Dave Woodhall watches Villa beat Southampton.
A win’s a win; that’s the most important aspect of Friday night’s victory over Southampton, a scrappy match won by a scrappy goal. After the poignant tributes paid before kick-off, the next thing to remember was the final whistle, which signalled three welcome points and the end of ninety minutes of tedium for neutral TV watchers, not that I care too much about what they think.
There were no real surprises in the line-up, if you discount Emiliano Martinez becoming perhaps the first Villa player to start a match after rumours of an injury. Not that unsurprising was a good thing in this instance because it meant John McGinn retained his place and Douglas Luiz was dropped afer looking sharp in the last couple of games. I do like McGinn, and as talismen go he’s filled the role admirably since we signed him, but he’s been off form for a long while and surely such a former midfielder of the quality of Steven Gerrard can see that. But not, it appears, and so Villa went into the game with the same (lack of) intent that has characterised much of this season.
Last time out against Manchester City we showed what we were capable of against a side who come to win. Southampton had nowhere near the same ambition and consequenty Villa struggled. There was effort but there was nobody capable of taking hold of the game, too much aimless posession and even more aimless passing, with Villa’s main attacking threats yet again disappointing.
There wasn’t much to talk about for most of the first half but Villa were gradually getting on top and five minutes before the break Douglas Luiz wasn’t on the pitch to score from a corner so it was left to Jacob Ramsey to scramble the ball over the line after Ollie Watkins’ shot had been pushed onto the bar. Luiz then came on to replace the injured Boubecar Kamara, and almost immediately was unlucky not to repeat his party piece from another corner.
The second half was equally lacking in drama. Villa seemed to have settled for the one goal win knowing that Southampton didn’t have much to offer, and this approach paid off. Leander Dendoncker came on to add some stability into midfield seemed a bit off the pace while Emiliano Buendia once again didn’t have long enough and Danny Ings missed the opportunity to score from fifty yards out after the Southampton keeper had gone up for a late corner.
Martinez must have been injured after all, because he went down for lengthy treatment with what looked like another case of the mystery ailment that only affects him late on in games when Villa are winning, and may he have many a recurrence. He played his part in seeing out the match, and so did the rest of the team. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.
In the final analysis this was a mid-table game between what are now two mid-table teams so prhaps we shouldn’t have expected much better. Any pressure Gerrard might have been under has now probably disappeared after four points in two games and maybe he can now send the team out to play with a bit more freedom.