Aston Villa and the passage of time

Dave Woodhall curses about everything as Villa lose at home to Spurs.

There are days, and there are days. Sunday 10th March 2024 was definitely one of those days. It was cold, it was wet, a one o’clock kick-off meant getting up early on a day when public transport is even worse than usual and they were the good bits.

This was perhaps the biggest league game of the season. Spurs, five points behind Villa with a game in hand are starting to hit a bit of form even though they aren’t too clever away from home. Win this one and we’ve got one foot in the Champions League. Avoid defeat and we’re still looking good, with a better goal difference.

The first signs that there might be a problem came with the line-up. Five defenders and whether Matty Cash was playing at right back in a five-man defence or he was going to be pushed up with Ezri Konsa shoved out wide, this wasn’t a good look. There didn’t seem much midfield presence, Spurs were gven the initiative and they took it right from kick-off.

It was scarcely the sort of first half that would have the top clubs of the continent worried but Spurs seemed much livelier, not having had the distraction of a European tie less than three days earlier. There weren’t many chances but Villa’s attack was definitely off-key, Leon Bailey having one of his quiet days and Ollie Watkins suffering after the sort of early challenge that had it been the other way round would have led to calls for imprisonment and life bans.

One of Villa’s few annoying traits this season has been an inability to start well after half-time and it happened again, twice over. Nil-nil after 45 minutes, two down after 53. The first was well-worked, the second down to Ezri Konsa’s misplaced pass. That was the match over and to make the afternoon even worse, John McGinn flew into a rash tackle that was always going to get him sent off. It’s unlike McGinn to behave like that so I wonder whether something had been said or done earlier, or whether he was just frustrated at the missed opportunity unfolding. Whatever the reason, the three games he’s likely to miss are an even bigger problem than making this afternoon’s defeat even more inevitable.

Just to set the final seal on it, two stoppage time goals meant that Spurs’ goal difference is now better than ours. I’m glad I didn’t have to walk home – a bus was bound to go speeding through a puddle and soak me. It was that kind of day. None of the players did particularly well, Emiliano Martinez was the least-worst because he had little chance with any of the goals and less said about the rest. Some are excused a off-day, I wonder if Konsa is fully fit and I’m going to start saying the same things about Moussa Diaby as I was about Leon Bailey a year ago in the hope that he makes the same improvement.

Most of all the boss got it wrong, maybe wronger than he’s got it since he arrived. If playing in Europe means tired legs sometimes, one advantage it gives is that you can stop thinking about a defeat quicker because there’s another game to concentrate on. Thursday’s visit of Ajax will be just that.