Villa draw with Brentford and Dave Woodhall points out the obvious.
There’s a lot of recent history between Villa and Brentford. We give them money, they give us players, a manager and far too often a lesson in how to play football.
Villa haven’t beaten Brentford in a league game since the war and while a lot of that might be down to the fact that we didn’t play them for most of that time, we’ve had enough opportunities lately and it was about time this particular run came to an end.
Then came the team announcement, and the confirmation of what had been leaked over the previous 24 hours. To our lengthening injury list can now be added a few Covid casualties. John McGinn and Tyrone Mings were both out, Leon Bailey’s still not fit, Chukwuemeka Major started as did Ashley Young, moved inside in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
Looking at how Covid affected us last season, you could see that Brentford would have fancied their chances of continuing their good run at Villa Park once they heard the news.
Talking of which, is there a better venue anywhere in football on a late summer’s afternoon, with the sun shining down over Aston Park and a capacity crowd in full voice? The answer’s no, but you knew that already.Not that there was much voice, full or otherwise, when Villa went one down after seven minutes.
Fortunately, Emiliano Buendia didn’t take long to get his first Villa goal, a glorious dipping strike from long range. McGinn would have been proud of it, as would any other midfielder we may have had in recent years. Conor Hourihane, there’s another.
Villa pushed forward for the rest of the half, although every chance we had seemed to be followed by one for Brentford. There were a lot less chances after the break, the game never got flowing and was headed for a draw long before the end, although substitute Ollie Watkins had a couple saved in stoppage time.
A draw it was, and two points dropped. There were a few pluses to come from the afternoon; Buendia gave his best performance since his transfer, Chukwuemeka did well, and Watkins’ return was a welcome sight. Maybe if he’d been brought on a bit earlier we might have nicked a winner.
But the biggest positive point is that August’s almost over. It’s been the most disjointed close- and early-season I can remember, thanks to injury and illness to players and opponents alike, departing backroom staff and a certain transfer saga. Now it’s out of the way we can, hopefully, start to pull the squad together and put in a better run than we’ve seen so far.
I’d be a lot more confident of that, though, if there could be time for one more August development in the shape of a dominant midfielder, preferably one resistant to illness, injury and red cards. The sort that’s desperately needed but the board seem oddly reluctant to si nogn. Such a player might break the habit of a decade, but there must be one out there somewhere.