Yesterday’s dramatic last-gasp home defeat to Liverpool was a bitter pill to swallow for Dean Smith’s men and the claret and blue faithful.
Andrew Robertson’s header in the 87th minute was followed up by a 94th minute winner scored by Senegalese forward Sadio Mane.
Villa initially led as Trezeguet opened his account for his new club but again, the ever present VAR was used to check for offside. Thankfully for once, it went our way before two other decisions went Villa’s way. You wait for one and three … (you know the rest!)
Whilst the headlines will be about Liverpool’s late turnaround, the Villa team and all involved obviously felt a sense of disappointment and frustration at what could have been.
The reception the players received at full time was exactly what they deserved, the majority of the fans stood to applaud a valiant effort against last season’s European Champions. A pride not often seen at Villa Park following a defeat for some seasons.
Dean Smith was tasked with bringing a side up from the bottom half of the Championship so to lead and hold such a side for so long is a measure of how far they have come in such a short space of time.
On the TV and radio last night I heard a repeated comment of Villa learning lessons from such games and as they take on more Premier League sides, they will inevitably do so.
However, whilst they will have learnt things, they also have a lot they need to learn quickly to avoid more dropped points regardless of the opposition.
Having picked apart the statistics and records there are some key points to highlight which aims at focal points to improve upon.
1) Aston Villa have conceded 18 goals this season in the Premier League. Only 3 of these goals were in the first half of games. (In fact Villa would be joint 1st with Liverpool on 22 points based on a first half league table).
2) Aston Villa have led against Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool.
3) Aston Villa have dropped 11 points from winning positions.
4) 10 points have been dropped by Aston Villa in the last ten minutes of games. (Tottenham 86 and 90, Arsenal 81 and 84, Burnley 81 and Liverpool 87 and 94).
It’s clear to see that Dean Smith’s side are improving and have a hunger and drive to win games, looking to attack even when drawing against some of the bigger sides.
However, they need to look at their shape and the goals they are conceding late in games.
Yesterday, passion and effort were there in abundance, but at times the team looked very narrow defensively, something pointed out by many pundits throughout this season.
Also set pieces again are an issue, be it following opponents when marking or dealing with clearing the ball.
From a positive point of view, Aston Villa are showing they can provide a challenge to some of the best sides in the league and it couldn’t be any further from the side that were so embarrassingly relegated.
Also, the season will be defined on results against the teams in and around us.
However, counting on sides below us to slip up is a dangerous game and the late goals conceded may play on the mind of some in future fixtures.
The league is still incredibly competitive with just six points separating 6th down to 17th and the lottery of results is likely to continue throughout the season.
Villa will look to pick up as many points as possible before the New Year and will surely use the January transfer window to strengthen and build upon whatever they stand on come the start of 2020.