Villa lose at home to West Ham as Dave Woodhall reflects on fate.
What seems a least a hundred years ago, when Martin O’Neill was in his prime and optimism was sky-high, we tended not to notice that David Moyes was doing better with Everton on a fraction of the budget. Since then Moyes has been linked with the Villa job a few times but his career was in a bit of a downward spin until he turned up at West Ham again and has made them into genuine European contenders, which was a bit annoying when they arrived at Villa Park with Dean Smith looking for a result to turn his own fortunes round.
The irrevocable law that says any rumour about Villa players being injured, how unlikely the source, must be correct came into play again with Danny Ings and Douglas Luiz absent. Also missing was the out of form Tyrone Mings, which showed that at least Smith isn’t afraid of making a big decision, and he’s also lost the tablet of stone that said he had to play with five at the back. Injures and illness once again gave the bench a makeshift look so it was down to the starting eleven to do the hard work.
Or not, as the case may be. Villa lost an early goal and matters weren’t helped by Jacob Ramsey going off injured after fifteen minutes. They were helped even less by Ashley Young coming on to replace him. These days Ashley might just about be worth a place on the bench as a replacement full-back; he might even be a bit of use being thrown on when you’re chasing a game. A box to box central midfielder he is not.
Villa fought back and were rewarded when Emiliano Buendia did well to lay the ball on for Ollie Watkins to equalise and there were fleeting hopes that all would be well. But just for a change we gave away a goal almost immediately after and although Watkins came close with a header that hit the bar, early in the second half Ezri Konsa was judged to have been the last man, and out came the red card. It didn’t in a similar situation at the other end, and although Villa battled they were caught out on the break for a decisive third goal late on, with a fourth inevitably following soon after.
In the end bad refereeing, bad luck and most of all, downright bad performances set the seal on a miserable afternoon. Leon Bailey is still short of match fitness, Buendia was too inconsistent, Kourtney Hause did his claims for a regular place in the team no good at all. Long balls and long throws are becoming too prevalent. We’ve got to get back to what we do best; the meanest defence in the league doesn’t become the worst overnight and neither should a philosophy based on attacking turn to one whose guru appear to be Tony Pulis. The weather might have been horrible but that doesn’t mean we have to be like Stoke in everything.
It was the sort of afternoon that sacked managers look back on ruefully – injuries before the game disrupt your plans, injuries during the game make them worse, decisions go against you, referees crave attention and deflections are played to the opposition as accurately as Gordon Cowans in his prime. To make matters worse my mate Lee, the Unluckiest Man in the World, was taking his son to his first match. Against that the Villa, and Dean Smith, never stood a chance.