Villa beat Everton and Dave Woodhall’s happy again.
It might seem like David O’Leary’s f-word is about to come into play, but rarely has morale dropped so much over the course of the first week of the season. Getting hammered by Newcastle was followed by confirmation that we’ll be lucky to see Tyrone Mings in action much before the end of the season and there’s still the ongoing debate over the rights and wrongs of the Holte End Terrace View.
In these circumstances you need your next game to be against opposition you’ve got a good record against and who are already wondering if there’s three worse teams in the league. For longer than I’d care to remember Villa were the ideal candidates; now it’s Everton. The sun was shining, a capacity crowd was inside Villa Park and three points would mean all was well with the world.
Pau Torres and Moussa Diaby were making their home debuts while Leon Bailey kept his place, which is always a source of debate. Whatever you might think of his contribution, Unai Emery clear rates him and the boss knows best. Eighteen minutes in and that was proved yet again. Bailey gets the ball and creates space to put over a cross that John McGinn volleyed home to put Villa into the lead.
Six minutes later Bailey was involved in Villa’s second, when his header down saw Ollie Watkins taken out by Everton keeper Jordan Pickford. VAR was unnecessary and Douglas Luiz eventually stepped up to put the penalty away. Twenty-four minutes gone and the match was as good as over. It should have been three-nil but Diaby’s volley brought out an even better save from Pickford while Villa wasted a couple more good chances.
Two up at half-time can sometimes be an awkward position, but not when the opposition is this bad. Anyway, it didn’t take long after the second half began before Villa got their third, with some calamitous defending in the box giving Bailey the pace to get the goal he deserved. Unfortunately, and typically, he was forced to go off injured as Villa made three substitutions midway through the half.
Jhon Duran came on with a quarter of an hour to go and fifty seconds later picked up a poor throw-in, beat a defender and put the ball home for his first Villa goal. It was reported as the quickest from a Villa substitute since John Carew in 2009, and once again I wonder who keeps these records and what they do for a hobby.
Villa had never got into anything like top gear and if anything they slowed down even more after the fourth. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to prevent another injury to Philippe Coutinho, who had looked sharp in the brief time he was on the pitch. As he hobbled away, you couldn’t help wondering if this might be the last time we see him and if so, what he might have given us in different circumstances.
And so four-nil it was. Six or seven wouldn’t have been unfair; we’ve said so often that Villa and Everton have been similar throughout their respective histories and now they seem to be emulating our mid-2010s period. Lucas Digne and John McGinn in particular put last week’s performance behind them to challenge Bailey for man of the match and there was plenty of respect from the crowd for the tribute to Michael Jones and also the reception for Ashley Young after the game. It was more or less the perfect afternoon and everything’s looing good again. Now for the start of our European adventure.