Villa in a goalless draw at Leeds gives Dave Woodhall a chance to reflect.
To go back to one of my old adages, when both teams are odds against, back the draw. And here’s another – when the Villa’s opponents have a player sent off, back either them or the draw. Just don’t blame me on the odd occasions neither of these come true.
Given the amount of injuries we’re suffering there was a lot for be said for getting a point at one of the most intimidating ground to visit in the Premier League ((c) every pundit who’s never had to go there). It was just the way we got it that was so dreary.
In the absence of three defensive players we had Ashley Young at right-back plus the default midfield of Luiz/Ramsay/McGinn. What Frederic Guilbert has done to be ostracised is a mystery and for this sort of game I’d have thought one of our proper defensive midfield benchwarmers would have been a better bet. But I’m not likely ever to get the chance to pick the team so come on Steve and prove me wrong.
The tone of the match was set as Ludwig Augustinsson was booked after six minutes, and he might not have been the first. There were more niggling fouls than goal attempts with three Leeds bookings before the inevitable Villa injury, Augustinsson going off in stoppage time with what looked like a hamstring injury. That’s probably him out until the New Year, and this being the Villa you can never be sure which new year.
Nil-nil at half-time and surely the second half could be an improvement. There was certainly a bit of excitement when a Leeds player was sent off, which was deserved because where Leeds are concerned it always is. That should have given Villa the initiative, and Phillipe Coutinho hit the bar almost immediately. Then Leeds regrouped, kicked a few more Villa players, and the game began to fizzle towards its inevitable conclusion. Emiliano Buendia came on for the disappointing Leon Bailey, who must be heading towards his last chance, and then Danny Ings replaced Jacob Ramsey. Four attacking players on the pitch was at least a sign that Steven Gerrard hadn’t given up hope of a win, and it could have come off if first Ollie Watkins and then John McGinn hadn’t missed chances towards the end. At last McGinn partly made amends with a last-ditch block almost immediately, and after some recent criticism that sort of box to box effort was typical of a much better performance from him.
At least it was a point, our first away from Villa Park this season. It was hard-fought, against a team whose main tactics were to spoil, kick and defend, and with a referee who was equally inept for both sides. Villa had chances, missed them and looked what we are – a mid-table team who should be capable of more. Injuries are undoubtedly having an effect but by now we should have more of a plan than giving the ball to the couple of players capable of brilliance and hoping they come up with something. We’ve been here before and it’s never pretty.