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  1. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  2. 10,000 Villa fans made a long-awaited return to Villa Park yesterday afternoon and proceeded to create the sort of atmosphere, that the game has been missing this season. This was our first win at Villa Park against our visitors since 2014 and we certainly were not at the beach for this one, much to the moaning Thomas Tuchel’s obvious chagrin! This game brought an end to a season that started incredibly brightly, then stuttered, but was re-ignited by our last two games, producing fine back-to-back wins. This was a season of progress after our narrow escape on the final day of the previous season. We finished four wins off the top four and 27 points clear of the relegation zone. We also accumulated 20 more points this season than we did last, if we do the same next year, we will be playing in the CL the following season! This will be my final player match ratings. I would take this opportunity to thank my VT readers for taking the time to look at them over the years. I have been doing these ratings for many seasons now and have posted player ratings on over 400 games at Villa Park. There have been highs (10s) and lows (the odd 0), I have rated players on their debuts and on their farewells, but the time has now come for me to call it a day and to hang up my mouse. Turning back to yesterday’s game, Chelsea arrived at B6 needing a win to guarantee Champions League qualification via the PL this season. They had the better of the first half, but we had the goal at the end of it. They dominated possession in this game and made numerous chances and half chances, but they could only put one of those away. Villa encouraged by a 25% full ground, that sounded like a full house (particularly when singing Tammy’s name and “Sweet Caroline” after the final whistle, even giving the other Blues a name check in the process!), defended resolutely and took the opportunities that came their way. Chelsea may have started the game as favourites (they were one of the six short lived European Super League members after all), but we demonstrated the integrity of the PL by not gifting them the win they needed. In doing so, we gave Leicester the chance to claim the CL place that in the end and only thanks to their local neighbours Spurs, our visitors kept, despite losing to us on the last day. We end this season back in our rightful place as the top team in the West Midlands and have left a sans Nuno Wolves with a 10-point gap to be increasingly anxious about. We ended the season on 55 points, which is our highest points tally since season 2009/10, when we finished sixth with 9 more points. We have also taken 16 points from 4 of the 6 clubs that would have potentially made up the ESL this season, to show that beating these teams is no longer a bridge to far for us. My player ratings from a game during which our visitors huffed and puffed, but were not able to blow our house down are: Emiliano Martinez – 8 – Saved a Chilwell shot hit from the right side of the area, from a Werner cross at the near post on 15 minutes. Mount hit an 18th minute shot from the edge of the box, that Emi clutched above his head. Werner then tried his luck with a 20th minute shot from outside of the box that Emi held at his right-hand post. He then comfortably gathered an ambitious 22nd minute overhead kick from the left of the penalty spot from Pulisic. Got a hand to the ball for their goal, having received treatment following a collision with an opponent shortly before, but the ball had already gone over the line before he had been able to get a hand to it. Dived to his left to gather the ball, after Havertz had tried to turn in a 75th minute Mount cross and the ball had taken a deflection off Mings, with Konsa providing cover behind Emi, just in case. Ziyech picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and ran to the left of the 6-yard box, before flicking the ball to Chilwell on the opposite edge of the box. Emi did so well to keep out Chilwell’s 87th minute shot, with his legs at his right-hand post. Ezri Konsa – 7 – We will need to address the question of who should fill in for Matty on any occasions that he is unavailable during the summer, because we do not want to be switching Ez from the middle of the defence, where he has been so effective too often. Pulisic’s 70th minute cross from the right, flew past him to the unmarked Chilwell on the left-edge of the 6-yard box, for their consolation goal, Kourtney Hause – 7 – Filled in very well due to Ez having been asked to cover for Matty. Kourtney really is a reliable PL central defender, I bet Wolves regret selling him to us now! Tyrone Mings – 8 – Was so solid at the heart of our defence again yesterday. This may not have been yet another clean sheet, but it felt like one. Orchestrated our terrific defensive performance and cannot have done his international chances any harm, with Southgate occupying his usual seat at Villa Park yesterday (does he have a season ticket now?). Matt Targett – 8 – Did well to dive low to head a dangerous Mount cross to safety from within the 6-yard box, with Azpilicueta closely behind him. Had another excellent game. Bertrand Traore – 8 – Watkins headed on an Emi kick from the edge of the box, that Bert picked up and ran to the left edge of the box with, before aiming a 16th minute shot towards the far post that Mendy dived low to his left to save. Hit a shot wide of the left-hand post from the edge of the box on 28 minutes. Targett’s 43rd minute corner was precisely hit to Bert, who in turn hit the ball first time from the left of the penalty spot, it might not have been as truly hit as he may have liked, but the ball went into the top left-hand corner of the net, off the underside of the bar to give us the half time lead. Earned our penalty when Jack switched the ball back to him inside the left of the box and he nutmegged Jorginho, who then made contact, as he moved to go past him. Like Anwar, he does need to learn to track back, but Bert wins games for us, with performances like this one. Marvelous Nakamba – 8 – MOTM - He was simply marvellous yesterday! Worked tirelessly and gave a solid defensive display in our midfield, popping up regularly at the most crucial times to avert the danger. This was the player we hoped he would be and the one that has now shown that he has it in him to live up to his name. John McGinn – 7 – Tenaciously claimed the ball just inside their half and then ran purposefully to the edge of the box, before hitting a 29th minute shot just wide of the left-hand post. Scotland’s best current player by a country mile, is limbering up nicely for the Euros. Jack Grealish – 7 -. Captain Jack is still easing his way back to full match fitness following his lengthy injury break, but his presence makes such a difference to us. Made a run into the right-edge of the penalty area and hit a 50th minute shot, that was deflected into the side netting for a corner. Jack played the ball back to Traore, which led to the penalty that gave us a two-goal cushion. Involved in both of our goals yesterday. Anwar El Ghazi – 7 – Put us two ahead when he sent Arrizabalaga the wrong way from the spot on 52 minutes, cooly hitting the ball to the right, with their costly substitute keeper, wrongly choosing to go left. He really is some penalty taker, and he has looked increasingly comfortable playing in the PL this season. Ollie Watkins – 7 – Ran tirelessly and harassed defenders throughout once again. Substitutes: Carney Chukwuemeka – Came on for Traore on 73 minutes. Dean has shown real confidence in this lad by introducing him in the last two games, Carney in turn, has took to PL football like a duck to water and he will be eager for more game time next season. Not on long enough to gather a rating on this occasion. Jacob Ramsey – Replaced El Ghazi on 79 minutes and he was also not on long enough to get a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  3. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  4. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  5. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  6. Well, we did take a point and we do remain unbeaten against Everton since our return to the top-flight. We also recorded our first clean sheet in two months and Jack is back at long last, but this game failed to set the pulses racing. Both defences were on top last night and neither team ever really looked like breaking the deadlock, although the visitors did begin to look increasingly threatening in the closing minutes. We had the best of the first half, but they came out a different side after the break (following no doubt, an interval tongue lashing) and put us on the back foot. There is currently little to choose between these two teams and that showed last night. We failed to work Pickford last night and both teams seemed relatively satisfied to hold the point that they started with throughout the game, which was perhaps more surprising in the visitor’s case, given they had more to play for before last night’s result. In conclusion, this was an end of season game played between two mid table teams and it showed. It does beat being a defeat away from relegation, on the last day though! My player ratings from a game that will not linger for too long, in most of our memories are: Emiliano Martinez – 7 – MOTM – Easily gathered an ambitious 30th minute Sigurdsson free kick, hit from the sort of range that only the late Peter Lorimer would have troubled Emi from. Made himself big just inside the 6-yard box, to block a 47th minute Calvert-Lewin shot that was hit from the left of the penalty spot. Fortunately, the striker was later flagged, as he had gone slightly too early in running past and between, Konsa and Mings. Claimed the ball on the edge of his 6-yard box a minute later, following a heavy touch from the same player. Godfrey met a 52nd minute free kick at the right-hand post and Emi reacted well to push the ball out for a corner with his left hand at the post. Holding gave Emi some catching practice with a header from a 63rd minute free kick. Did very well to keep out an 87th minute Calvert-Lewin header from just inside the 6-yard box with his legs at the near post. Equalled Brad Friedel’s club record of 15 clean sheets in a season last night, in his first season with us. Matty Cash – 6 – Was having a decent game until injury led to an early exit for him, shortly before the half time break. Ezri Konsa – 6 – Like the defence as a whole, he was solid and deserving of another clean sheet last night. Tyrone Mings – 6 – Had our best chance of the game on 17 minutes, when his diving header from the edge of the 6-yard box, flew a couple of feet wide of the right-hand post. Did very well on 92 minutes to cover Calvert-Lewin’s run into the box and reach a Richarlison cross first, to deny the striker a golden opportunity to hit home a late winner. Matt Targett – 6 – Another solid display. Anwar El Ghazi – 5 – Picked up the ball in the middle and ran forward before hitting an ambitious 25-yard 20th minute shot well over the bar. Hit a 61st minute free kick from the edge of the box, which Pickford chose to push past his right-hand post, rather than try to catch what was a wet ball. Jack found him on the edge of the box, he took a touch before hitting a 79th minute shot well over. Douglas Luiz – 7 – A marked improvement on some of his recent performances and he was unlucky not to have got an assist when his smart work within the box presented Mings with a clear opportunity to head us in front on 17 minutes. Nice to see him venturing forward again last night. John McGinn – 6 – Kept himself busy and did well in what was at times a combative midfield, particularly in the first half. Ross Barkley – 4 - If this does turn out to be his last Villa Park appearance in our colours, then I will think back on those games, when he showed us what a good player he can be, such as that stellar performance during which he combined so well with Jack against Liverpool, rather than on subsequent games this year. Since his injury, the covid breakout at the club and during Jack’s absence, Ross has rarely been able to reproduce more than a fleeting glimpse of the player that we know is in there and that was the case again last night, this will have disappointed Ross, as much as it has frustrated us. He was substituted after 65 minutes. Bertrand Traore – 4 – This was another of those exasperating displays during which he fails to make the sort of positive impression on the game, that we know he is capable of. El Ghazi found him on the centre edge of the box, but his first-time 11th minute shot was hit straight at Pickford. Booked on 43 minutes for diving on the edge of the box (it is nice to see the referees being consistent, it seems that any player (so long as he is playing for us) will now get an automatic card for simulation). Substituted on 72 minutes. Keinan Davis – 5 – Had big scoring boots to fill in Ollie’s absence. Lacked service and he did find himself up against a very solid, and well organised defence. Nevertheless, Keinan did not show quite the same determination or look quite the same player that had made such a positive impact in the closing minutes against WBA, last night. Substitutes: Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Replaced Cash in the 2nd minute of first half stoppage time. Headed a 74th minute Targett corner well wide. Blocked a 78th minute Gomes shot from the edge of the box, just in front of the 6-yard box. Always strives to give his best. Jacob Ramsey – 5 - Replaced Barkley on 65 minutes and injected some late energy into the midfield. Jack Grealish – Came on for Traore after 72 minutes to make a very welcome return, having last appeared for us in February, due to injury. Not on long enough to gather a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  7. We have been down this same road too often before. We take the lead, we dare to think that we could break the hoodoo they have over us at long last, but our hopes are inevitably dashed, and history annoyingly keeps repeating itself. The visitors despite threats to the contrary, played what looked remarkably near to their usual starting line-up yesterday and they looked determined to get their noses in front, during the opening minutes. Having weathered the visitor’s early pressure Villa then began to make an increasing impact on the game themselves and deservedly went ahead in the middle of the first half. Douglas conceded the penalty that levelled the scores early in the second half and they then added another within 4 minutes. Seeing our lead disappear and become a deficit so quickly was bad enough, but for them to then go on to add another near the end, that made the game look easier for them than it was, and to then have a player sent off was just so deflating. This was all too predictable and that feeling of deflation, is one that we have become all too accustomed to, over several years now. Bruno Fernandes scored his third goal against us in three matches yesterday. All three of those goals were from the penalty spot. They get awarded a lot of penalties against us, don’t they? Watkins was sent off for going down inside the box, having anticipated an injury threatening challenge that Henderson pulled out of at the very last minute. Would the referee have been in such a rush had it been our keeper and one of their forwards had stood accused of simulation, or would a penalty have been routinely awarded, as one was given when Bruno collapsed to the ground in a heap at Villa Park last season? Would one of our players have had a penalty awarded against them, if like Greenwood the ball had struck their arm inside the penalty area? I suspect at the very least, VAR may have suggested the referee have another look at it, if he had not already blown his whistle. A defeat by a 2-goal margin was harsh, but we do not get the rub of the green against this lot, they do every time and then some! Over far too many years now, Villa Park has become a favourite ground for our visitors. The players and managers may change, but if they do not win, they draw. The inevitability of it, becomes increasingly difficult to take. We are back in the bottom half again, after this result and our twelfth game without Jack. Whilst we have a game in hand of both Leeds and Arsenal, we are two and four points respectively behind these two. Wolves have also closed the gap between us to three points, so we really need a win on Thursday and ideally another at Palace, or a minimum of four points from six. We then finish the season with games against another two clubs that we have found hard to beat over recent years. It would be nice to take more points than we drop from our remaining games this season, wouldn’t it? My player ratings from a game that sadly produced our 8th home defeat of the season are: Emiliano Martinez – 6 – Parried away a 6th minute Shaw effort at the near post and Targett was on hand to clear the resultant loose ball. He then dived to his left seconds later to collect a Pogba shot. Held a 9th minute shot from Fred hit to his left and then dived to comfortably collect a 34th minute Shaw cross. Held a 39th minute Rashford shot from the edge of the box, to his right and then did well to parry a Greenwood effort at his left-hand post with his right hand and Konsa was on hand to clear the resultant loose ball from within the 6-yard box. Sent the wrong way from the spot by Fernandes after 52 minutes, when the ball was hit to his left. Might have felt he could have got a hand to their second, when Greenwood turned just inside the box and hit a sweet shot past his dive and into the left-hand corner of his net. Had no chance with their third, when Cavani was left clear to nod an 87th minute Rashford cross just inside the far post. Matty Cash – 6 – Had a steady game. Ezri Konsa – 6 – Should have been alive to the danger from Cavani and the job of challenging Cavani’s run to head their decisive third, was therefore left to Matty. He was otherwise always on hand to get his foot or a block in. Tyrone Mings – 6 – Committed himself unnecessarily on the edge of the box, enabling a nice turn from Greenwood to create the space he needed to hit their second. Other than for that costly mistake, had a solid game in the heart of our defence. Matt Targett – 7 – So reliable now and was the best of our defenders yesterday. Anwar El Ghazi – 5 – Hit a hopeful 30-yard shot harmlessly wide of the left post on 7 minutes. Was found by McGinn and his 50th minute shot from just inside the box was saved by Henderson, had it gone in, it would no doubt have been ruled out for offside by VAR, when McGinn first picked up the ball. Needs to perform more consistency at the high level he is capable of. Douglas Luiz – 4 – Started well enough but gifted them a route back into the game after 51 minutes with an unnecessary challenge inside the box on Pogba, who had his back to goal and was just willing him to make any sort of contact, so that he could topple over. Douglas had first grabbed his shirt and got away with it, but there was to be no reprieve when he went on to make contact, with the back of Pogba’s leg and the referee just could not wait to give it. Douglas was incredibly naïve or plain reckless, as he should be fully aware how easily Newton Heath’s players go down inside the box and how referees do not hesitate to award a penalty if even the slightest contact is made inside the area this season (other than in Ollie’s case today!) John McGinn – 7 – MOTM - This was simply John back at his best again. Ross Barkley - 5 – Was unable to repeat the impact he had on the Everton game yesterday and was substituted as we loaded the team with forwards as the minutes ran down, in search of an equalizer. Bertrand Traore – 7 – Put us ahead on 24 minutes. Solid challenges by Targett and then McGinn won the ball before Douglas found Bert on the edge of the box. He turned away from Lindelöf before hitting a screamer from the left of the box past Henderson and into the top right-hand corner of the net. Had a shot from a 60th minute Targett cross, pushed out for a corner by Henderson at his left-hand post. McGinn floated a nice ball into the box that Bert headed tamely towards Henderson on 80 minutes. Hit an 83rd minute shot from just inside the box straight at Henderson. Bert was heavily involved in most of the good things that we did up front, but like Anwar he does not always drop back and opposing wing backs therefore find space and are free to put pressure on our own full backs. Ollie Watkins – 6 – Came near to giving us a 2-goal cushion in the 2nd minute of first half stoppage time, when McGinn found him on the edge of the box. Ollie hit a good shot that Henderson dived to his left to push past the post. Unlucky to receive his first yellow, when his momentum took him into Maguire. Seemed even harsher of the referee to brandish a second yellow and send him off for simulation late in the game (he must have eyes like a hawk if he was able to see there was no contact). If referees applied the same strict interpretation to Bruno Fernandes, he would have seen an awful lot of red cards, wouldn’t he? Substitutes: Jacob Ramsey – 5 - Replaced Douglas on 65 minutes. Keinan Davis – Replaced Barkley on 77 minutes. Outmuscled Lindelöf on the right of the box on 82 minutes and would have been better to have had a crack himself, rather than to unselfishly try to square the ball to Watkins and see Wan-Bissaka block it. Keinan was not on long enough to get a rating this time. Wesley – Came on for Anwar after 78 minutes and was also not on long enough to merit a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  8. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  9. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  10. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  11. A game saving goalkeeping performance by Emi Martinez kept us in last night’s game and a timely first Premier League goal for Keinan Davis, gave us a late point and pulled the relegation trap door wide open for the Baggies. An early well taken Anwar El Ghazi penalty put us ahead within the first ten minutes last night and we really should have been able to kick on from there, to put the result beyond any doubt. That was not to be though and half-way through the first half, another soft penalty, this time for the visitors left the game all square. Having let our opponents back into the game, we were then second best for a quarter of an hour, during either side of the half time interval. Albion pressed us and clearly wanted it more than we did, during that period. An own goal put them ahead shortly after half time and the prospect of a second successive home defeat from a winning position, began to loom increasingly large. Fortunately, going a goal behind eventually got a reaction from us. We became increasingly dominant, although had it not been for Emi, we could have easily gone further behind before Keinan’s stoppage time equalizer, broke many a Black Country heart and all but snuffed out any lingering slender survival hopes that they may have had. It is a pity that we failed to play like we did in the last half hour or so, during the first hour last night. For too long we were setting up our deck chairs and rolling out our towels, when we should have been showing some of the passion that our opponents were. Clearly, they had more to play for than us. Our present poor run of one win from our last eight league games, has left us becalmed in mid-table. Nevertheless, we should not have so readily let this season drift away from us, following such a promising start to it. Had we shown what we did in the last half hour last night, during the whole match, we would have run out clear winners, with or without Jack. My player ratings from a game that a late goal, gave us some reward for a prolonged period of pressure are: Emiliano Martinez – 8 – MOTM – Guessed the right way when Pereira took his 23rd minute penalty, but the ball was hit above his dive. Blocked a 40th minute Pereira shot from the edge of the box and 2 minutes later had a coat of paint to thank, when the same player’s free-kick from the right-edge of the box struck the crossbar, with him a spectator. Cut out a 52nd minute Robinson cross from the edge of the box. Made a terrific 73rd minute save to divert the ball over the bar after it had bounced off the left post and was otherwise heading towards two Albion players who were waiting to score their third near the goal line. Made another fingertip save moments later to keep out a Bartley near post header. Pushed a 76th minute Pereira shot wide of the left-hand post. Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Filled in well enough in the enforced absence of Cash. Nodded a good Targett free kick wide, from level with the 6-yard box. Hit a 61st minute volley sweetly from just outside of the box, that Johnstone saved well to his right. Ezri Konsa – 5 – Gave the referee a decision to make when Maitland-Nyles felt the slightest touch from him on his heel and predictably tumbled to the ground to claim a penalty. Any touch however slight in the box, automatically seems to result in a penalty this season and that was again, the case on this occasion. Slipped when trying to deal with a 47th minute ball played into our half by Johnstone and the ball fell to Diagne, who ran into the box before hitting a shot that was going wide, until Mings diverted it past Emi. Emi later prevented Ezri getting an assist for a third Albion goal, by touching the ball over the crossbar on 73 minutes, after it had bounced off the post towards two waiting opponents. The ball striking that post had prevented him scoring a second own goal for the visitors with a header. Tyrone Mings – 5 – His 47th minute own goal (see above) inadvertently gave the visitors a slender lifeline to survival, that Davis cut in half during stoppage time. Matt Targett – 7 – Solid at the back and some good forward runs. Anwar El Ghazi – 7 – Sent Johnstone the wrong way from the spot on 7 minutes, striking the ball confidently into the left-hand corner of the net, to give him his third goal and his second penalty against WBA this season. I bet he wished that we could play them every week! Hit a 29th minute shot from just outside of the box that Johnstone saved to his left. Douglas Luiz – 5 – Had a decent first half. John McGinn – 5 – Screwed an 81st minute shot wide of the post from 30 yards and had a 94th minute 30-yard shot palmed away by Johnstone. Ross Barclay - 5 – Went down inside the box after 7 minutes following contact from Ajayi and was awarded the penalty, that El Ghazi converted. Hit a 33rd minute shot that took a deflection off a defender, which made it into a comfortable save for Johnstone. Found by Watkins on the edge of the box, found space for a 58th minute shot cleverly, but it was deflected just wide of the right-hand post off a defender. An improvement last night. Bertrand Traore – 6 – Mishit a shot from a nice 31st minute Targett cross, which went across the edge of the 6-yard box, rather than towards goal. Ran inside the box and hit a 62nd minute near post shot that hit the angle of the woodwork. Moved inside the box again 4 minutes later, but his shot went wide of the left-hand post. Ollie Watkins – 5 – El Ghazi pulled the ball back to him near the line, but Ollie was unable to get enough pace on his 44th minute header to trouble the keeper. Was well found by McGinn after 70 minutes and ran into the box before hitting a rasping shot, that was unfortunately hit straight at Johnstone. Substitutes: Jacob Ramsey - Replaced Douglas on 78 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating. Keinan Davis – 8 - Replaced Barclay on 82 minutes. Made a significant difference up front. Found inside the box by Traore, made a nice run but his 83rd minute shot was hit straight at Johnstone. Hit the left-hand post with a good 86th minute shot from just outside the left of the 6-yard box. Watkins headed a McGinn ball back across goal, where Bartley chested it down and Keinan reacted quickly as the ball was in between the defender and Johnstone, to prod it home for the equalizer. Wesley – Made a very welcome return to first team action on 91 minutes when he came on for Traore, following over a year’s absence through injury. Produced a 93rd minute save from a header from Johnstone, that spoilt what would have been a fairy tale finale. Not on long enough to get a rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  12. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  13. This game started so unbelievably well, when we went in front after just 20 seconds. Could this be another slaughter of the league champions? Not this time, the visitors became increasingly dominant and were ahead at half time, albeit having been brought down to ten men in the dying minutes of that half. Could we take advantage of the man advantage and stage a comeback? We might have done, had we not squandered that advantage 11 minutes into the second half. After that normal service was resumed and the champions elect were the team most likely to add to the scoring, we had shot ourselves in the foot due to Matty’s moment of madness, or in this case his two rash moments in three minutes. Manchester City recovered well from receiving the shock of going a goal down so early. They dusted themselves off and steadily began to dominate the game. They sprayed the ball around at will and produced quick touches, stringing together passes between each other with ease. The football they produced, is what we should aspire to. At times they reminded me of the Barcelona of a few years ago and they are running away with the league title for a reason. Stones offered us an unexpected opportunity to get back into this game with an unnecessary and clearly dangerous high late challenge on Ramsey, that rightly resulted in him leaving the field shortly before half time. For a few minutes, we had the ball at our feet for a change and the visitors minds were perhaps on protecting their lead rather than on extending it, but that was just for a fleeting few moments. On the positive side our defence did well to keep the difference between the two teams down to one goal, despite being under considerable pressure and facing an increasing number of attacks that threatened to add to the visitor’s goal tally. Had it not been for Emi coming for a cross that Rodri reached comfortably before he did and headed into the vacant net, then we might possibly have taken a point from this game, but I suspect the visitors always had another goal in them if one was needed. After this game we are stuck in the bottom half of the table. Our poor run of results this year has seen us slip down the table place by place and although we remain just 2 points behind both Leeds and Arsenal, with a game in hand, games in hand are of little use if you do not get anything from them. Even Wolves who are 3 points behind us, having played one game more, now see the gap that was once a chasm between the two clubs, as a bridgeable fracture that they could soon close. My player ratings from a game that we were clearly second best in are: Emiliano Martinez – 6 – Did well to get down to his left to block and then catch a 19th minute Mahrez shot, that had been aimed between his left-hand post and himself. Had no chance with their 21st minute equaliser. Bernardo Silva pulled the ball back from inside the left of the box, threading the ball between Targett and Mings, to Foden who hit the ball into the left-hand corner of the net from near the penalty spot. Did well to claim a low 32nd minute Mahrez cross, that was otherwise on the way to Gabriel Jesus for a tap-in. Came for, but failed to reach a 39th minute Silva cross from the left, that Rodri nodded on into the unguarded net. When you come out for them, you really do need to get them. This was a rare, but a costly error by Emi, in what was otherwise a good performance. Did very well to block a 50th minute Gundogan cross from the left-edge of the 6-yard box, with his outstretched left foot and thus prevented the ball reaching the waiting Mahrez for a tap-in. Matty Cash – 4 – Matty had been having a decent game until a reckless and unnecessarily strong 56th minute challenge on Foden inside their half, earned him his second yellow card within 3 minutes and cost us any hope that we may have been entertaining of getting something out of this game. Having been booked for holding Foden back after 54 minutes, he really should have not given the referee the chance to show him another card so soon, in such circumstances. Ezri Konsa – 7 – MOTM - Did well to intercept an 85th minute cross from inside the left of the box, that had been intended for Foden who had run inside the 6-yard box behind him. Another good and rock-solid display in the centre of our defence. Tyrone Mings – 7 – Played his part in organising a good defensive performance, when it was under constant pressure. Matt Targett – 7 – Another that did well again at the back. Bertrand Traore – 4 – He remains some way below his best of a few months ago. Douglas Luiz – 5 – Produced a slightly better performance than of late, against his former club. A Traore header fell to him on the left edge of the 6-yard box, but his 5th minute shot went into the side netting. Headed a 45th minute Ramsey cross from the right, harmlessly wide of the right-hand post, from left of the penalty spot. Hit a speculative 51st minute shot from around 30 yards, that Ederson comfortably gathered at his left post. John McGinn – 6 – Gave us a very bright start to this game with a goal from a Watkins cross after just 20 seconds. Mings took a quick free kick inside his own half which Stones unsuccessfully stretched a leg out to intercept, the ball ran onto Watkins on the left-edge of the box. Ollie crossed the ball through the legs of Ruben Dias and John who had run into the box turned the ball into the right-hand corner of the net. This was his first goal for us since his first of the season, in the thrashing of Liverpool. Another one or two against the Baggies, would be nice John! Jacob Ramsey - 5 – Substituted at half time with a view to exploiting our frustratingly temporary man advantage. Traore pinged a nice 27th minute ball across the field for Ramsey to run onto, but Walker brought him down near the edge of the box only for his appeal for a free kick to be ignored by the referee. Jacob was then found inside the box by Douglas a minute later, but his ambitious shot from the left ended up in the side netting. McGinn played a ball from the edge of his own box that led to the late ugly challenge by Stones just inside their half, that brought him a fully justified red card. Marvelous Nakamba – 5 – Popped up a couple of times to put an end to a threatening attack. Ollie Watkins – 6 – Starved of service, but he did claim an early assist for our goal, when he crossed through the legs of Ruben Dias for McGinn to put us ahead within the 1st minute. Substitutes: Keinan Davis – 5 - Replaced Ramsey at half time. His introduction was a positive move and an attempt to take advantage of our man advantage. I would not have taken a midfield player off myself, as that was the area that the visitors were most dominant. As it was, our man advantage disappeared all too soon and Keinan therefore then only offered us another forward, who lacked the service to make a positive impact on the game. Ross Barclay - 5 – Came on for Marvelous after 63 minutes and this was a slight step up on some of his recent displays. Anwar El Ghazi – Replaced Traore on 75 minutes. Not on long enough to earn any rating. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  14. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  15. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  16. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  17. An outstanding start to the season is looking increasingly likely to be followed by a wretched end to it. Our early season form had us dreaming of a top six finish, but our present dismal run, that has brought us only 4 wins from our last 14 games, has us looking increasingly likely to drift into the bottom half of the table and to finish nearer the bottom six, than the top six. The goals have dried up, to the extent that we have only scored once in our last four games. We are now not even creating any decent chances, having gone almost an hour yesterday without having a shot on goal. Our midfield has badly missed Jack’s creativity during his absence and unfortunately when he is out injured, it is rarely for only one or two games. Even our cast iron defence is beginning to feel the strain now of knowing that conceding the first goal, invariably results in a defeat. Where once we were an exciting team that were hard to beat, we have now become a joyless side that even clubs that are on a bad run can look to turn over, as defeats against Championship bound Sheffield United and now Spurs have demonstrated. Fulham will be rubbing their hands at the prospect of visiting B6, after the coming international break! Spurs cannot have believed their luck yesterday. They arrived at Villa Park in crisis, having surrendered a two-goal advantage on Thursday to go out of the Europa League. Jose was under pressure, his team were low on confidence and they had seemed there for the taking, but currently we stand accused of being “on the beach” which clearly flaunts the government guidelines! We are also a tonic for ailing football clubs, rather than a team that will put them to the sword. We have now won one of our last seven games and this defeat was our sixth successive home defeat against Tottenham. This Spurs team looked to me, the least effective that they have played against us for some years. They did not play particularly well last night and sadly they did not need to. They all too easily were able to take all three points back to North London, when I am sure before the game started, they would have gladly settled for one. Both teams began the game slowly, in the case of the visitors perhaps understandably, in our own case, less so. We began to have the lion’s share of the possession after the opening uneventful minutes, but we were unable to create anything with it, lacked any spark and posed no threat up front, before we gifted them the first of their two goals. The visitors had gained some much-needed confidence by the second half, due to a large extent our own ineptitude and had begun to look increasingly comfortable. Although the game was by then over as a contest, during the last ten minutes, we did belatedly begin to venture forward a little and we did look a touch more interested. What a pity we did not try this during the first eighty minutes! My player ratings from a game that Jack could only helplessly watch from the stand, in what appeared to be a designer onesie, during his continuing absence through injury are: Emiliano Martinez – 4 – His error handed the visitors their opening goal. Emi came out of his area to claim a ball played forward but instead of putting his laces through it and clearing it well up the field, he attempted to find Cash, who was a few yards in front of him. Lucas Moura picked up the loose pass, played a one-two with Kane, running to the left edge of the 6-yard box, before hitting the ball between Mings and Cash, and past Emi at the post, towards two unmarked Spurs players lurking in front of goal. Of these, it was Vinicius who scored with a 29th minute tap-in. Emi was sent the wrong way by Kane when he struck their penalty into the left-hand corner of the net after 68 minutes. Hojbjerg hit a 78th minute shot from just inside of the box, which he parried away diving to his right. Matty Cash – 4 – Made a rash 67th minute attempt to block a potential Kane cross by sliding in closely between him and the goal, catching his foot after the ball had gone out and giving the England captain an opportunity to fall to ground clutching his lower leg, to win the penalty that clinched their win. Mike Dean could not wait to give it either, I wonder if Harry gave him his match shirt afterwards? Ezri Konsa – 6 – MOTM – Made an important early intervention by clearing a Sergio Reguilon low cross that had been intended for the waiting Vinicius. Had another solid game, that left me wondering how Eric Dier (dropped yesterday) got into the England squad ahead of him. Tyrone Mings – 6 – Had a solid game. Matt Targett – 6 – Made a nice late run into the box to reach a sweet 21st minute ball that Traore had hit from the right edge of the area, on the edge of the 6-yard box. Having done so, he might have done better to have attempted to beat Lloris himself, rather than to try to play the ball across to Watkins, who had three defenders in proximity, one of whom Tanganga, cleared it to safety. Mahmoud Trezuguet – 4 – Industrious, but he failed to produce any real product, and something more than hard work is required at this level. Sanson pulled the ball back from just inside the left edge of the box on 58 minutes, finding him just inside the centre of the area, but his shot lacked pace and was easily blocked by a defender who was positioned in front of Lloris. Hit a 73rd minute shot wide of the left post from the edge of the box. Douglas Luiz – 4 – His recent drop in form has surprised me. John McGinn – 4 – Hit a 59th minute shot from the edge of the box that was comfortably gathered by Lloris down to his left. Morgan Sanson - 5 – Hit some inaccurate crosses and has yet to make quite the impact that we had hoped that he might, although joining us at a time when our form is on the slide, has not assisted him in settling into the PL. Needs to start our remaining games and to stay on for more than an hour. Bertrand Traore – 4 – I had been hoping that he would step up in games like this one, during Jack’s absence. He does have undoubted ability, but he needs to produce it throughout a game, rather than once or twice. Ollie Watkins – 5 – Starved of service, but this still did seem some way off the level of performance that won him international recognition last week. Substitutes: Anwar El Ghazi – 5 - Replaced Traore on the half hour and looked relatively bright initially, before falling more into line with the inept level of performance of those around him. Hit a 61st minute shot from just outside the left edge of the box, which brushed the side netting, although had it been on target Lloris did have it covered. Ross Barclay – 4 - Replaced Sanson on 66 minutes and had a couple of reasonably decent moments on this latest brief outing. Not so clearly our worst performer in this game, as there was an awful lot of competition for that unwanted accolade last night! Keinan Davis – Came on for Trez after 79 minutes. Looked interested and made a relatively positive impression, which were things that very few of his teammates could be accused of last night. Pulled the ball back to Barclay from the left of the box, but his 84th minute shot was blocked by a defender. Not on long enough to gather a rating, but he did make a bit of case to be considered in front of one or two of those that did start, last night. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  18. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  19. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  20. We dominated the first half yesterday and our visitors from the Black Country, could have been two goals down after only 15 minutes, had it not been for the woodwork. The second half was totally different. Wolves having started the game slowly, increasingly took charge of the game and it was us rather than them, that were clinging on to a point for much of the second half. The first half was a marked improvement on our midweek display. The team seemed to understand, that although the fans were again missing, this match meant a lot to both sets of fans. If only we could sustain the same peak level of performance, more often over the full 90 minutes. There was little to choose between the two teams yesterday. Both teams will have felt they had the chances to have won it, but both teams will also know they could easily have lost it and a draw was both the right and a fair result. The positives are that we got another clean sheet yesterday and took a point from this local derby, despite having our talisman Jack, Matty and Anwar unavailable. This season it is our noisy neighbours, rather than ourselves that have a gap to mind, which remains at five points, despite us having played two less games than them. This, the fact that we have taken four points from them this season and that there has been little to choose between the two clubs over two games this season, does represent considerable progress for our football club. My player ratings from a game that ended with honours even are: Emiliano Martinez – 7 – Had a relatively quiet game, but when he was tested, he pulled out all the stops on both occasions. Neto had run from near his own box to just outside of the right of the 6-yard box and having got ahead of Targett, he hit a 50th minute shot, that Emi did well to parry out for a corner at the right-hand post. Emi was grateful that Coady having been left unmarked headed a 57th minute Neto cross against the far post and was doubly thankful, when Saiss proceeded to scoop the ball, that had been diverted across the face of the goal to him, over the crossbar from only around a yard out. Made a tremendous 76th minute reaction save to turn a Coady shot from inside of the 6-yard box wide of his left-hand post. Easily gathered an 87th minute Neto free kick from the right edge of the area, that was hit straight at him. Ahmed Elmohamady – 6 – Did a solid job at the back yesterday. I had anticipated him having considerable problems in coping with Traore’s pace, but fortunately our former winger appeared both uninterested and lethargic yesterday. Headed a 71st minute Barclay corner wide of the near post from the left edge of the 6-yard box. Ezri Konsa – 7 – Solid at the back and he posed a threat in the other area as well. Traore’s 15th minute cross evaded Mings on the left edge of the 6-yard box, before dropping to Ezri just outside the centre of the 6-yard box, but he could not keep his shot down and the ball hit the crossbar, rather than the back of the net. Following a 93rd minute corner and a Patricio block, the resultant loose ball reached Ezri to the right of the penalty spot, but he hit his shot wide of the right-hand post. Tyrone Mings – 7 – Marshalled our defence well and popped up where necessary to stifle their forward progress. Matt Targett – 6 – Faced an exacting test from Neto, who was by some distance their biggest threat yesterday. Matt became increasingly effective the longer that the game went on. Did exceptionally well on 94 minutes to get up at the far post to head a cross that was intended for Neves, who was was waiting behind him to potentially head home a late winner, to safety. Mahmoud Trezuguet – 5 – Worked hard. I was worried that his substitution, might give Neto more space in our half as the visitors increasingly pressed forward towards the end of the game, as he had been providing some decent defensive support. He does continue to be some way off his best, when in the opposition’s half though. Douglas Luiz – 6 – Made a welcome return to the starting line-up and our midfield is more effective with him in it. Had a decent first half but was not quite back to his best yesterday and he did fade in the second, as did we. John McGinn – 6 – Much nearer his best during the first half, but John was another who made less of an impression during the second. Morgan Sanson - 6 – Made a promising full home debut. Bertrand Traore – 5 – Failed to cause any serious threat to the Wolves defence. Ollie Watkins – 7 – MOTM – McGinn found him in the centre of the visitor’s half, and he proceeded to hit a rasping shot from around 30 yards that left Patricio a mere spectator, as the ball rattled the crossbar. How he must hate the woodwork, having now struck it seven times in all, this season! Should have took the shot on, having run into the box on 10 minutes, instead of selflessly looking to try to find Traore and give him an opportunity to open the scoring. McGinn played the ball to him and he hit a 17th minute shot from outside of the box, that was deflected off a defender, thereby making it simple for Patricio to collect the ball near his right-hand post. Trez found Ollie on 49 minutes and his shot was blocked by Saiss on the edge of the box, which sent the ball past the left-hand post for a corner. Barclay’s 93rd minute corner from the left, which had been intended for Davis, was nodded on by a defender and fell to Ollie a couple of yards outside the right of the 6-yard box, he turned and hit a shot that Patricio did well to block at his left-hand post. Substitutes: Ross Barclay – 4 - Replaced Sanson on 61 minutes. A positive substitution made with good intentions. He can hit a dead ball and should have offered us something moving forward. Ross at his earlier best prior to his injury, seemed to have an almost telepathic link with Jack. With Jack now missing nobody else seems to be on his wavelength, including himself at present. A slack ball played from the edge of his own area back into nobody in particular, might well have cost us the game on 76 minutes, but thankfully Martinez spared his blushes by pulling off a fine save from Coady. Keinan Davis – Replaced Trez on 78 minutes Not on long enough to earn a rating. Jacob Ramsey – Came on for Bert after 83 minutes. Not on long enough to gather a rating but looked comfortable in the middle. Up the Villa! John Lewis
  21. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  22. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  23. We have lost every game that we have started without Jack since we returned to the Premier League and we do not get many points from games when we go a goal behind. Given that and the absence of Matty Cash, defeat was not perhaps entirely unpredictable after 23 minutes had elapsed yesterday. The Foxes were out of their blocks quickly at the start of yesterday’s game and we were anything but. They were much sharper, and it seemed evident that their early dominance was likely to lead to goals and so it proved. Two goals on 19 and 23 minutes, left us with a mountain to climb and we did not really get out of base camp often enough to seriously threaten to complete an effective comeback. We did pull a goal back just after half time and we also spent a fair bit of time in their half during the last quarter of the game, but Leicester had by then dropped back and were content to protect their lead. They were able to do so without us really causing them any serious concern and without us troubling Schmeichel as often as we should have done. This defeat looks narrower than it was. Leicester having gone two goals ahead in the first quarter of the game, then took their foot off the pedal, in the knowledge that without Jack, they had probably already done enough. We seemed rather too ready to accept that without Jack, winning this game might prove beyond us and did not do enough to disprove the accusation that we are a one-man team. This was too easy a game for Leicester to win yesterday. Once again, this was a game of two halves. During the first we were just not good enough. In the second, we did improve, but not enough to become a serious threat to the visitors lead. Our visitors have now won 9 games away from home this season and we have lost as many at Villa Park, as we have won, so the higher placed side probably started favourites to gain revenge for their earlier home defeat by us. This result gives both clubs three points each from games against each other this season and an aggregate score of 2-2. Honours are therefore even, but what a pity it was that we could not somehow get a second late goal against the Foxes this season, yesterday. It will be all about Leicester after this game and their battle for a Champions League place. We were in a position where a win would have taken us within reach of a place in the top six yesterday, but not for the first time this season we failed to take an opportunity to get amongst them. Instead, it is Leicester, Everton and the increasingly fortunate West Ham that are rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United. We have again, put ourselves in a position where our away results (this time at Leeds) need to compensate for our home deficiencies, if we are to retain our top half placing. That said, we would all have been ecstatic about being in our current league position at this point of the season, at the end of last season. We are also not the only club, whose home form has been inconsistent this season (although clubs such as Liverpool have recently been stringing together a run of consistent home performances!). We still have games in hand, although top six is looking further away today than it did yesterday, it is still attainable, as is most definitely a top half finish. What we must do now is not let our present league placing slip The watching Southgate will no doubt have been impressed by the performances of Maddison and Barnes yesterday, the later of which is making a late claim for one of the Euro places that Jack has already secured in most people’s eyes, perhaps excluding the watching “wally in the waistcoat”? I wonder, did he come to Villa Park to watch them, Jack, or all three of them? What I do know, is that it would have been a good game for Jack to have made a strong case for an England starting place in, had he been fit to do so. My player ratings from a game that was a hard watch are: Emiliano Martinez – 6 – Emi got a hand to their first on 19 minutes but was unable to keep it out of the bottom left-hand corner of his net. He was then unable to hold Vardy’s 23rd minute shot and Barnes was by some distance, first to pounce upon the resultant loose ball to add the second. Comfortably held a 1st minute Ricardo shot, diving to his right and held a shot from the same player on 22 minutes, diving to his left, that was otherwise bound for the top right-hand corner. Collected a 54th minute Tielemans shot from outside of the box easily and then dived to his right to push a 30-yard Maddison free-kick past the post for a corner. Was swiftly at the edge of his box on 71 minutes to claim the ball before Vardy was able to. Ahmed Elmohamady – 5 – Elmo is not Matty Cash, but he worked hard and produced as much as can now reasonably be expected from him. Keeping Barnes quiet was a big ask of him. Ezri Konsa – 6 – Got an important 11th minute block on a Barnes shot, after he had beaten Elmo too easily. Tyrone Mings – 7 – Almost got us a late point when he glanced a header from a 95th minute Elmo cross wide of the far post. Tyrone was solid under pressure and did well to keep Vardy reasonably quiet. Matt Targett – 8 – MOTM – Got an assist on 48 minutes when he played a nice one-two with McGinn before hitting a lovely cross into the box that produced Bert’s goal. Did not put a foot wrong throughout, was solid at the back and moved forward well. Anwar El Ghazi – 5 – Brought into the team in Jack’s absence. Jack’s are clearly immense boots to fill and it would be unfair to expect Anwar to compensate for his absence or to replicate the way he can make the whole team tick. Substituted on 67 minutes, having not really made a big impact on the game or produced a performance that was on a par with his recent encouraging displays. Douglas Luiz – 5 – Not at his best, could this have been a game when we could have considered starting Marvelous alongside him and McGinn further forward than he was? Hit a good 32nd minute cross that Konsa was unable to get his head to and which ran off his back to the left and to safety. John McGinn – 5 – Put in a lot of work yesterday, but I wonder how much a deeper role really suits John and the team, particularly today? What we do have is his industry and tenacity, but what we seem to be missing is his previous threat on the edge of the opposition’s box, his strong forward runs and he also seems to have mislaid his shooting boots. Hit a ball that had bounced out of the box towards him in a central position, well over the bar from about 30 yards after 35 minutes. Ross Barclay - 4 - This was an opportunity for Ross to step into the role of our main play maker in Jack’s absence, but he failed to do so, after a reasonable start. There is a quality player there, as we witnessed earlier in the season, when he worked so well in unison with Jack, but since his return he has not reached that level. The reason why is open to question. I think he has not yet reached full fitness on his return to the side. His return from injury did coincide with the training ground being closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, as well as with a drop off in Jack’s previous stellar performance levels, which cannot have helped him settle back into the team. Bertrand Traore – 7 – A well taken goal, a couple of nice moments and he managed to track back to help his full back on occasion, although this is something that he still needs to work at and that he was probably not expected to do, too often before he joined us. Bert looked favourite to get on the end of an inviting 17th minute El Ghazi cross into the box, only for Thomas to reach it fractionally before him, to block. However, he was in the right place at the right time on 48 minutes, when Targett’s cross for McGinn ran on towards him and he beat Schmeichel to it and hit the ball home. Ollie Watkins – 5 – Lacked service. Substitutes: Mahmoud Trezuguet – 5 - Replaced El Ghazi on 67 minutes. Seems to have lost the knack of scoring that did so much to help us retain our top-flight status at the end of last season. He offers an increased work rate but is not currently nearly as effective up front as he was at the beginning of the season, let alone at the end of the last one. Slipped as he hit an 86th minute shot from outside of the box that slid along the turf and was easily gathered by Schmeichel. Jacob Ramsey – Came on for Barclay after 76 minutes. Not on quite long enough to gather a rating, but like our new signing, will now be pressing for a start, in a midfield that does not currently quite pick itself. Morgan Sanson – Replaced Douglas on 81 minutes. Not on long enough to earn a rating. Surely, he cannot be too far away from a starting place now or at least an earlier introduction off the bench? Up the Villa! John Lewis
  24. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
  25. Your ratings and reactions please. Keep it respectful even if you know everyone else is wrong. A mod will add the players to the MoTM poll later.
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