Aston Villa and the luck of the Portugese

Villa win at Wolves and Dave Woodhall watches fortune favour the brave.

Had I ever met Napoleon I don’t suppose we’d have found much common ground, but I do agree with one of his opinions. He always wanted lucky generals, I believe that football managers need a good slice of it. You could argue that luck balances itself out in the end; I’ll admit now that had last season been a normal one Villa could have been playing a local derby at St Andrews this weekend rather than at the Molineux.

Equally, I’ve said before that had this season kicked off as scheduled away at Manchester City rather than with two games against sides who look relegated already, that incredible start might never have happened. To counter this, had the game against Newcastle gone ahead Villa might have gone into the match with Wolves comfortably in the top six rather than with a run of one win out of five and nervously glancing at the clubs below.

And of course, part of the reason for that poor form was the diabolical luck that came our way in the past two matches, when a combination of VAbloodyR, poor finishing and worse refereeing saw two defeats where we should have got something from both. If that sort of luck evens itself out Villa would be bouncing back with a vengeance at Molineux.

Both sides had teenagers making their full Premier League debuts; Wolves’ cost £35 million while Jacob Ramsey is a product of the Villa Academy. These facts do show the difference in the clubs’ respective fortunes over the past couple of seasons as well as providing the hope that Villa have finally started coming to terms with one of the most basic requirements of a forward-thinking club at any level – it’s better to breed than to buy.

It was a game more typical of the past than the new incident-packed Premier League – this fixture might lack the tension of other derbies the clubs might play, but they’ve been going at each other since 1888 and finesse has usually taken place to blood and guts. Wolves were on top in the first half, Villa got more into it after the break. Eleven yellow cards, two of them accompanied by reds, might make you think that the blood was a bit too much in evidence, but look at who the referee was for the answer to that one. One of those bookings was apparently Mike Dean’s 3,000th, although whether that was of his career, the decade or just this season wasn’t said.

The game was winding down when Villa had one last chance. Jack Grealish, who had been unusually quiet, linked with John McGinn and the Scotsman went down in the area. In the circumstances a cool head was needed and full credit to substitute Anwar el Ghazi for putting the penalty home. Villa did ride their luck a bit, but we deserved a bit of a break after what’s happened recently. And yet again Villa, drawing at a ground where a point is definitely one gained, were attacking deep into stoppage time rather than settling for the draw. If a manager does have to be lucky then equally you sometimes make your own luck and you don’t get a penalty when the ball’s in your half.

Full credit to the Villa defence and in particular to Emiliano Martinez, who is shaping up to be the steadiest keeper we’ve had for a long while. In years to come I can see him being regarded in the Jimmy Rimmer mould – you might not be able to recall many outstanding saves but neither will you remember too any mistakes. As for Ramsey, the only noticeable difference between him and Wolves’ wonder boy is that one of them will be getting a win bonus.

And so, after a win that needed sleeves rolled up and maximum effort, the next game is in Thursday night, at home to Burnley. This should – should – be a routine win, but the one predictable thing so far this season is that the Villa don’t do predictable.