Aston Villa and the headline act

Villa lose at home to Manchester City with Dave Woodhall finding solace in defeat.

Perhaps we can get back to being our own story now?

It was always going to be like this when you-know-who came back for the first time. The arrival of Steven Gerrard and Villa’s subsequent upturn in form might have taken the spotlight off for a bit but that interview earlier in the week and the tweet by whichever office junior had been left in charge while the grown-ups were out of the room had ramped up the hype to the sort of levels television companies love by the time kick-off came round.

Talking of which, the game started later than usual but then again it was on Amazon and anything connected with them is invariably later than it should be. Douglas Luiz and Emi Buendia were back in the team while the opposition manager was complaining at the way in which his squad had been depleted down to its last £300 millionsworth of players. And to be honest the difference between them and us was apparent from the off. They instinctively knew what they were doing while the Villa team had to think about it. They knew whatever they did would come off, we hoped. That’s not being critical, but rather it’s realistic. Manchester City can afford the best players in the world and the rest of us have to make do. For the moment.

Villa were, as the saying goes, chasing shadows for most of the first half and were two down at the break with Leon Bailey injured once again to make matters worse. I do hope it’s nothing serious and he’s still struggling from a disrupted start to the seaosn, but there’s also a nagging suspicion that something there isn’t right and we were perhaps a bit too eager to get the deal done.

The first goal wasn’t bad and the second was top-quality. Ironically, it came as Villa were starting to get back into the game and the team didn’t let their heads drop but continued the improvement after half-time. Ollie Watkins pulled a goal back from a Douglas Luiz corner early in the half and the scene was set for one of the great Villa Park stories to be written.

It didn’t work out like that, but it wasn’t for the want of trying. Luiz put in the sort of performance where he looks as though he might be the midfield general we’ve lacked for decades, Marvelous Nakamba did the simple things he does well enough and when he went off Morgan Sanson showed plenty of promise, as did Carney Chukwuemeka, a surprise arrival midway through the half.

Carney had a chance to make a name for himself but his chance was well saved, and as the game entered its closing stages, the leading character took centre stage for a brief cameo and got the louidest, most passionate response we could have hoped for. It’s not your club – it’s ours. The game was soon over and the crowd’s response at the final whistle told the story of the night. Villa may have lost, but they certainly weren’t disgraced. Each player gave his all, there were plenty of signs of continued improvement and in the end the difference between the two teams was a moment of brillance, and £300 million.

Next up are Leicester City, another team who’ve been performing in fits and starts this season. Win and we go above them, which will be a useful position to be in and one we’d have surely settled for at the start of the season.