Villa 6 – 1 Brighton; Welcome, but what’s that about?

I quite often say that football’s a funny old game, but Aston Villa never fail to totally baffle me.
After that disgusting performance against Everton in the cup where we were frankly dire, How do we then come up with a performance where we basically dismantled a high flying team that had aims of going top of the table, in Brighton?

I felt that this would be much more like our sort of game, because the Seagulls like to play with an attacking style, which leaves them more open to our rapid countering. But I never thought it would be anything like as easy as it was.
Whereas I’ve previously criticised Emery for not just getting tactics wrong in my opinion, but more importantly, not changing anything when things weren’t working, so it seemed as though we saw the exact opposite. Roberto de Zerbi didn’t seem to change tactics and it’s led me to wonder why that is.
Is it because managers nowadays are clueless? I definitely don’t think that, although Arsenal fans were apparently moaning about Emerys poor tactics before they sacked him. He’s known as a tactically good coach.
Or is it more that squads are more only geared up to play one way and just aren’t capable of an alternative?
It’s blindingly obvious to us Villa fans that we’re seriously prone to a long ball played over and outside of us, after all, but we’ve seen the tactic used against us more than a few times with a high level of success. But then again, Brighton tried similar a couple of times, yet nothing really came of it.
Perhaps it’s just something that the “better” sides are going to be able to do against us and it’s as simple as that. Ie we need pacier defenders before we can stop it.

I don’t offer any solutions, as I’ve never professed to be a tactician, but I would be interested in any thoughts on this.

Anyway, back to the game and what a joy it was to watch. I quite simply found myself gobsmacked and pondering whether Emery had indeed deliberately thrown the Everton game. I firmly believe that he didn’t, purely because he doesn’t strike me as that sort of man. He obviously enjoys winning a cup, after all.
Yet the two performances were chalk and cheese, with the players looking sharp and lively, as opposed to that… well, I don’t want to keep thinking about it.

Nobody expected a win like that and an article I read just before the game had four pundits all expecting a score draw, which is also what I thought.

And I find myself once again totally confused about what my expectations are for the rest of the season. Sometimes I think we’ll be pushing hard for a top four place while at others we look like we’ll be closer to bottom four.

It’s a funny old game indeed and as always, it’s never straightforward following the Villa, is it?



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  1. Ardent Villain
    Ardent Villain October 2, 2023 at 4:24 pm . Reply

    I firmly believe that the main reason for our weakness to the long-ball-over-the-top this season is the injury to Mings (and yes Badger, I know you’re not his biggest fan…). Apart from his own playing ability (however you choose to view that) his most important contribution in my opinion has always been that he is the most natural ‘leader’ in the squad – regardless of who’s wearing the armband. He makes the back 4 function as a unit.

    When Mings was injured at Newcastle, Emery had to suddenly re-jig the back four, and that meant relying on new players who were supposed to be bedded-in to the EPL over a couple of months – not 27 minutes into the 1st game of the season.

    Although the new boys are getting used to the pace and physicality of this league, we’re still vulnerable when the cannier teams play the long ball – but I suspect that Emery would rather stick to his favoured way of playing even if it produces some howlers, rather than change his plan to accomodate that certain players aren’t quite up to it yet – he’s banking on them getting it right sooner rather than later.

  2. Texas Villan
    Texas Villan October 2, 2023 at 6:49 pm . Reply

    I definitely think there’s something to be said for bedding in our new players and getting used to the system. I mentioned before that I started to worry about them playing too soon during pre-season when it seemed we were letting in really weak goals. I think the loss of personnel seems to have hit his much harder than we were prepared to give credit for.

    If you look at Pep’s way of doing things, he’s spoken openly about it taking a long while for some players to get used to the system they play. JG had a tough time the first season and it seems Philips still hasn’t gotten to grips with it – and given that we have an identity, playing counter attacking, fast moving, dominating play by starting at the back football, it would stand to reason that players not used to playing with each other need time to get used to it, and each other. I read an article the other day about Man City and how they play to such tight margins that they’re out the team if not reaching it, and I can see Emery is building us up to do the same. BUT, the big difference I see to him and coaches like Pep, is I think Emery wants to get a tune out of our B string players, and rotation isn’t the only reason we’re seeing them play, but in an effort to build confidence too.

    I think there’ll be mistakes, and howlers and times where we doubt, but I’m choosing to believe the Emery knows what he’s doing, and forgive those big howlers when we’re able to stand back and look at the big picture. I know a lot of people complain about stats as being used for whatever agenda they have (and given that I work with data – I understand and feel that argument thoroughly) but there are too many compelling stats to say that whatever he’s doing, is working, and will continue to do so if we give him the space, time and support he needs. I truly believe we could be seeing the golden years of our generation in the making at Villa right now, and would do well to enjoy it. Do you think any one of us wouldn’t have traded those first 3 years of top 6 with MON for the 5 that followed at the drop of at hat? I’m enjoying the ride and where we are.

    1. Ardent Villain
      Ardent Villain October 2, 2023 at 7:05 pm . Reply

      TV, we’re on the same page.
      As a club, Villa have often gone for ‘experienced PL players’ – usually as an act of desperation – but FFP won’t allow us to do that and get the ones who are good-enough & young-enough at this time. So we’re recruiting from Spain, Germany, etc., – and those leagues are each different to the EPL.

      I believe that given time ( & patience) Emery will make the newcomers fit into his master-plan, but he’s been here less than a year (Pep/Klopp have had what – 5/6 years each?) and many of the players have only been here 2-3 months.

      For a work-in-progress we aren’t doing too badly!

  3. Ardent Villain
    Ardent Villain October 2, 2023 at 7:15 pm . Reply

    Apologies for going completely off-topic, but this is one of the most scathing pieces by a ‘respected’ / ‘serious’ football journalist that I’ve ever read :

    – and to think that some people believed that Michael Beale was the ‘brains’ behind Stevie Gerrard, and even considered that we should have gone for him when SG was fired…

  4. Holte
    Holte October 2, 2023 at 8:26 pm . Reply

    Unfortunately for me I was in London over the weekend so couldn’t watch the game. I did however record the full 90 minutes and watched it last night. It seems we have become Brighton’s bogey team. A bit like Wolves and West Ham are ours! Hopefully we haven’t got either of them in the next couple of games 😞
    Watkins has discovered his goalscoring form which is a positive. The big thing for me was McGinn in his more favoured advanced position.
    The game itself knowing the score line wasn’t as exciting and free flowing as I thought it would be. In fact there were a lot of stoppages and yellow cards which spoiled things. Defensively we were much more solid and restricted them to mostly half chances and their goal was an error by Digne. It was strange because I have seen us play better without being as ruthless.
    It’s great looking at the league table right now.
    I wonder if Southgate was squirming in his seat while trying to conjure up his excuses why Watkins and Konsa haven’t been included in his squad!

  5. 1874 was a good year
    1874 was a good year October 3, 2023 at 3:27 pm . Reply

    I have to say that Konsa and Torres are looking like a good defensive unit with Konsa leading the line. With regard to Pau Torres’ speed, I guess that he’s concentrating on getting his defensive duties right but watch out for when he feels more comfortable. I watch a lot of La Liga games and, at Villareal, a feature of his game was carrying the ball out of defense into the opponent’s half, very much as Rio Ferdinand used to do for United. So, watch out for that as time goes by. It’s my guess that Mings might find it very hard to break into the first team once he’s fit.
    I’d also guess that it might be a bit of a bumpy ride until Unai gets the squad playing exactly how he wants. Exciting times ahead though!

  6. Adam
    Adam October 4, 2023 at 11:18 am . Reply

    Cant argue with anything that’s already been said. Some great analysis. There is no doubt injuries to our top players have significantly hindered us this season. Ramsey and Moreno missing all of pre-season and the start of the season was a huge loss and should not be understated. Ramsey coming back is massive! (and what a goal too) Digne for his odd bad performances has stepped up and kudos where it’s due has changed my opinion of him. Zaniolo will be able to do a job once he has fully settled (I can see the odd 25 yard wonder strike for time to time) and Torres IMO seems to be getting better and better as time goes by. His defensive partnership with Konsa is definitely building. 100% agree that we are in for some ups and downs this season but it’s all very exciting and I believe in Emery 100%. The high line does worry me at times and personally I’d like to see us sit deeper against the likes of Pool, City etc because they have the quality to play over the top in to the spaces every time. Snatching the odd win or draw against those teams will seriously see us push for the top 4/5 because I have a feeling for the most part we will be collecting lots of points from the rest of the teams. With all that said, we are sitting pretty in the league right now and if we can beat Wolves this weekend with some of the other fixtures going on we could realistically be top 2/3 going in to the International break. In terms of personnel I wouldn’t mind us going for a new RB in time someone with outstanding pace who can mop up when were opened up. Cash is good but if we can unearth the next Kyle Walker then that would be even better. I’m going to the game tomorrow night and really looking forward to my first European night at Villa Park.

  7. Texas Villan
    Texas Villan October 4, 2023 at 3:05 pm . Reply

    FFS – what is going on with injuries this season?

    JJ is injured again, Kamara and Diaby now added to the list possibly for the next 2 games.

    1. Bum Bum
      Bum Bum October 5, 2023 at 3:17 am . Reply

      It’s everywhere TV. I do wonder if the focus on a healthier diet is backfiring a smidge and creating a more lightweight generation of footballers.
      More steak and chips needed pre match!!!
      That’s gotta be nearly £250m worth of players in the treatment room now. A full squad seems to be a luxury rather than the norm.

      1. Hitchens60
        Hitchens60 October 5, 2023 at 11:00 am . Reply

        Does seem to be far more injuries than I can ever remember from ‘yesteryear’. It seems that the more they train the easier they get injured!

        We’re looking a bit thin on the ground for tonight’s match so Emery not really in a position to rotate and I’m not feeling overly positive.

        Going out of the League Cup might not be so bad in the broader scheme of things.

        More reinforcements in January?

      2. Ardent Villain
        Ardent Villain October 5, 2023 at 12:25 pm . Reply

        Just a personal opinion, but I’ve been watching these injury issues mounting at various clubs over the last few seasons, and I’m more convinced than ever that it has something to do with the modern ‘football boot’.

        Players are paid big money by the manufacturers to wear these things that are more like ballet slippers than anything that was worn 15-20 or more years ago. And when I see a player go down & stay down without anyone having touched him, my immediate suspicion is that it has something to do with his footwear…

        espcially now that most top-level pitches are an awful lot smoother than they ever used to be.

  8. Ardent Villain
    Ardent Villain October 5, 2023 at 1:04 pm . Reply
  9. Bill Pearson
    Bill Pearson October 5, 2023 at 1:23 pm . Reply

    TNT 2 tonight for our game lads. 

  10. Ardent Villain
    Ardent Villain October 5, 2023 at 4:32 pm . Reply

    So Southgate picks Watkins, but leaves Konsa out again. Meanwhile Maguire gets chosen again – he’s played more games for England over the last 12 months than he has for Manure…

  11. OLL again
    OLL again October 5, 2023 at 4:58 pm . Reply

    ‘Throwing a game’
    Badger, the manager does not say ‘I want you to lose this match, lads, but try not to make it obvious.’ Instead he says ‘ If we are going to progress in this competition it has to be with our squad players to give the EPL first team a rest.’ Then he picks a side with several squad players coming in against Everton, who have no European matches so pick their best team.
    I suspect Emery thought he could get away with a similar second string away in Warsaw. Now the wriggle room is less following that defeat. I am dubious about the injured absentees tonight but I think The team for Wolves will be the best available whereas tonight’s starters will have a few 2nd bests.

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