Aston Villa and eight to go

Dave Woodhall is getting optimistic as Villa beat Wolves.

It’s got to that stage of the season where every game is a cup final. Before the game Unai Emery spoke about pressure being something that occurs in everyday life, not in football at the top of the Premier League. Many years ago Sir Graham said something along similar lines, that you get tragedies in life, in football you get disappointments. Two men whose footballing philosophy may have been very different but both of whom had to put up with abuse that went far beyond reasonable criticism and yet maintained the dignity that Aston Villa should always aspire to.

For the game with Wolves, Villa were again suffering from an extensive injury list, worsened by John McGinn’s absence due to suspension. Emery once more decided to make up for the shortage of first-choice midfielders by filling the team with attack-minded players, which in the circumstances was doubly commendable. It also seemed to be a mistake at first because Wolves were on top in the early stages, although Villa gradually came into the game. Ollie Watkins should have scored at the end of a glorious move and Pau Torres’ header was also close.
After 36 minutes a clever free-kick move came back to Moussa Diaby, whose shot from the edge of the area was perfectly placed and hammered home. From then on the game was a lot more straightforward. As the teams lined up at the start of the second half there was the worrying raelisation that Ollie Watkins had gone off with what was later confirmed as a hamstring problem.

In his place was Jhon Duran, another unpredictable handful and he was joined after 63 minutes by Nicolo Zaniolo. You can never have too many players whose main asset is that nobody, least of all the manager, knows what they’ll do next.

What Villa did almost immediately was to get a second goal. Zaniolo did well in bringing the ball forward and when it was crossed to Ezri Konsa, again playing at right-back, the new England international would have been the only one in the ground who thought it ended up where he intended. As Duran moved in at the far post a perfectly-flighted cross beat the Wolves defence and curled into the net. There could have been a third from Zaniolo, whose shot was too close to the keeper. The Italian winger did well again in his time on the pitch, having moved in the past few weeks from certain to be leaving at the end of the season to looking as though he might be worth keeping, provided Villa are able to afford the sort of money he would cost for a player who looks best coming off the bench.

Three more points were earned a lot more easily than seemed likely as the match began and while the results earlier in the day could have been better, the one afterwards was as good as could have been hoped for. We’ve got a trip to Manchester City coming up next and three more points there would be handy, easy or not.