Dave Woodhall reflects on Villa’s opening day defeat at Bournemouth.
What could possibly go wrong? Steven Gerrard’s Aston Villa, with astute new signings a-plenty, brim full of confidence after the most successful pre-season in living memory, travelling to visit a newly-promoted side who have scarcely strengthened and are hot favourites to go back down again. The team was at full strength and the nine-man bench brimming with experience, proven quality and youthful promise. What could possibly go wrong, indeed?
Well, we could be a goal down inside two minutes. It was obvious that Bournemouth would come at us from the off, so keeping calm and controlling the tempo of the game was of paramount importance. Let’s give away an early corner and leave a Bournemouth player to wander around unmarked. Look at the replay, see how much room he was given and wonder whose fault it was.
Someone should have been picking him up. Someone should have been organising the defence. Tyrone Mings was on the bench. And Lucas Digne was close to him when the corner was conceded, taking off his jewellery because he’d started the game improperly dressed. That sort of thing would probably get you a club fine in Sunday league; at this level it’s inexcusable.
Villa had a lot of possession after that and once more they failed to do much with it. Danny Ings and John McGinn had chances while Boubacar Kamara’s long range shot was just wide, and that was all Villa could muster against a home side who couldn’t have had an easier introduction to life at the top level – and probably didn’t have many easier afternoons while they were getting there.
Emiliano Buendia came on for the second half and Ollie Watkins replaced Ings but there was still no sign of any improvement. Patient build-up is one thing but Villa were totally pedestrian and the Bournemouth defence had little to do in cutting out any sort of threat. Then with ten minutes to go a deep cross was, admittedly, perfectly placed but three Villa players did nothing to prevent a header that made the result certain.
It was, to put it mildly, a disappointing performance and one that deserved nothing more than it got. Kamara added a touch of bite in midfield but Villa were particularly poor going forward. Leon Bailey’s ineffective performance was made worse by his promising pre-season form and Philipe Countiho continues to raise more questions than he answers.
Talking of which, Steven Gerrard’s treatment of Mings does pose the question whether all is well between manager and player. Stripped of the captaincy, dropped and now the subject of cryptic post-match comments, you wonder what exactly’s going on there.
Everyone knows what happened last time we played at Bournemouth on the opening day and nobody could possibly think history is about to repeat itself. For a start, the nine on the bench today would beat any eleven we put out during that benighted season. For all the team were disappointing today, beat Everton in a week’s time and we’ll be back on track.