Villa lose at Crystal Palace. Dave Woodhall comments on it.
It’s at about this time of the season that I dust down my old saying about how results in the first two or three games of the season aren’t always as important as performances. It’s not much of a straw to clutch at because so far the performances have matched the results – one acceptable and two dire.
Crystal Palace away is the sort of place where you can judge how good a team is. Palace are solidly mid-table and getting a result there is a sign that you’re probably at least at the same level, which would be progress of sorts.
To his credit Steven Gerrard put out a team that looked to be aiming for more than the point we started with, and the sight of Philippe Coutinho on the bench showed that he isn’t as unstoppable as was feared. All seemed fair for that test of how good we really are.
The team selection seemed to be paying off when Ollie Watkins put Villa into the lead after three minutes. Unfortunately the one thing Villa have proved good at this season is giving away goals straight after scoring, and we did just that again.
Confidence isn’t exactly Villa’s strongpoint and when Palace got the ball into the net heads dropped further, although they did rise again briefly when the goal was rightly disallowed for offside, proof that VAR is a great boon to the game.
One-one at the break and Villa did at least start brightly afterwards, with Leon Bailey crashing a long-range shot against the bar. That brief ray of optimism wasn’t destined to last long because Lucas Digne was judged to have handled inside the box thanks to the evils of VAR and although Emiliano Martinez saved the original penalty he couldn’t get near the follow up.
Danny Ings came on for Bailey but the significant substitution was yet again made by the opposition, whose new arrival scored within seconds.
Coutinho and Douglas Luiz arrived, although we could have kept the players they replaced on the pitch for all the good it would have done. Palace created another couple of good chances and only Martinez kept the scoreline semi-respectable. Villa were out-muscled, out-fought, bullied, whichever term you prefer. If Palace away really is an indication of how good you are, on this showing the answer is “Not very”.
Another one of my favourite sayings is that defeat is sometimes acceptable provided you learn from it. The problem is that there isn’t much to learn about the Villa. We’re poor at defending, particularly set-pieces, lightweight in midfield and although we do have creative players the chances they make are wasted far too often.
It should be ridiculously early to start questioning the manager’s future, but against that we’ve had two away games so far and been dreadful in both. We’ve got a difficult run coming up, a week and a bit to bring in the new players we desperately need, and the owners have got to decide whether Gerrard is the man to spend any more of their money.