Aston Villa and the work in hand

Villa lose at Newcastle with Dave Woodhall clutching at straws.

Sometimes you can say that a team selection is brave, in the Yes Minister sense of the word. The unchanged side Aaron Danks put out at Newcastle was brave in the best sense of the word, and understandable. They did well in the last match, Danks’ career didn’t depend on getting a result, so may as well build on the feelgood factor that result against Brentford and Unai Emery’s imminent arrival had begun. That was the theory, anyway.

It might have been the same team that started against Brentford but they still played like eleven strangers. Newcastle dominated the first half and could have had the game wrapped up by the time they got their first goal. Villa were unlucky to concede a penalty in similar circumstances for the second time in three games when the ball hit a defender’s arm, but there could be no complaints about the half-time scoreline, which would have been even worse had a Newcastle second not been disallowed for offside.

By this time Emiliano Martinez had been replaced by Robin Olsen following an accidental boot to the head courtesy of Tyrone Mings. The Villa keeper returned to the match but had to go off ten minutes later and it has to be asked why he was allowed to continue after the initial collision.

Olsen couldn’t be faulted for Newcastle’s first half goal, but he could certainly have done better during the onslaught that scored after the break. You could argue that he was in the wrong place for Newcastle’s second and should certainly have done better when spilling the shot that led to their third. That being the case, he was no worse than any other Villa player on display, particularly during the shameful capitulation which saw the home side score three times in eleven minutes.

Substitutes came on, but they may as well have stayed on the bench. The only way they might have changed the game was if the ref had taken pity on us and allowed the four they replaced to have remained on the pitch. Then again, they’d have probably got in each other’s way and gifted Newcastle another few. As it was, the woodwork saved us a couple of times and kept the scoreline down to demoralising rather then embarrassing. This was every bit as bad as anything the Villa have served up since getting back into the Premier League, and it wouldn’t have stood out in the season we were relegated.

I suppose you could give Danks a bit of credit for attempting to go out in a blaze of glory rather than keeping it tight and trying to nick a point, as the saying goes. Eight goals in two games isn’t bad for lovers of entertaining football, but for the rest of us it’s scant consolation. The only real silver lining to come out of this particular grey cloud is that Unai Emery will have been watching it and, unless he’s concentrating on trying to find a get-out clause in his contract, he’ll have no illusions as to the size of the task facing him when he starts work next week.