As Villa draw at Bournemouth, Dave Woodhall watches a point gained.
After another exciting episode of Villa in Europe it was back to the mundanity of the league and a trip to the south coast, even if it was the wrong time of year to make the most of the beach.
There were the usual changes from the rotated European side, with Youri Tielemans replacing the suspended Boubacar Kamara and Ezri Konsa at right-back, because for some reason the boss prefers it like that away from home. I appreciate that he knows more about football that anyone else in whichever ground he’s visiting but I wish he could explain this one because Villa don’t seem the same team with Konsa out of his best position.
And so it proved again, when for the second game in succession our passing out of defence idea led to the ball being given away and not even Emiliano Martinez having any chance of preventing Bournemouth going a goal up. Luckily, ten minutes later Leon Bailey got the ball on the right wing and was allowed the time to cut in and shoot with his left.
On his good days such such movement can be unstoppable and so it proved. One-one and there were chances at either end from then until half-time. Diego Carlos got the ball in the net although he had a kneecap offside so there was no chance of the goal standing, and it came from a free-kick which should have seen Bournemouth down to ten men anyway. At the other end Martinez did what comes naturally to him and would be superhuman feats by any other goalkeeper.
Half-time saw the teams level and Nicolo Zaniolo replaced by Jacob Ramsey. I can’t help thinking that Zaniolo’s problems might be psychological rather than anything else. He’s had a poor start to his Villa career, but then again so did Bailey and he’s looking the part now. The difference is that it took Bailey two years to get to this level and we can’t afford to spend so much time hoping another mercurial talent will come good.
Bournemouth went ahead again and it needed another ordinary save by Martinez’s standards to prevent a third. Jhon Duran came on for John McGinn and his shot hit the post. There was a triple substitution that saw the arrivals of Alex Moreno, Matty Cash and Moussa Diaby, which showed that Villa are getting the sort of game-changing strength in depth off the bench that successful sides need. There didn’t seem to be much game-changing likely, though, until the amount of time added on was due to be announced. Pau Torres swept the ball out to Diaby, whose cross was glanced in by the otherwise quiet but nevertheless match-saving Ollie Watkins.
It wasn’t a great performance and one or two otherwise consistently good players were off their game. But, even though it wasn’t our day the team kept at it and worked by the old adage that if you don’t win, make sure you don’t lose either. We’re still fourth in the table and the two biggest tests of the season are coming up next. If we make sure we don’t lose them we can start looking at a very merry Christmas.