The sin of Pride

Villa lost 2-0 at Derby on Saturday. Dave Woodhall talks about it.

The art of getting promoted, or of any sort of football success for that matter, is to go about your business mainly without fuss. Manchester City at the moment might not agree, but all successful teams have more routine wins than games when they look like they’re on another planet. Being able to beat teams around you in the table by a couple of goals without playing particularly well or breaking too much sweat is always a good sign.

Derby managed that easily enough at Pride Park on Saturday against a Villa side that weren’t exactly bad, but neither did they ever look like getting anything out of a game that barely rose above the mediocre. Yet more injuries and a late illness to Keinan Davis meant that the team lined up on paper in one of those 4-6-0 or false number nine or whatever it is fancy Continental formations that teams such as Barcelona have used to such effect.

Villa are not Barcelona. Jack Grealish is not Iniesta. And Steve Bruce proved once again that he is not Pep Guardiola

Making his first start for a while, Jack was one of the few shining lights in a Villa side that had plenty of the ball but weren’t able to offer much of a threat with it. In practice Josh Onomah was playing up front, much good he did, while Scott Hogan and Gabby Agbonlahor, both back to fitness, were on the bench even though the word ‘fitness’ has a loose definition in one of those cases. Neither of them made much difference when they eventually did make an appearance.

Glenn Whelan made a mistake for Derby’s first goal, which would have been enough to win the game anyway but they scored another at the end to make sure. The result might have been different had Robert Snodgrass’s half-hearted shot at the beginning of the second-half not been cleared off the line but as so often this season, it’s no good talking about Villa’s missed chances and ignoring those that Derby had.

There’s always the excuse that Villa’s injury list shows no sign of lessening, with the ‘one out, one in’ policy used in the more popular nightspots of my youth now seeming to be adopted for the Bodymoor treatment room. You can also say that home advantage more often than not plays its part in deciding the winner between two equally-matched teams. Maybe, but I’m not sure Villa would be able to beat Derby as easily if we were playing the return next weekend.

The team we are playing are Sheffield United, whose recent form is even less inspiring than ours. I don’t like to over-dramatise events and call games ‘must-wins’ particularly during the first half of the season, but losing this one will be a massive blow to our hopes of a Merry Christmas.

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