Villa 0 – 1 Arsenal; We were outgunned, simple.

A bit of a corny headline, but it seems the obvious one and I haven’t seen it used elsewhere, so why not?, I thought.
It probably sums things up quite well though as Arsenal were better than us in every area.

Am I allowed to say we were poor, yet again?
I doubt that’s controversial in any way this weekend, but I’m saying it because it’s what I think.

I’ll say, straight from the off that Gerrard messed up here, in going too cautiously and paying them too much respect, in my opinion. We’d played two up top and it had worked recently, as much as I don’t think Ings and Watkins is the answer to anything, so why he changed that is beyond me.
The decisions at the spearhead of our attack weren’t the problem though. Or at least not overall.

The issue was more that we played Buendia and Coutinho together, causing the more defensive side of our midfield to look more impotent than it usually does.
And then to cap it all, we sat back and allowed Arsenal to play their game.
The amount of space Smith-Rowe was getting just outside of the box on their set-pieces was typical.

The first half was as poor as we’ve seen under Gerrard with the midfield yet again looking to be the problem.
Luiz was invisible, Ramsey was just as bad and made himself look even worse every time he got involved and even my favourite John McGinn was poor, with all three not being able to get on the ball or even look anything like being a threat to anything.

Indeed, things were so bad, I actually saw calls for us to change it up as early as twenty minutes.
Which begs the question “why didn’t we?”

I suspect the answer is because we don’t really have the options. And it’s rare for any manager to change things that early anyway.

And just as many of us have complained previously, myself included, we also just looked second best yet again when it came to the physical side of the game. It was scary to think Arsenal had ran themselves into the ground against Liverpool on Wednesday, whereas we had the week off.
It just goes to show, you can play two games in a week. If you have the right players. And we clearly haven’t.

Eventually, Gerrard and his advisors accepted the inevitable and made changes.
I’d have hauled Ramsey off and put Sanson on, to beef up the midfield which was just too lightweight, but we weren’t helped by yet another shocking referee.
Ashley Young, who was even more poor than most in this game, was adjudged to have fouled Saka on the wing. The linesman, who was only a yard away didn’t flag (and rightly so), yet he was over-ruled by Andrew Madley and you have to wonder why?. It wasn’t a foul in my eyes.
Whatever, it ultimately cost us a goal and the game. Yet again a top six club though, so we shouldn’t be surprised.

Gerrard decided to stick with the midfield that wasn’t working and decided to replace Buendia and Ramsey with Traore and Bailey, which I found interesting, given that Gerrard likes to play narrow. Bringing on two wide players struck me as a sign of desperation.
I won’t even mention that Coutinho was equally as bad, because we can’t have that said, can we?

To be fair, I agreed with those moves on thinking about it, because we were chasing the game and needed to try and get a goal. Which is exactly why I’d have pulled Luiz at that stage, but hey ho.

And Watkins was replaced with Ings, which I couldn’t understand at all. Yes, Watkins had no service and was taken out of the game by Arsenal’s much bigger defenders, but if you’re going to go for it, why not bring Ings on and go two up top, which had just shown signs of beginning to work before this game?
I don’t understand the gameplan or what we’re trying to do, is probably what I’m getting at.
But it was undoubtedly better, as we started to show much more threat and had Arsenal on the back foot for most of the last twenty minutes.
Lesson to be learned? Stop giving the top teams too much respect and take it to them.

It may seem I’m getting at Gerrard because of my overall views about him. I’m not.

While I thought he got this game wrong any way you like to slice it, I fully realise that it happens. Managers get it wrong sometimes.
But the players have to hold their hands up and admit that they were equally to blame in basically not showing up.

And as I’ve said previously, quite a few players are playing their way out of Aston Villa.
They’re too lightweight and can’t compete.
I’m expecting some serious transfer activity in the summer, with lots of ins and outs.
And let’s face it, it’s needed. The likes of Traore and Bailey won’t cut it in Gerrard’s thinking.

37 Comments

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  1. William Pearson
    William Pearson March 20, 2022 at 6:27 pm . Reply

    I’ve no argument on your thoughts Badger as that’s how I see it., strange thinking on Gerrards train of thoughts on that performance. I’m beginning to think he’s lost the plot on who is who in the game. Triore Bailey both know it’s time up and why play them ,Watkins I see him not bothered at times give him a rest, we had player’s that know in their mind it’s Arsenal and capitulated before they played or that’s what it looked like.I’ve said it over the years, put on a Villa shirt and you are facing the Enemy and you fight to win. That game was embarrassing to most of us fans. please don’t show me that again.Play the young guns they will fight.

  2. Tony Hill
    Tony Hill March 20, 2022 at 7:11 pm . Reply

    I think Mr Gerrard should go at the end of the season and assist Klopp at his beloved Liverpool! Crazy team selction and tactics. Why show these mugs too much respect, they’re no better or bigger than us in my opinion!!!

  3. Holte
    Holte March 20, 2022 at 9:05 pm . Reply

    How many of our players are good enough to get us into the top 6? I would suggest Martinez, Cash, Konsa, McGinn and Coutinho. I remain uncertain about Digne, Nakamba, Ramsey, Buendia and Watkins. All the players I haven’t named other than the kids aren’t good enough IMO.
    Gerrard needs to improve too. I think his winning mentality will probably be what makes the difference. Badger raises a good point regarding the Arsenal game. It was obvious after 15 minutes that we was going to concede. The great managers don’t wait till half time or 60-70 minutes before making changes. Also was it down to Gerrard or the players for standing off and showing too much respect to the opposition because they are top 4? We needed to be in their faces from the first minute although the referee was weak and easily duped by the likes of Sako and Smith-Rowe. We actually looked like the team that had played midweek and that for me was disappointing.
    We will do well to sneak a top half finish this season. That makes it difficult to attract top drawer players and we will have to rely on the pulling power of Gerrard rather than the attraction of playing for Aston Villa.

  4. Hitchens60
    Hitchens60 March 21, 2022 at 6:41 am . Reply

    Arsenal made no unforced errors; we made plenty as is our want.

    We failed to press Arsenal into making errors; they pressed us continually so we made forced errors as well.

    We weren’t even at the races and 0-1 flattered us.

    I can’t see Traore being here next season and Bailey may also be gone but Gerrard has some bigger decisions to make.

    Ings and Watkins; Coutinho and Buendia – who stays or who goes?

  5. OLL again
    OLL again March 21, 2022 at 9:23 am . Reply

    “Stature” after West Ham and “Belief” after Arsenal. Gerrard’s choice of words. Villa players do not lack courage for a physical conflict or cower in front of a hostile away crowd. They won 3-0 at Elland Road to prove that, but they think Leeds are smaller in stature.
    Do we have sports psychologists at VP – I am sure we do. What happens if they report that several of Villa’s players have an incurable lack of belief that they can match clubs with a bigger stature? I think it points the way to a clear out. I guess the keeper despite his horrible error in letting the Saka strike pass him [low to his right again] is safe and likewise the regular back four. Ahead of them all the midfield and forwards are vulnerable. Some might grow in stature if they are surrounded by new players with greater belief, Ramsey and Coutinho deserve the chance to prove that. For others like McGinn, Watkins, Ings, Douglas Luis, Young, Traoré and Buendia the future looks grim because as a bunch they are the ‘certain individuals’ on Gerrard’s radar.

  6. William Pearson
    William Pearson March 21, 2022 at 2:46 pm . Reply

    Oll Again, you surprised me saying McGinn or did you mean Mings?to be honest a few more like Mcginn would be my assessment but I’m no expert ,my thinking is aggression is needed plus of cause a quick mind and able to read games, we don’t have that in our team, we have players standing off and not thinking quickly enough. New players is a yes from me,

    1. OLL again
      OLL again March 21, 2022 at 9:46 pm . Reply

      I meant McGinn, William. He looks good for Scotland because their typical opponents are at the level of the bottom four in the EPL. He looks good against struggling teams in the EPL, but against the EPL better teams he retreats too far to be able to run with the ball and shoot at goal – his major strength. That limits him to passing the ball to another Villan and his pass accuracy is not that good.

      1. Ardent Villain
        Ardent Villain March 22, 2022 at 3:17 pm . Reply

        OLL – is it simply that against better opposition McGinn is told to spend more time playing deeply / defending, rather than playing his natural game?

        1. OLL again
          OLL again March 22, 2022 at 6:01 pm . Reply

          You could be right, but I don’t think so under Gerrard.
          If it were true that Gerrard’s instructions were to “sit back in the first half, soak up pressure and try the occasional rapid counter attack” and then post-match he attacks his players for showing “too much respect to Arsenal in the first half” somebody is going to call him a hypocrite because you can’t have it both ways.

          So to answer your question I don’t think McGinn is instructed to play deeper. He just does.

          1. Hitchens60
            Hitchens60 March 23, 2022 at 7:03 am . Reply

            Are the two mutually exclusive?

            Gerrard could well have asked McGinn to play a deeper role to counter the way Arsenal play. The comment about ‘showing too much respect’ relates to the team as a whole and does not necessarily exclude McGinn being asked to play a specific role in the game.

            Not that I’m trying to defend any particular player in what was a sorry performance all round.

            I think the one point we would all agree with is that McGinn is far more effective playing higher up the pitch and him playing a deep lying role reinforces the need for a top class number 6 which Luiz is not.

            On that point I see that it’s rumoured we are prepared to ‘break the bank’ to get Kalvin Phillips – assuming he would want to join us that is!

            1. Ardent Villain
              Ardent Villain March 23, 2022 at 2:30 pm . Reply

              I think we have a bunch of midfielders (inc. McGinn, Luiz, etc.,) who’s natural game is going forward; unfortunately we lack a natural defensive midfield ‘enforcer’ (unless Marvellous comes back soon in exactly the form he showed just before getting injured) which means we’re playing some square pegs in round holes.
              The sooner that specialist role is filled properly, the sooner we might see the others playing at their natural game…

  7. Bum Bum
    Bum Bum March 23, 2022 at 7:45 am . Reply

    I’m totally confused. How can we tear some teams a new one, and days later act like a sorry bunch of under 21s?
    I give up.

    1. Big Fat Ron
      Big Fat Ron March 23, 2022 at 4:28 pm . Reply

      Attitude, Bum Bum. Loser attitude. Gerrard alludes to it every time we lose, with vocabulary such as ‘ruthlessness’, ‘stature’, ‘belief’, and ‘aggression.’ He knows he’s inherited a group of losers who don’t mind if they don’t win things, who don’t mind if they finish ‘safe’ in mid-table and pick up handsome salaries and lose roughly half the games they play. Either Gerrard can change the mentality of some of these players, or he’ll need a serious turnaround of playing staff in the summer.

      1. Ardent Villain
        Ardent Villain March 23, 2022 at 6:26 pm . Reply

        BFR, I read your comment, and it seemed reasonable and very plauisble.

        But then I tried to apply it to individual 1st team ‘regulars’ – and in all honesty I can’t really see who I could accuse of being the sort of complacent individuals who are happy to sit mid-table and lose roughly half the games they play while collecting their fat pay cheques..

        I could name a couple ( & possibly doi them a big injustice-) such as Bailey, and Traore, but they’re not really regulars. When I look at the ones who play most games, I really can’t see who could be accused of not putting-in a shift in almost every game.

        What I do see are some players who seem to get very frustrated when they put in the effort without any end-product (Buendia, Watkins, Ings…) but I don’t see any complacent losers in the sense that I think you meant.

        Who did you have in mind?

        1. Big Fat Ron
          Big Fat Ron March 23, 2022 at 8:23 pm . Reply

          Very fair comment, Ardent. You might be right. But the (inconsistent) results and league position suggest otherwise. If the players have put in the shift and still lost, that means one of two things: they’re just not good enough players against the better sides or the manager doesn’t have the tactical nous to squeeze a point out of those games where we lose by one goal to top 8 opposition – see City at home, Liverpool away, Arsenal at home, and West Ham away. The only time we squeezed that point was from 2 down against United. So they’ve shown they can do it. On Saturday, the attitude wasn’t there. Against West Ham it was, but we were bullied out of it. So maybe it’s not as simple as my original comment. But I have to finish by saying putting in a shift is a minimum requirement; winners do more than that; they proverbially ‘die’ for the cause and simply refuse to be beaten. When they can’t win, they will eke that point out. I personally don’t see that in our players this season, perhaps because subconsciously, they know they can’t really finish higher than 8th at a push.

          Generally, I think the best players have more than just outstanding talent; it’s about the attitude as much as the ability. A prime example would be a certain Stanley Victor – talent to spare – enough to be the best in the world in his prime, but didn’t get anywhere near. Likewise the late Dalian Atkinson. Both talents, in my view, up there with Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), in the way they ran at defences with pace, skill and power with lethal finishing prowess. But the attitude was lacking. Herein lies the problem.

          1. Hitchens60
            Hitchens60 March 24, 2022 at 6:56 am . Reply

            Inconsistency and, dare I say it, an inferiority complex has dogged Villa for years – and that applies to the Championship as well as the EPL.

            We seem incapable of accepting ourselves as genuine top table contenders and until we do this failure to compete against the top sides will continue.

            1. Ardent Villain
              Ardent Villain March 24, 2022 at 11:40 am . Reply

              Hitch, that’s a very good point.

              I presume that Villa (like most of the EPL teams?) employ one or more sports psychologists these days?

              If we do, then what are these people there for, if not to try and create a winning mentality, and certainly try to remove any sense of inferiority?

              1. Big Fat Ron
                Big Fat Ron March 24, 2022 at 12:14 pm .

                Exactly. It’s a mental/psychological issue. Look at our skipper’s reaction to being included in the starting 11 at the Euros – hardly that of a winner, was it? Winners go to a different ‘zone’ where they have an unshakable belief in themselves and their right to be at the top. That’s where the ‘ruthlessness’ stems from. Nobody gets in their way.

        2. Big Fat Ron
          Big Fat Ron March 23, 2022 at 8:25 pm . Reply

          I find your point about ‘frustration’ fascinating. This is like a child who works hard at school but still gets average results. This strongly suggests that they aren’t good enough to get to the next level – they know it and they know Gerrard knows it and needs more, hence the frustration.

          1. Ardent Villain
            Ardent Villain March 23, 2022 at 10:02 pm . Reply

            I don’t disagree with what you say – but I am still at a loss to put your description of ‘losers’ against any of the regular 1st team at an individual level!

            The frustration thing I see particularly with Buendia (almost since his first game), and Ollie Watkins – it’s like they’re constantly beating themselves up because they’re working hard with nothing to show for it.

            Maybe they’re just trying too hard – or maybe as you say, they’re simply never going to get to the very top and they’re realising that?

            1. Big Fat Ron
              Big Fat Ron March 23, 2022 at 10:40 pm . Reply

              Ardent, when I (often) refer to ‘losers’ here, I literally mean ‘not winners’. I.e. players who have never won anything. I don’t mean the every-day use of the word ‘loser’. By definition, how many of the Villa squad are ‘losers’. I.e. haven’t won anything?

              For those working hard with nothing to show, I know it sounds harsh, but my response would be ‘work harder.’ I’m not having a go; without doing the research I imagine only a tiny percentage of players are ‘winners’ in their careers. The question is, do they have the desire to be winners. I am reminded of some wise words: “losers always whine about ‘their best’; winners go home and f*** the prom queen.” I’ll be very impressed if someone recalls who said that…Hitch, over to you…

              1. Ardent Villain
                Ardent Villain March 24, 2022 at 12:19 pm .

                BFR, to define ‘losers’ as ” players who have never won anything” is rather wide?
                By that definition wouldn’t some of today’s most highly sought-after players be included: e.g. Harry Kane, Declan Rice – to name just two (OK, maybe one or other of those has won a League Cup, if that counts!). I suppose I could add a certain Mr Grealish to that list…

                And on the other side of that coin, there are players who have ‘won’ medals simply by being included in the regular squads of the ‘top 4’, but who’ve actually played very few 90-minute games during the season; I imagine that Mr Grealish will pick-up a medal or two with Citeh this season, despite his lack of game time – will that turn him from a ‘loser’ to a ‘winner’?

                Just my thoughts really.

  8. Big Fat Ron
    Big Fat Ron March 24, 2022 at 12:20 pm . Reply

    A comment from a Liverpool fan online: “What people forget is that Aston Villa still has 20 major trophies and is a club that has the potential to be in the top six..” Our players should take note.

  9. Bum Bum
    Bum Bum March 24, 2022 at 3:59 pm . Reply

    Paul Pogba linked with us.

    You have got to be kidding. A very big no thanks with that attitude of his…

  10. William Pearson
    William Pearson March 24, 2022 at 6:01 pm . Reply

    Never in the reign of pig’s pudding, I’d rather watch the scum.

    1. Ardent Villain
      Ardent Villain March 24, 2022 at 7:29 pm . Reply

      That’s going too far.
      I’d just give up football and watch Rugby instead…

  11. Holte
    Holte March 24, 2022 at 6:34 pm . Reply

    Don’t worry because Pogba will end up at PSG. They are the only club dumb enough to pay silly money for players after a big pay day.

  12. OLL again
    OLL again March 24, 2022 at 10:45 pm . Reply

    Ardent. While Pogba is in the news your question about ‘not putting in a shift’ would be easily illustrated by him in one of his sulks at MUFC and none of the Villa players have that behaviour. But they do exhibit these less obvious traits against ‘bigger’ teams. Today if you pay the sub you can review a full 90 minutes on Villa TV. It is worth doing that for some of our defeats and taking note of these traits.
    – Passing the ball back to a colleague who just passed it to you.
    – Passing the ball back to the keeper when under no challenge.
    – Not touching the ball for an extended period.
    – Running towards a colleague on the ball instead of into space.
    – Not attempting a shot but passing to a colleague in a less promising position.
    – When a team mate is in possession but about to be challenged moving as if you expect him to lose the ball rather than beat the opponent.
    – Half-hearted pressing of the opponents’ back line.
    Those are signs of losers as defined by BFR.

  13. Big Fat Ron
    Big Fat Ron March 24, 2022 at 11:42 pm . Reply

    Ardent, a response to your last post, as I can’t join the thread. Yes, Harry Kane is a loser. He should have left Spurs when Poch left. He knows he can’t win things there, but he stayed. That’s a loser in my book. Poch is also a loser – compare to Mourinho – an a-hole by all accounts, but he likes to win, and does. Rice? He will leave West Ham this summer, because he wants to win, and he will win things in the coming years.

    As for ‘passengers’ who have won because they’re in a winning team, yes they’re winners, because even if they’re not the best players, they’ve put themselves in a position to win – they’ve been offered a contract by a club which can win things – they’ve signed it and played for that club. ‘Our Jack’ falls comfortably into that category.

    OLL’s analysis of Villa’s play is excellent, and details expertly what I’m getting at; perhaps Stevie should add him to his staff…

    1. Ardent Villain
      Ardent Villain March 25, 2022 at 12:26 am . Reply

      BFR, I agree that OLL’s analysis is excellent (as usual) – and many of the points he’s raised I have moaned about for years (particularly passing backwards or sideways when there’s clearly no need to do so-).

      But to me all of that seems a very long way from your definition of a ‘loser’ simply being a player who hasn’t ‘won’ something!

      If Citeh or Manure get Kane this summer, will that magically make him a ‘winner’? as for Rice – he can’t be a ‘winner’ on your definition until he goes to a club where he picks up a medal, so surely he’s presently a ‘loser’?

      1. Big Fat Ron
        Big Fat Ron March 25, 2022 at 9:30 am . Reply

        Kane won’t be a winner until he wins something, and that won’t be with Manure. Signing for them would cement his loser status. And yes, Rice is currently not a winner, but from what he’s said in interviews, I believe he has a winner’s attitude, which is why he’ll leave West Ham this summer in search for honours, something Kane didn’t do at the same stage of career. When was the last time West Ham won something? He knows he needs to go.

        Ardent, my ‘black and white’ definitions may seem extreme, but in sport, there are winners and losers. My underlying point is about mentality, attitude, and plain ambitious ruthlessness. These are the characteristics of (most) winners – there is a narcissistic element in them, some more than others. My point is Villa’s players lack these traits – the semantics of ‘winner’ and ‘loser’ are open to debate, but I’m sticking to my definition, especially in the context of football.

        1. Ardent Villain
          Ardent Villain March 25, 2022 at 9:59 am . Reply

          I totally agree with you about ‘attitude’ and/or lack thereof.

          I just thought your definition of ‘winner’/’loser’ was a little too extreme!

          I think maybe we all agree that the sports psychologist at Villa Park has a real job on his/her hands to improve the mentality of the squad…

  14. Big Fat Ron
    Big Fat Ron March 25, 2022 at 2:06 pm . Reply

    A Leeds fan’s view of Kalvin Phillips’ potential move away from Elland Road:
    “I genuinely believe KP will stay with us till he retires he’s a massive Leeds fan and never would’ve thought he’d be on the radar of some of the biggest teams in Europe. Which makes me think that he just wants to play football for his boyhood club and not just become another number at another club. It’s either become a legend here or just be another number elsewhere.”

    That would make Phillips a loser. He should be looking to move to a top club and win major honours. The question is, are Villa such a club? Will Villa be challenging for honours? The real discussion is not what winner and loser mean; it’s whether AVFC are genuinely ambitious enough to attract these types of players? Can Gerrard and the board persuade top players to come because in 2022-23 we will be challenging and WILL win something? It’s a tough ask. Signing Coutinho as soon as the final whistle blows on the season would be a good start and a statement of intent. Personally, I’d love to see Phillips at VP – Smith was right in trying to prise him away from Leeds three years ago.

    1. Hitchens60
      Hitchens60 March 26, 2022 at 8:09 am . Reply

      Perhaps we should direct the Leeds fan that wrote that piece to the debate at Villa over a certain JG.

      Money and the chance to add tin pots to the personal trophy cupboard are, these days, much more important than club loyalty.

      Trophies is one thing but add – not playing in Europe to the list – and Villa will struggle to attract the really best players – Gerrard or no Gerrard

  15. William Pearson
    William Pearson March 26, 2022 at 8:44 am . Reply

    I think the same lads, their no way players will come to us untill we hit the top flight in being a top six. Has been players in their last year’s will for the money.
    That’s why I think playing our home made players will help in time because they play to be someone in their playing days. Jack did years of staying but the call for honours pulled him away.

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