Villa beat Fulham. Dave Woodhall says what’s new?
For years it was difficult to think of anything to write about the Villa, as constantly having to think up new words to describe the team’s performances was getting ever-harder. We went through ‘disappointing’ without pausing for breath, didn’t bother waiting around at ‘dismal’, pushed past ‘diabolical’ with ease and ended up somewhere between ‘appalling’ and ‘keep away from sharp instruments’.
It’s getting almost as hard to write about them now, but in a totally different way. The odd minor setback apart, Villa’s games this season have tended to consist of three stages – they kick off, they score more goals than the opposition, then the referee blows the final whistle. Job done without any fuss, on to the next one. Sunday’s match against Fulham followed much the same pattern. Losing to Forest had started the usual fears that the good run was over so there was definitely no complacency as kick-off approached. Youri Tielemans deserved his first league start after some more than promising cup and substitute appearances and apart from that there were, as always, no surprises when the team was announced.
The weather might have been horrible but Villa were bright from the off. We had a penalty awarded early on, although VAR apparently knows best. No matter, 27 minutes gone and Douglas Luiz lays the ball off for Tielemans, whose cross was put in by Moussa Diaby no matter what someone watching on a screen miles away might have ruled. That was the match as good as won, then with three minutes to half-time John McGinn picked up a loose ball 25 yards out, knocked it nonchalantly past a Fulham player foolish enough to think he might win the challenge and his shot was only ever going to end up in the back of the net.
Villa had been far too good for the visitors in the first half and they understandably dropped down a gear after the break. It’s going to be a long season so may as well sit back once the game’s won. Fulham hit the post to remind Villa that they were still on the pitch, then McGinn and substitute Leon Bailey combined to give Ollie Watkins Villa’s third.
There was an uncharacteristic defensive error with twenty minutes to go to give Fulham a goal, then after Tielemans had hit the bar the rebound fell to Watkins two yards out but he couldn’t control a header that went just wide. The game finished three-one; a routine performance and a routine win. Thirteen in a row at home and we’re getting used to it.
Of course, such events don’t just happen – it takes a lot of work to make them look so effortless, in this case just over twelve months’ worth. I’ve been eulogising over Douglas Luiz lately but just as impressive has been the improvement in John McGinn. Since joining the Villa he’s gone from a better than average Championship player to one who would be better than average in the Champions League. Like the rest of the team, I’m looking forward to seeing how much more he can improve.