Aston Villa and the top half

Villa win at Chelsea and Dave Woodhall keeps on dreaming.

Perception is a strange thing. For example, I thought Villa had a decent record at Stamford Bridge when in reality we’d won there once in something like twenty years. Then again, there were some who thought Villa had got no chance of finishing much higher in the league when we’ve spent the past month edging ever-closer to the top six. Not so much under the radar, as virtually invisible.

Then again, all hopes of moving up there on the quiet have gone after Saturday’s demolition of Chelsea. You might say ‘demolition’ is putting it a bit strong after a 2-0 win where the stats would indicate that Villa were lucky. You could also say that Chelsea’s possession counted for little and two dozen aimless shots counted for even less. Villa did what they had to do, they were on top for most of the match and even when Chelsea were pushing for a way back, they were kept at arm’s length.

They were no real surprises in Villa’s line-up, not least that the return from injury of Boubacar Kamara was balanced by Matty Cash’s absence. We had an early scare when the obligatory opposition chance from poor passing out of defence meant Emiliano Martinez had to be alert to save, but almost immediately John McGinn hit the crossbar and then a long ball out of defence fell kindly for Ollie Watkins, who chipped the keeper to score in his fifth consecutive away match. That’s another Premier League record and again, I wonder who keeps a note of these things and whether they get out much.

Chelsea had a few chances, Martinez kept most of them out and a goal was disallowed, which was a pleasant surprise all things considered. Kamara was replaced by Callum Chambers at half-time as Villa moved to a back five with ease, further proof of the way in which Unai Emery has revolutionised Villa’s approach. Villa got a corner, Jacob Ramsey played it back and McGinn, the only player back, seemingly to cover any danger if Chelsea had cleared the ball, burst through for a twenty-five yard screamer. Another well-worked tactic, another reason for optimism.

Chelsea’s expensively-assembled team tried to get back into the game but Villa’s home-grown, free and comparatively cheap heroes prevented them with ease. After the win at home to Bournemouth I spoke about the signs of progress that are being seen around Villa Park. They’ve gone more or less ignored everywhere else but after a performance like this, the rest of the world will surely be starting to take notice of what we know already. I’ve been watching the Villa for long enough to know a false dawn when I see one so I’m not getting too carried away but you can’t help being confident for the future.

After what seemed an eternity in eleventh place Villa have now moved up to ninth. Some of the catchable clubs have got games in hand but they also have to play the Villa, and nobody will fancy that at the moment.

One thought on “Aston Villa and the top half

  1. “Top half, top half, were we come….. Top half, here we come!”

    Feels like an eternity since we finished there, in a sense, it has been, so much has changed…. here’s hoping it’s a different Villa that seizes the moment……

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