Aston Villa and strange days indeed

Dave Woodhall enjoys Villa’s win at Brighton.

Two out of three ain’t bad… After the disappointment of Thursday night there was another bit of a strange team selection for the game at Brighton. John McGinn back, Danny Ings playing up front either on his own or with Emiliano Buendia in what seemed like it was going to be a 4-4-1-1 lacking wingers.

Whatever the formation, the worst was feared and it came true within half a minute as Emiliano Martinez hit a soft pass to Douglas Luiz, who was knocked off the ball far too easily. One down and as we’re Aston Villa and never come back when we go behind, that was it. Game over and sack the manager.

For a few minutes afterwards we were second to everything; Brighton’s tactics were spot on and ours weren’t. We’re Aston Villa and we don’t do anything clever like changing things round during the match. Just blow the full-time whistle and have done with it.

And then something strange occured. We started to play football. Twenty minutes gone and Buendia goes a run, lays the ball perfectly off to John McGinn, who gets brought down in the area. Up steps Danny Ings and the scores are level.

Villa were now in control, and the second half started as the first had ended. Buendia hit the post with a diving header but no matter because as Brighton are attempting to clear the ball Luiz wins it back as easily as he lost it for the opener. A quick ball to Danny Ings, Villa are two-one up.

Still, there’s plenty of time left. As we’ve already seen this week Villa can often be relied on to let a goal in right after they’ve scored and anyway, they’re bound to switch off at some stage. All Brighton had to do was sit back and wait for the inevitable mistake.

Wrong again. The team was defensively solid, snuffed out any possible dangers and rarely looked like conceding. Emery got the substitutions perfectly, replacing tired legs with fresh ones and always alert to any change in Brighton’s tactics.

As the game would down the usual nerves began to show, at least amongst supporters who aren’t used to this level of professionalism. Villa ran the clock down with a degree of purpose; six bookings in the final ten and a bit minutes with barely a foul between them is good going and bound to raise the ire of those who think watching a nice, open game is better than seeing their team win.

One day I might get so used to winning that I’ll complain about the way we did it. Today is not that day. Brighton had won their last three, we’re still in (a bit of) trouble so the result was a lot more important than the performance.

That Emery bloke might not be all that good at upholding the traditions we’ve got used to, but he’s showing how to win matches. When we come back after the World Cup he’ll very likely have the team running off the ball. These are strange and interesting times.