Villa win at Leeds, Dave Woodhall starts to crow.
One of the great things about last season’s brief flowering of the Villa side was the way in which they went to away grounds and didn’t so much play as swagger. It didn’t last long, and there hasn’t been much swaggering this season, but that style and mindset is returning. We saw it at Villa Park against Southampton but Thursday night at Elland Road was the first time in a long while that it’s been seen on our travels.
There was a slight eyebrow raised when Calum Chambers kept his place in the side with Ezri Konsa on the bench, but the manager knows best. The team responded with a bright start, Philippe Coutinho looking lively as ever, and he set up a couple of chances before scoring midway through the first half. There might have been a bit of luck with his shot being deflected, but that’s what happens when you’re on form. There were a few more chances before half-time, usually Brazilian-inspired, although there were no more goals and in that situation there’s always a concern that you might let one in against the run of play.
Of course to do that you have to let the opposition have the ball, and during the early part of the second half that didn’t happen very often. The inevitable second goal came after 65 minutes when a good cross from Danny Ings left Matty Cash unmarked in the penalty area and with enough time to slip the ball home effortlessly. Then if that wasn’t enough, Chambers thundered in a shot from the edge of the area to give the scoreline a more realistic look.
Even that, though, didn’t tell the whole story. Villa were dominant from kick-off to final whistle, all over the pitch. Ings and Ollie Watkins showed once again that they’ve been transformed, the tweaked formation has enabled Douglas Luiz and John McGinn to get back to something approaching their best form. We were able to bring on Emiliano Buendia and Morgan Sanson to show glimpses of what they had to offer, and other quality players either couldn’t get onto the pitch or were left out of the matchday squad altogether. The way in which the team have been improved over the past couple of weeks is nothing short of remarkable and points to a glorious future ahead.
Then there’s the man of the match, the week, the season so far. There’s been some talk of how much Coutinho’s wages might cost if we could sign him permanently. Whatever the figure might be, he’s worth it. We have a genuine world-class talent in the team, a player with limitless ability who can make anything possible. We had similar not long ago but it seems to me that Coutinho brings the rest of the team into the game while our fallen hero wanted to do everything by himself.
The opposition weren’t the best, in fact the most apt word to describe them on this showing was ‘demoralised,’ and long may that continue as few deserve it more. Talking of which, next up is West Ham on Sunday, and if we can swagger around their rented ground like we did tonight, the no-longer most despicable owners in football will really have something to moan about.