After Villa’s quite startling early season rise to the upper reaches of the Premier League, there were bound to be days like this. The type of days where you don’t get that moment of good luck, things don’t quite click or you are left to wonder what might have been.
This was one of those days, rare of late for us Villa supporters, particularly as we have been spoiled with results, but also a number of late goals too. Even rarer, a 0-0 draw for Unai Emery, his first ever whilst managing either Arsenal or Villa in the PL.
This was an intriguing encounter, perhaps not for the neutral, but for two sides with differing fortunes this term. Let’s get the lazy cliche out of the way, so here it is. Everton, still reeling from a 10-point deduction, look ever so much the archetypal Sean Dyche side. They’re dogged, physical, and direct. Attributes that aren’t always pretty, but those which will be necessary characteristics as their season goes on.
It’s easy to overanalyse Villa’s current period of form as well and draw too many conclusions. But here it goes anyway.
The facts are that it’s one league win in four now as perhaps the toll of our progress to this point takes effect. Similar to phases during the recent games against Sheffield United, Burnley and Middlesbrough, there are a few faces who looked decidedly leggy or in need of rotation. The latter, rotation, is something that the established top sides in the division can do, dipping into their squads as required.
Still, the game could have turned on only a few crucial moments.
Martinez was outstanding when called upon again, pulling off two fine stops. What would we do in those moments without him? Try explaining that to any fan who can remember Guzan, Enckelman or Gollini.
Moreno, a revelation since returning from long-term injury, was unfortunate to see a fine strike chalked off by VAR for offside. A four-minute examination. Enough time to soft boil an egg, brew an accompanying cup of tea or compose a complaint to the Football Association.
There were also those moments which are easily overlooked. For instance, Tarkowski, bullish throughout, was guilty of two particularly rash challenges. Whilst he was eventually carded for a late cleaning out of Moreno, little was made of a potentially dangerous challenge upon Diaby.
The Frenchman was fortunate not to be the victim of a serious injury, with many Villa fans likely drawing comparison with the horror tackle inflicted upon Wesley. Tarkowski was entitled to go for the ball, but it was a strong tackle which arguably could have been both a red card and a penalty.
Ultimately, this should be seen as a good point on the road. We crave more, we want more, but we also need to keep some perspective. You cannot win them all.
The result (and performance) is a reminder that in order to anchor ourselves in the top four, we must be more adaptable. Villa play some lovely football at times, but we can also be a little one-dimensional with it too, especially in the final third. These are naturally first-world problems compared to where we were pre-Emery, where passing a football could at times seem laboured!
It also raises the question about January recruits. Quite who those recruits might be remains to be seen, but with the bench and our squad looking rather limited, a smart purchase or loan would be a nice surprise to pull out of the magic hat. It might be the difference between a 0-0 and a 1-0, after-all.
Up next in the league; Newcastle United at Villa Park. Bed sheets at the ready.Embed from Getty Images
In Other News
Before the next league fixture against Newcastle, Villa will face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the 4th Round of the FA Cup.
Fans will have an arduous journey, with the game scheduled for 19:45pm on Friday 26th January. This of course follows Villa’s late 1-0 victory away at Middlesbrough in the last round. Still, no one will care if we can secure victory for a trophy increasingly few supporters can say to have seen us win, with our last success being in 1957.
Separately, it looks that both Calum Chambers and Bertrand Traore have been placed up for sale. Neither player seems particularly favoured under Emery, either due to preference or injury and appear likely to be shown the door.