Dave Woodhall on Villa’s defeat at Spurs.
I suppose it was too much to ask for. Extending a winning run to three in a row and in doing so keeping Spurs’ unwinning run going was a step too far. If Villa had put in anything like the performance we saw last week, or even matched the defeat at Chelsea, we could still have got something from this one. As it was, the manner of the defeat was the worst aspect of a dismal Sunday afternoon in a dismal part of north London.
You couldn’t really argue with the line-up, nor the formation; it wasn’t broke so don’t fix it. You could definitely argue with the tactics, which seemed to be marking the third anniversary of Steve Bruce’s sacking by replaying his greatest hits. Hitting the ball long and hard was the order of the day. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now.
Spurs’ fluid midfield grabbed hold of the game early on and provided the base of what, it has to be admitted, was a straightforward win. They weren’t particularly good, but neither did they have to be. One down at half-time and we were lucky to be still in the game, Villa got back into it thanks to a goal from Ollie Watkins only to go behind again four minutes later and this time there was no coming back.
The afternoon was a bit of a sobering experience all round, and a reminder that we’re still nowhere near the finished article. The Spurs midfield were dominant and their forward line far too mobile, while in contrast Villa were pedestrian and lifeless. Kourtney Hause showed why he’s a squad player, Jacob Ramsey isn’t consistent enough to be an ever-present yet and while the Watkins and Danny Ings partnership definitely has goals in it, the boss still hasn’t worked out the best way to get them. Substitutions were made too late, although none of the players who came on ever looked like salvaging anything from the game.
So, one run ends and another has to begin. There’s an international break coming up, which will give us a chance to get the last of the niggling injuries cleared, then a run of games which could define the season. Two wins from the next three and we’re still looking on course for a crack at Europe. Anything less and, well, it’s still early days. And on that subject, if you were at Villa Park that horrible night three years ago you’d have got long odds that by now we’d have been promoted, got to a cup final, scored seven against Liverpool and won at Old Trafford. We still have bad days, and Sunday was one of them, but they’re starting to be outweighed by the good ones.