Villa lose to Newcastle and Dave Woodhall is missing times past.
Can we have 2023 back please? I don’t like this new year very much. Just over a month ago Villa were looking good to go top of the table. We were coming off the back of two of the best wins in a long time, within the space of a few days. The joy and optimism that we entered the Christmas period with seems a long time ago now.
It doesn’t take a genius to say that Tuesday night’s performance against Newcastle was coming. Villa have looked tired in recent games, the two week break notwithstanding, and it also seems that we’ve been found out a bit. The line-up showed that Unai Emery continues to have faith in the hopelessly out of touch Moussa Diaby, hoping perhaps that he can play his way back into form in the same way that the boss persevered with Leon Bailey this time last year.
There was also a sign of things to come on the bench in the shape of Kaine Kesler-Hayden and Tim Iroegbunam, who seem to have been given the chance to show that they’re the long-term answer to the problems of squad strength in the light of the ever-increasing financial restrictions being imposed on ambitious Premier League clubs.
Long-term they might sole a few problems but Villa clearly need some solutions now. For the second time this season we were well-beaten by Newcastle and although on another night the scoreline might have been a bit different, Villa got what they deserved. The signs had already been ominous in the early stages with Villa having problems as Newcastle looked anything like a team who had lost their last four league games. Then two goals, both from mistakes at corners, pretty much saw the game over with not much over half an hour gone.
The old saying that if you’re not going to win then make sure you don’t lose was certainly missing tonight – not only did Villa fail to create any chances, they also made it too easy for Newcastle. Two down at half-time and it was soon three, with Alex Moreno turning a shot into his own net. Villa finally started to play at this point, Leon Bailey coming on and single-handedly trying to turn the game round. He made a goal for Ollie Watkins and if another hadn’t been ruled out the most unlikely of finishes might have been possible. But this is the Villa and if there’s any leads to be overturned it’ll be us that lose them.
The referee didn’t help and there’s no doubt that the injuries Villa have been suffering all season are starting to have an effect now. There isn’t a team in the league who wouldn’t miss a defender of Pau Torres’ ability, particularly one who rely on much on his ball-playing ability. Equally, we desperately miss Emiliano Buendia’s ability to unlock defences. Diaby seems to be going backwards while Nicolo Zaniolo isn’t going anywhere.
Unai Emery has faced problems before and solved them. I don’t doubt he’ll do so again but I hope he can do it while there’s still so much to play for.