Villa’s goalscoring form continues with a 3-0 win at Middlesbrough, as Dave Woodhall reports.
I said that beating Derby the other week was a statement of intent. The same scoreline down by the Riverside was also a statement, but not so much of intent as one of fact.
This is what we do. We turn up at the home of a team who at the start of the day were looking at going top of the league and we outplay them. From the first minute to the last we give them barely a kick, look like scoring every time we go forward and for the second away game in a row a three-nil scoreline could have been doubled.
The goals that did come were, if anything, a footnote to the overall day. Tammy Abraham was denied a stonewall penalty before James Chester made partial amends for his performance last Wednesday night with a goal that was either instinctively predatory or a bit of inadvertent ball juggling, depending on which way you want to look at it. Abraham scored a second from a Yannick Bolasie cross and the day was rounded off nicely when Glen Whelan scored what’s been reported as his second goal in seven years, even if that panel who stick their oar in for no apparent reason will probably end up giving it to the keeper.
And the reason I say that the goals were a footnote to the performance in general was that if this was another day and those three hadn’t gone in, others would have scored. Bolasie, Conor Hourihane, the born-again Anwar El Ghazi, Jonathan Kodjia (bringing on a striker when you’re two-nil up – what sorcery is this?); they were all capable of sticking the ball in the net. Watching Villa now is a wonderfully exhilarating feeling. Anything might happen – and in the past seven days most of it has.
One thing that sums up the way Villa are playing now was the finish to Abraham’s goal. When he hits the ball there are two players just behind him – and they’re both Villa players. Getting three attackers unmarked on the end of a final ball into the six yard box not only takes some coaching, but the mindset of having so many going forward is also difficult to comprehend after too many years of dross. And talking of dross, I’m not one to bear a grudge (much) but a good win is always made better when it’s a Tony Pulis side doing the losing.
Villa’s defence was a nightmare against Forest but they performed well enough in this one, although given the opposing manger they weren’t exactly surprised by anything thrown at them. Orjan Nyland didn’t have much to do but did it well enough while Neil Taylor continues with his gradual improvement, and if he keeps this up then maybe another left-back won’t be such a high priority come January.
Ahmed Elmohamady, though, replacing the suspended Diego Hutton, will surely have given Dean Smith something to think about with a performance that was solid in defence and dangerous going forward. Competition for places – we really are heading towards the Twilight Zone.
I don’t suppose this run of form and sheer excitement will last forever. Albion on Friday night will be a resumption of the oldest league derby in the world and the first time for over thirty years that the teams will play each other with both looking to do well at the end of the season.
They’re good when they attack and not too solid at the back. Everyone is starting to realise what we’re capable of. I know it’s a local derby, I know that form goes out of the window on such occasions and that the more you anticipate the greater the chance of disappointment.
But be honest – you can’t wait, can you? And when did the Villa last have you saying that?