Villa lose to Spurs as Dave Woodhall gets more frustrated.
For some reason Villa v Spurs has invariably been one of the biggest gates of the season. It’s not that the visitors are particularly successful, have many star names or that the fixture has thrown up all that many memorable games, unlike the reverse fixture at White Hart Lane, scene of many an epic Villa performance.
Not that there was any chance of a bumper attendance for this one of course, or any attendance at all although the cynical might say there were a few spectators. Matty Cash was back, Jack Grealish was still missing, which raises the reason for his continued absence from ‘mysterious’ to ‘conspiracy theory’. The positive omens were that Sunday evening is Villa’s favourite kick-off time and Jose Mourinho’s record at Villa Park isn’t too clever. The negative was Mike Dean refereeing.
Actually, the real negative was yet another worrying performance from the Villa side. It’s lazy in the extreme to call us a one-man team but the evidence is beginning to mount. Jack’s absence should have been the cue for one or two of them to show they can step up but instead they seem to be hiding.
Spurs have been out of sorts themselves in the last few weeks although tonight they hardly had to play themselves back into form because Villa were happy to do it for them. Barely a shot on target, hardly any threat in the opposing half and too many mistakes in our own. A poor clearance from Emiliano Martinez led to the first Spurs goal, a daft challenge from Cash gave away a penalty for the second even if it was the sort of dive that would have caused worldwide screaming that could only be heard by dogs if Grealish had done it.
That’s the defence and attack who weren’t good enough, and the midfield shouldn’t escape their share of the blame either. The big problem here is that what was the heartbeat of the good start to the season is misfiring badly. Douglas Luiz is off-form, John McGinn inconsistent, Morgan Sanson shows flashes of quality although he will clearly take time to get adjusted to this league. Ross Barkley I’d rather not think about, sadly because he’s yet another player of talent who had a blistering start to his Villa career only to fade away.
There’s not much else to say and not many players who can take any credit from their performance. It’s undeniable that Villa are massively improved from last season, if not any point in the past decade, but we’re now showing that if there’s one thing we lack, particularly in the absence of you-know-who, it’s an attacker who can produce a bit of magic out of nowhere or a striker who can conjure up a goal from a half-chance. With Villa since Christmas, what you see is what you get. Players have been found out and there isn’t the strength in depth to make drastic changes.
It’s been said that Villa’s recent performances might be connected to the Covid postponements early in the new year, and I’m also wondering whether we might be suffering from a reaction to the shortened close-season. It might have been the same for all clubs, but not only have we got the youngest and least-changed squad in the Premier League, we were also battling right up to the final minute of last season, whereas other clubs were winding down with a few weeks to go – much like Villa are doing now. There’s the excuse; time to prove it wrong. Villa v Spurs, another unmemorable game.