Same old at Villa Park

Villa threw away two late points in a 1-1 draw to Reading. Dave Woodhall wonders about the future.

Last week I said it was getting ever-harder to find something new to write about the Villa. This week it’s even harder, because the draw at home to Reading on Saturday was more of the same.

We had the same inexplicable line-up, with the same players out of position despite showing time and again that they’re unsuited to the roles they’re being asked to perform. We had the same good opening, the same failure to put chances away and the same inability to kill the game off from a winning position. That led to the same jittery end and once again we were hanging on in a game where we should have been in total control.

We even had an injury-time goal once again, although this one was at the wrong end and cost two points that should have been wrapped up long before then. And to complete the familiarity Villa were victims of poor refereeing, this time when the equaliser came from a highly-debatable penalty.

But that should have been irrelevant. Reading are a poor side who will surely struggle this season and Villa should have beaten them with ease. We should have been out of sight well before the penalty was given but a combination of missed chances and individual errors meant that the visitors finished the stronger side.

There were some positives to be taken from the game. Debutant Anwar El Ghazi looked promising, particularly when crossing for Ahmed Elmohamady’s goal early in the second half, while Orjan Nyland had another good performance, with the highlight a late double save that brought back memories of Mark Bosnich at his best. The rest, though, is best forgotten. I’d say there are lessons to be taken, particularly from the last ten minutes of the match, but if there are they’re never learned.

You can blame the players who missed chances, bemoan the fact that the most consistently reliable defender we’ve had for years made a rash challenge in the worst possible circumstances, but you can’t get beyond the point that it was the manager’s team selection and tactics that are ultimately responsible for the litany of failures to dominate weaker opposiiton that we witness time after time.

Yet again we’re back in the position where we’ve spent much of the past two years. Unbeaten and four points off the leaders might look good on paper but all the games we’ve played so far have been winnable and in every one of them Villa have been in a position where they should have made sure of the points. They didn’t, and by this time next month, when we’ll have played a few more teams who have higher ambitions than avoiding relegation, the table might start to have a more realistic look about it.

In addition to El Ghazi, Villa also picked up the unpredictable Yannick Bolasie from Everton this week. There’s still time for the defender who’s badly needed before the end of the month, when we’ll see what resources the manager has to work with until January. I said ‘the manager’. I didn’t say Steve Bruce.

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