If Villa’s 4-2 victory over Blues hadn’t provided you with a sufficient roller-coaster of emotions, then Wednesday evenings 5-5 draw with Nottingham Forest surely will have.
It was a breathless, twisting, joyous and infuriating game to watch unfold.
It was a joy to watch Villa’s newly acquired attacking flair. Suddenly under Dean Smith we are beginning to tap into a frightening array of attacking options in our ranks.
Not unsurprisingly this season though, given what was inherited from the summer, our defence leaves much to be desired.
As emphatic as the four goal haul for Tammy Abraham was, it contrasts glaringly with the tragic loss of form of James Chester and the completely inadequate goalkeeping of Ørjan Nyland.
Whilst going two down inside six minutes, we recovered fantastically. Indeed, despite only leading once and for just a few minutes during the entire game, we always threatened. The fact that we had 26 shots tells a tale in itself in comparison to what went before.
There were also encouraging individual performances.
The aforementioned Tammy Abraham is an absolute goal machine. Whilst prone to missing a sitter (as he did again with a header against Forest), the Chelsea loanee’s movement, predatory nature and range of finishing make him a valuable asset.
It was promising too from Yannick Bolasie. Whilst chronically unfit and far from match ready on his arrival from Everton, the winger now looks capable of wreaking havoc amongst Championship defences.
There was also a encouraging cameo from El Ghazi, who contributed an excellent finish and threat not previously observed.
Defensively we reek of vulnerability.
Owing to injuries in midfield to Jedinak and Bjarnason, we’ve suddenly lost our ability to rotate protection in front of the back four to suit the opposition. This space is being exploited, with Conor Hourihane far from the ideal fit in respect of defensive duties.
Perhaps more controversially, Glenn Whelan’s absence appeared the wrong call.
Add to this the collapse of James Chester’s form. The Welsh international finds himself struggling to put a pass right for the first time in his Villa career, with each error resulting in danger or a goal for the opposition.
To compound this, there’s a hint of Chester also carrying an injury sustained whilst on international duty, with his appearances now enforced owing to our simple lack of cover at centre half.
This can in turn impact upon Axel Tuanzebe, who despite showing all of the qualities of a top defender, gets pulled to cover for deficiencies around him.
Irrespective of the broader points, both the goals conceded through the middle and then late at the near post could all have been defended far, far better.
It’s too easy to dismiss Ørjan Nyland as just the “latest scapegoat”; the Norwegian simply looks woefully out of his depth.
It was another painful display to endure, with Nyland cutting a nervous, ill-equipped goalkeeper with which to sustain any promotion push.
Whilst Villa offered little in the way of protection at times, none of Forest’s five total shots on target were saved.
The long range effort from Lolley was made to look world class by Nyland’s statuesque figure which suggested unfathomable movement on the ball or perhaps a sizeable deflection.
In reality, he simply failed to read and appropriately set himself for a strike that was actually remarkably close to his body.
Finally, the Forest equaliser, finished well by Grabban, was struck at the only part of the goal he could hit; Nyland’s near post.
The fact that Nyland’s positive contributions this season can be counted on one hand are telling. The reality is that he has and is costing us valuable points as a matter of routine.
Where Smith goes to address this before January is, however, a real quandary.
The back up keeper Mark Bunn has never threatened to become the number 1 and only finds himself not further down the pecking order owing to our lack of known alternatives. Bizarrely, it would not be a surprise to see him recalled.
Come January, Villa will surely either enter the transfer market or perhaps reconsider Jed Steer.
Villa now face a tougher opponent in second placed Middlesbrough this Saturday.
Whilst Boro have scored fewer goals, they have also conceded only ten times. This will be a different, perhaps more dogged affair. The challenge will be to rejig the squad to bring balance to both our attacking prowess, whilst addressing our defensive deficiencies.
The Forest game will live long in the memory as a remarkable 90 minutes of football.
It was exciting. It was enjoyable.
The positives should be celebrated, whilst the cons can be worked on.
But come the end of the season, I hope we don’t look back upon games like Wednesday nights and ponder what might have been.