One moment of magic from John McGinn could only temporarily dispel the gloom from Villa Park yesterday.
The beat team won, and we were a long way off being the best team. Our visitors gave what will be one of their best performances of the season whereas we produced one of our worst in what is fast becoming a season to forget.
Sheffield Wednesday inflicted our first home league defeat of the season upon us for a second successive season yesterday. They started brightly and found it all too easy to come away with all three points as they had done last November when they won by the same score.
Tuesday’s home win had given us something to build upon and had lifted us up temporarily into the top six. This abject performance shattered any hopes we might have entertained of turning the corner, of producing a run of good results, of installing some much-needed confidence into the team and of easing some of the pressures that are on our club.
We have taken 13 points from our first 9 games of the season and sit uncomfortably in the bottom half of the table in 13th place. We had hoped to hit the ground running this season and to not leave ourselves with ground to make up on those teams who were occupying the automatic promotion places again. Instead of that we have the same number of points as we had after the first nine games of last season and that does not represent progress. Runs of poor performances and results happen to teams but to a club that is expected to seriously challenge for promotion a run such as this one is unacceptable, and it shows no obvious signs of ending any time soon.
A win would have put us into the top six again and would have taken us within 2 points of the early league leaders, but we were not able to capitalise on their own awful result. This was our manager’s 100th game in charge of our club and this defeat will only place his future at the club under increasing doubt.
We didn’t really get going yesterday other than for a few minutes between John McGinn’s sublime goal and The Owls scoring their winner during which time the rest of the team seemed to realise that he needed a little help. Things might have been different had Hourihane’s 64th minute goal bound shot not been flicked off the line by Pudil. We might then have somehow gone on to get a win that would have papered over the cracks that were so clear yesterday but instead their second goal ended any temporary hopes we held of a late comeback.
My player ratings from a game in which we had far too many players having an off day and on which we failed to work effectively as a team are:
Orjan Nyland – 6 – Beaten by Matias from the edge of the box for their opener and by Fletcher’s powerful header for their winner with the ball ending up in the right-hand corner of the net on both occasions. Saved a 62nd minute shot from Fletcher low to his right.
Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Not near his best.
James Chester- 6 – The cross for their winner passed over him to be met by Fletcher’s head. He must be finding that carrying our defence is becoming increasingly difficult even for him.
Mile Jedinak – 4 – What did Axel do to be banished to the bench for the last two games? Mile’s place is in front of the defence not in the centre of it. He lacks pace and is not comfortable in this role. Opponents like Fletcher who was made to look like twice the player he now is yesterday are well aware of that and take advantage of it to our cost.
Alan Hutton – 7 – Our best defender yesterday. Made a great challenge on Fletcher after he had run between Jedinak and himself to deny him a scoring opportunity.
Albert Adomah – 5 – Substituted on 68 minutes having made little positive impression on the game.
Conor Hourihane – 6 – Hit a shot from the edge of the area wide of the post on 33 minutes and another straight at Dawson on 58 minutes. He was unlucky not to put us in front when his goal bound 64th minute shot was flicked clear by Pudil. Reach reached a ball on the edge of the box before Conor was able to clear it and found Matias who hit their first into the net before Chester was able to slide in to get in a challenge.
Jack Grealish – 5 – Started wide for some reason. We had players sitting on the bench who can fill the wide roles. Jack is clearly less than comfortable playing out wide and needs to play where he was so effective last season just behind the striker(s). Hit a 6th minute effort wide of the far post and another wide from just outside of the box on 52 minutes. Let a clearance run off him to Reach in the build up to their winner.
John McGinn – 8 – MOTM – Hit a stunning volley from 30 yards on 53 minutes that went in off the underside of the bar and thudded into the right-hand corner of the net. His goal, performance level and determination shone out like a beacon on a gloomy night.
Tammy Abraham – 6 – Lacked service and without it a goal poacher is seldom a scorer.
Jonathan Kodjia – 6 – Passed the ball to Tammy a couple of times rather than attempting to go it alone as has been previously been his preferred option irrespective of having team mates in better positions. This was good to see and bodes well for the hopes of him building a good striking partnership with Abraham. Had an effort blocked on 59 minutes.
Yannick Bolasie – 6 – Came on for Adomah on 68 minutes and made a couple of runs that showed that he should have started this one. Hit an 82nd minute that Hourihane scuffed wide when in a good position.
Anwar El Ghazi – Replaced Kodjia on 78 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating.
Up the Villa!