the messages of,,,, you don’t know what your saying or doing. clearly this management villa have, are more than capable of knowing their players better than fans, who do not hold any facts, other than the eye of the beholder

          its not just here sir hitch its on fb and other sites, so they must be all right b/s. i do not hold all the facts i used my eyes too, i didnt see any player looking like they were spent completely they were no more fooked than any other game. but i posted what i thought happened. which was the players are now much fitter now since they returned. the game against soton was tight and on a knife edge, only a very bold manager would start taking players off upsetting the dynamics of the team at such a important stage. but that sense is nothing to judging players with the naked eye. why bother with the fitness gadgets modern science sports ppl use today. all is needed is good old eye sight.

          my reactions is nothing, but a counter to the reactions of others. i don’t care if you believe their b/s or my b/s. what i do believe is this villa team is the best team since probably the mid 90’s. we won against soton and the amount of garbage written by villa fans proves one thing that they don’t know how to be happy. instead of enjoying they look for something to complain about and if they cant find anything they are not shy about making it up.

          btw i loved the analogy about mcginn and duracell battery,great comparison wonder why i recall seeing that ?? oh i remember i said crazy like that other day.

          1. Avatar
            Hitchens60 February 1, 2021 at 11:09 am .

            Well, we’ll have to agree to differ then 🙂

            1. Avatar
              nath February 1, 2021 at 11:34 am .

              i just red the mirror on villa match says nothing about the players looking tired. anyways the reaction on here is mild you want overreactions look on fb on the subject on substitutions. i rather not speculate on how another man is feeling,

              sports ppl train much hard ie. boxers wont train to fight just 12 rounds they will do much harder regimes to cover the intensity of some fights being harder than others. athletes say 800 1500 metres will do much more training than just needed to cover the individual race. i watched mark wright who signed for crawly he documented his training on bbc i player. he was totally exhausted but explained that was much more than was needed so when he plays he has enough energy.

              lastly how come when the fans moan about tired players never mentioned taking off grealish ?? he plays every game giving everything. he totally uses up all his energy. now nobody said his name when naming the waking died reason is only a numpty would take of his better players when game is undecided.

              wish ppl would trust manager and moan about the weather

            2. Avatar
              Bill Pearson.. February 1, 2021 at 9:35 pm .

              Just to recap Villa West Ham game is on TV. 8-15 kick off, BT2 starts at 8-00 pm

          2. Avatar
            Guest February 1, 2021 at 7:05 pm .

            Christ give it a rest Nath, you don’t half go on sometimes.

            Barkley, traore and Mcginn were knackered, anybody could see that, stop banging on about monitors, it was obvious to anybody.

            Welcome back Badger, sorry to hear about your recent health.


  2. Avatar
    DSVilla February 1, 2021 at 8:46 am .


    You may have all seen this but I hadn’t and it’s hilarious.

    Sorry Badger I can only post it linked to another site.

    1. Avatar
      Bum Bum February 3, 2021 at 9:09 am .

      I remember that weel DS!!! Hilarious!!!

      Nice bit of robust differing of opinions on here lately! Never happy are we Villa fans 😁😁😁.

      We can go 5th with a game in hand tonight!!!!!!

      1. Avatar
        Bill Pearson.. February 3, 2021 at 12:53 pm .

        I’m trying to book an optitions up but it’s a bit risky Bum Bum . Dont want them breathing on me. Doctor asked why? I said I’m seeing things at football matches. 😂

  3. Avatar
    Holte66 February 1, 2021 at 3:51 pm .

    Just checked the weather forecast and it looks pretty miserable. Good job Villa and Deano are keeping us smiling 😃
    Seriously though I think we have moved on massively from just a couple of years ago. I think we all love what is happening with our club. It starts with our owners who are backing up their talking with investment. Smith and Grealish give us that feeling of getting our club back and all the signings are proving mostly successful. My biggest worry is that we have a real chance of getting into Europe but if we don’t, the vultures will be picking off our best players.
    As for the rotation of players we have to place our trust in Smith and his team. So far we can’t complain because results show we are doing better than expected. I hope he can keep those not playing in good spirits because we probably will need them with injuries and suspensions almost inevitable.

  4. Avatar
    nath February 1, 2021 at 7:42 pm .

    hello guest you have loads of cheek, i seen your profanity posts, often aimed at me, as for giving it a rest. the site is supposed to accept opinion and view on villa. i often forget your face has to fit in for them to be accepted

    as for the players that were knackered, they will all be missing on wednesday if that was the case.

    1. Avatar
      Guest February 2, 2021 at 7:21 am .

      I rarely post on here Nath, mainly because more often than not it’s just filled with paragraphs of nonsense from the likes of you.

      Do you actually know the difference between opinion and fact?

      Do you ever take your rose tinted glasses off?

      Nobody at the club is beyond criticism, people are allowed to criticize decision making at any level be it on the pitch or off it, regardless of how well we are doing.

      Regardless of what you think, the players were tiring around the 70 minute mark, anybody could see that.

      As for faces fitting on this site, well you usually get on with the likes of Bill and hitchens do you not? I’m not sure what your problem is other than a difference of opinion, have you been on the bottle?

      1. Avatar
        nath February 2, 2021 at 5:26 pm .

        FACT is villa won the game. FACT smith didn’t feel the need to substitute the three midfielders. OPINION the three players you named were knackered.

        i get on with all the posters even you, i like opinions that differ from my own, bill asked me if i agreed with his opinions on the tired players and i disagreed, i never fell out with him and vice versa.

        hitch seems to think i cant handle other ppl opinions as well, all i can suggest is take a long look in the mirror. as it is you that can not handle the FACTS and my OPNIONS. i stated in my opinion that i didn’t think they were tired. later i posted that the coaches had the (dreaded word) monitors,so they know for sure if any players were indeed fooked or in danger.

        as it turned out we won and i don’t care about anything else. you can not win every game. you certainly can not win every game playing beautifully. we grinded out a good win against very creditable opponents.

        your post was rather long winded too, i tried to keep mine down to under yours

  5. Avatar
    Sidforever February 2, 2021 at 7:03 am .

    Holte I am not so worried about the vultures. The owners have been ensuring key players are tied down to long contracts. They showed with Grealish, if you want him then you must pay big for him- they backed off. I feel the ball is now in our court. If Smith is happy to sell he will and I assume they would bring in a replacement before selling.

    I recall how the last time we got close to the top 4 Man City took Barry and Milner, Man Utd took Young and Liverpool took Downing. But the difference between now and then is the attitude of our owners. They are proven winners in the sports field and know selling your best assets does not lead to success. The only time I could see us selling a top player would be if Smith felt they could add to the quality of the team with the finances such a transfer could bring.

    Remember Liverpool of the 80s, if you bought a player from them, it meant they had peaked. Hopefully Villa can move to that style of replacement.

    1. Avatar
      Holte66 February 2, 2021 at 9:08 am .

      I hope you are right but usually its the players who decide when to move. The obvious two players Grealish and Luiz will constantly have their heads turned by media talk, opposition players and worst of all, agents! While Jack has Villa at heart, surely he will be thinking of silverware. Can he risk that happening at Villa anytime soon or do what Barry did and go somewhere he is almost guaranteed trophies.

  6. Avatar
    Bill Pearson.. February 3, 2021 at 1:43 pm .

    I’m waiting for a sumerisation of tonight’s match. Nath I’ve not taken any ill feelings as you said yours against mine the way you see it the way I see it. If you Knew me you’d see me as a bit of a joker as I like to see people smile. Did I tell you I used to entertain 3 decades ago and can bring a room together. Hope I’ve explained myself. We’re all Villains together.

    1. Avatar
      nath February 3, 2021 at 6:01 pm .

      bill i never taken any ill feelings, don’t know why i should. i didnt do a write up on tonights games cause, hitch or badger hadnt put a new post up this morning before i left.

  7. Avatar
    Bum Bum February 3, 2021 at 6:46 pm .

    Tonight’s game… Mouth-watering!!!!!

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