Dave Woodhall sees Villa lose to Manchester City with a well-honed air of cynicism.
It’s one of the strange rules of football that the more successful you are, the more you think everyone’s against you. Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal are past masters at claiming that their successes were despite a hostile media, match officials giving every decision against them and the authorities attempting to do them down at every turn. Now we can welcome Manchester City into this elite band of gallant underdogs. It’s only natural that they think the world’s against/jealous of them. After all, what’s a hundred-odd charges of breaking financial regulations compared to winning the league again?
And so it was against this backdrop that Villa were the first club to come up against City since the news broke that just possibly there might be some comeback for their years of ruining football. It was always going to be hard; Tyrone Mings being ruled out made it a bit harder and giving a free header from a corner after four minutes made it impossible.
To get anything against a team like City you have to keep the mistakes to a minimum. Make such an elementary error so early and you may as well have stayed at home. The second was a mixture of poor defending and quality attacking, which was the tale of the first half.
The third, well, enough’s been said about it already. He was accused of doing that sort of thing often enough when he was with us, but I honestly can’t remember such a blatant bit of cheating. That’s one difference. The other is that if he had been playing for us he’d have got no end of abuse in the media for doing it, rather than a shrug and a general “That’s a penalty these days”. Actually, there’s a third difference – no Villa player would ever have got a decision in such circumstances.
So, three down at half-time and from then on it was a case of avoiding embarrassment. We managed that, partly because City more or less gave up, but also because the subs who came on showed a lot more than the players they replaced. John McGinn was lively while Jhon Duran looked powerful, with one turn and shot against the bar reminiscent of Christian Benteke.
Ollie Watkins marked his hundredth Villa appearance with his third goal in three matches and we had a good shout for a penalty turned down, although appealing for it was probably the very definition of the phrase ‘waste of breath’.
In the end we got away without losing too heavily, there were a couple of straws to clutch at and at least we haven’t got to endure this pantomime again for another season – although if by any chance City are found guilty I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m 2023-24 we’re the first club to play them after they receive their doubtless harsh sentence. My guess would be something like a £50 fine and a one-point deduction, suspended for three days.
There you go. Paranoia, anger and a burning sense of injustice. It’s just like being a big club.