Aston Villa and the never-ending story

Villa go down 2-1 at Wolves. Dave Woodhall reflects on the day.

Dean Smith summed up a lot of things during his post-match interview at Molineux on Sunday afternoon but saying that Wolves regarded the game as bigger than Villa did was the most pertinent.

It’s not boasting, or making excuses, to say that over the past couple of years Villa seem to have occupied a bigger place in Wolves’ thoughts than ever before, and it was clear from the off that they wanted it more than us.

Desire, or the lack of it, probably didn’t play much of a role in the final result. As expected, Jack Grealish was out although the absence of Tom Heaton and Bjorn Engels was an unexpected surpruse. And as if to prove that bad things come in fours, replacement keeper Jed Steer lasted just eight minutes before he also had to go off injured.

The resultant uphill struggle got ever steeper as the first half progressed, with Villa making little impact going forward and their defence struggling to cope. The only real surprise was that it took so long for Wolves to score, a goal that was followed on the stroke of half-time by a further injury, this time to Matt Targett.

Villa improved after the break, admittedly from a low bar, although they never really looked like getting back into the game and Wolves’ second was always the more likely outcome. Trezeguet did pull one back in stoppage time, but that more of a confidence booster for him than any other glimmer of hope on an afternoon to forget.

To the unbiased observer it wasn’t a particularly surprising result. Wolves are clearly a more organised side than Villa, they’re probably a couple of years ahead of us in their development and taking out three established first-teamers at any level is bound to have an effect. Villa were always going to be in trouble and the lack of effort was, to me, far more annoying than the outcome.

In fact, this season is starting to remind me of 2001-11, when Gerard Houlier had to contend with a horrendous injury list while at the same time trying to impose a long-term strategy on a club who had been operating from year to year without any real plans for the future.

Houlier’s results were worrying at first, and his inate ability to seemingly rub everyone up the wrong way didn’t help his cause, but there were signs towards the end of his illness-curtailed reign that he and assistant Gary McAllister were making progress, although these seemed to come when a more practical strategy of getting points on tbe board, rather than being too concerned about what the future might bring, was imposed.

Injuries seem to have been a regular feature amongst the problems Villa managers have had to contend with since Houlier did leave, and that doesn’t seem to be the only similarity between then and now. In a similar way to the Frenchman’s gameplan, Dean Smith and John Terry are imposing a set of values thst should stand the Villa in good stead for the future. For the present, though, we need to start getting a few wins, not least to give the management team some breathing space. For once the international break has come at a welcome time.

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