Aston Villa and a point or two

Villa draw at Brentford, with Dave Woodhall watching.

Villa’s winning streak ended but their unbeaten run continues after a game where both sides would claim they deserved to take all the points. Brentford had lost three straight, Villa had won their last five, so naturally there was some apprehension as kick-off approached. This is the Villa, and we always expect things to go wrong. It’s a mentality that has to be changed if we’re going to be successful, but that’s a debate for another day.

On this day, Villa were not surprisingly unchanged from the side that had dominated Newcastle last week. That had been a masterclass in tactical acumen from the manager as well as in performance from his players. If Emiliano Buendia had put away his early chance after a glorious run through the Brentford defence there might have been a similar result, but it was well saved and in response Brentford came forward with the second Emiliano being called on to show just how indispensable he is to Unai Emery’s revolution.

After missed chances at both ends before half-time we had the opportunity to see just how indispensable Martinez has become when he failed to reappear after the break and was replaced by Robin Olsen. I don’t want to unduly criticise Olsen but it has to be said that while Villa have a first-choice keeper who any side in the world would welcome, the same will never be said about his understudy. The effect Olsen’s appearance had as the teams came out for the second half was palpable, and the Brentford players couldn’t have helped be inspired.

Ten minutes after the restart and the home side should have been one up, when Olsen fulfilled the more pessimistic fears by failing to hold onto a straightforward header and presented an open goal that was thankfully missed. Ten more minutes and after a dangerous cross and a bit of slack marking Brentford had another chance that you can’t help but think Martinez would have saved. Villa were about to make three substitutions at this point and the goal didn’t change Unai Emery’s mind, which was just as well, as the new arrivals transformed the game. They were helped by something we’ve seen much too often over the years from the Villa – go a goal up then drop back – although the team did show more as the game went on.

As Villa looked for an equaliser Buendia laid on a chance for Jacob Ramsey then with three minutes left the ball bounced around the penalty area and fell for Douglas Luiz to hit home an equaliser. There was still time for Ollie Watkins of all people to miss a last-gasp chance that he might have done better leaving for the better-placed Buendia, but no-one would expect Watkins in his current form not to snap at every half-chance.

And that was it. With both sides claiming that they deserved the win, a draw was probably a fair result, even if it did neither team any favours. Villa didn’t play as well as they have lately but they can’t be expected to keep up the recent level of performance indefinitely and if you can’t win at least make sure you don’t lose. With another big game against Fulham coming up on Tuesday the big concern is, of course, Martinez. Watkins might be getting the recent headlines but there’s little doubt who is Villa’s most important player.