Aston Villa and the great reluctance

Dave Woodhall watches Villa somehow lose to Leicester City.

If cups were awarded for taking two steps forward then one back, Villa’s proposed stadium expansion would be needed just for the trophy room. After starting to look something like in the past few games, we went into the match with Leicester aiming to take the giant leap – psychologically at least – into the top half of the table. Admittedly we hadn’t played last week due to the FA Cup not taking place again this year, but a proper kick-off time and a packed Villa Park should have been the cue for a memorable afternoon. Instead, it was frustration once more.

The starting line-up was no real surprise, mainly because we’re running out of alternatives, and there were two keepers on the bench again. Someone who knows more about the intricacies of modern football will be able to explain the reasoning behind that because it’s beyond me. One outfield player who was sitting with the duality of custodians was Jhon Duran, and the press box were doubtless waiting to let their headlines loose on him.

Villa started brightly with Emiliano Buendia hitting the bar before Ollie Watkins stuck the rebound home after nine minutes. It looked as though that might be the tale of the afternoon, but what happened three minutes later was more typical. Emiliano Martinez played a short ball inside the box to Boubacar Kamara, who was under pressure, lost it and Leicester equalised.

Still, no real problem. Buendia hit the bar again, this time with a header, then Watkins’s shot was deflected and we were back in the lead. That should have been the cue for more goals, with chances being missed but another defensive error, this time poor marking, and Leicester were back level four minutes before half-time. Of course, there was always the chance for another cock-up, when Kamara lost the ball in midfield during stoppage time and Leicester took the lead.

The second half had fewer incidents but what happened was still decisive. Buendia set up Leon Bailey for a chance that he couldn’t put away, Philippe Coutinho had a goal disallowed for offside and Alex Moreno’s error with ten minutes remaining let in the visitors for their fourth. It wasn’t an afternoon to remember.

If you could, though, look past the small matter of letting in four defendable goals, there were still some bright spots. For a start, Villa had enough chances to win half a dozen games and if they’d been a bit more clinical they could certainly have won this one regardless of how many they let in. Buendia was on top form and Watkins also did well. Another straw to clutch at is that Kamara will surely never have another game this bad. He’s been superb all season so maybe this one was due; learn from it and move on. Something else that’s worth thinking about is that Leicester had three January signings making debuts and all of them contributed to their win.

And finally, if Villa are going to continue with this idea of playing the ball out from the keeper, learn to do it properly. There used to be an old saying in football that you never pass the ball in your own penalty area and you certainly don’t do it to anyone who’s got an opponent breathing down their neck. Again I’m willing to be corrected but it seems to me that there’s still a time to be Franco Baresi and a time to be Shaun Teale.