Setting the Table: Aston Villa Enter Week Two of Hellish Stretch

Michael Regan

Aston Villa had a 2-0 lead against Manchester United. They would end up falling 2-3, but they weren't the only ones missing the point.

Well that was a roller coaster ride, wasn't it? I can imagine many of us expected much from the match on Saturday. Manchester United were the league leaders, and likely one of the top ten teams in Europe. Aston Villa weren't even top ten in their league. In our weekly Friday Feedback, no one predicted a win, and even a point seemed to be out of reach if you read between the lines of what we all wrote. Really, I think I can safely speak for everyone who writes here (and do correct me if I'm wrong) when I say that going into the match, we would have all been at least okay if Aston Villa had done nothing more than not embarrass themselves.

And then the match began, and Villa weren't embarrassing themselves. In fact, they were playing incredibly smart football that relied on strong defense and a quick counterattack. As the first half was winding down, it almost felt unfair that the teams were going to go into the break tied, since Villa really seemed the better team. And then we got Andreas Wiemann's first goal. It was beautiful. You can see it below in moving image form. The club them came out and kept up the pressure in the second half and were rewarded with a second Weimann goal.

At this point, if Villa could hold on, they'd earn 3 points and move up to 14th on the table. We all know what happened though. Javier Hernandez did his best to score a hattrick, only to be stopped by a valiant, self-sacrificing effort from Ron Vlaar, who took the own goal. Now, in the moment, this was the worst of all possible outcomes. There is no denying that. Villa missed out on three points - and heck, had they just held at two goals, one - and a great opportunity.

But the team weren't the only ones missing the point. See for instance, this tweet. "That's just unacceptable." Aston Villa put in one of the best overall team efforts we have seen in ages. They did so in a match that no one expected anything from. And yes, they lost, but it never actually felt over, oddly. The team kept fighting. They didn't lay back and die, like we might have expected from Villa usually.

Let's take a look at something:

Fan, on Friday Afternoon: I wish I had some way of knowing what would happen to Villa this weekend, so I could bet on the outcome of the match.
Magical time-traveling person: /makes magical time-traveling noises
Magical time-traveling person: Hello there person of the past, as I was traveling through time, I head your wish to know the Aston Villa score.
Fan, on Friday Afternoon: /stares
Fan, on Friday Afternoon: /jaw drops
Fan, on Friday Afternoon: /vaguely nods
Magical time-traveling person: You people of the past are so easily amazed! Well, I will tell you that Aston Villa will play very well, Andreas Weimann will have two incredible goals that came as the result of a team effort, but ultimately it will be for naught. They will lose 2-3.
Fan, on Friday Afternoon: You mean we'll score two and still lose? Man, the future blows.
Magical time-traveling person: You can't honestly expect your young and untested team (who will start some young lad named Enda Stevens by the way) to beat the infinitely superior Manchester United can you?
Fan, on Friday Afternoon: Well, when you put it like that, no. I guess if they don't embarrass themselves, it'll be a good sign. I wasn't expected them to win this match anyways.
Magical time-traveling person: Much better attitude goodsir. Now, could you tell me in which year I've landed? I was aiming to watch the Battle of Hastings but I think I missed by a bit...

If you had told 95% of fans before the match that Villa would lose 2-3 and put in an incredible performance, that 95% would have been pleasantly surprised. But after losing the lead, I'd say about 1/4 of the tweets I read were angry at the club.

I understand the frustration. It seems like Manchester United always does this to us. But you know what? That was an amazing match, and it's a sign of what's possible at Aston Villa. You do realize that Chelsea/Arsenal/Manchester City/etc. all lose to Manchester United every once in a while, too, right? The loss was expected. All we wanted was a decent showing. We got that, and far more. Enjoy the progress, enjoy the entertainment, and enjoy the hope of what's to come. Don't be like Aston Villa and entirely miss the point.

Just The Facts, Please


Position W D L GD Pts
Aston Villa 17th 2 3 6 -7 9

Form (Last 5): L L D W L

Results Last Week: Aston Villa 2-3 Manchester United (EPL)

Upcoming Fixtures:

  • First Team:
    at Manchester City - Saturday, November 17, 1500 GMT, 1000 Eastern
  • Reserves:
    Sunderland (U21) - Monday, November 12, 1900 GMT, 1400 Eastern

Injuries

New Injuries Last Week:

  • N/A

The Week That Was

  • I've been lax in covering the Aston Villa U19 side's progress through the NextGen Series, but the squad notched a big win last week when they beat PSV Eindhoven 2-0 in Birmingham. The match saw goals from Graham Burke and Michael Drennan. This match is worth noting because it is the team's penultimate in group play, and they currently sit in 2nd, with seven points. The group-stage finale will come on November 28th, as the team travels to Sporting Lisbon.
  • Darren Bent watch: still seems as if the striker is still injured, as we didn't see him this week. I can't imagine I'm alone in being entirely dubious about this injury.
  • Hey, it's (insert month here, any month will do for this sentence) which means that we're nearing the (summer/winter) transfer window! Time for some crazy rumors. Aston Villa will be getting Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Siem de Jong! Everyone go crazy! Or not. As Aaron reminded us all, November transfer rumors are pretty specious, and should be taken with a block of salt.
  • This isn't really news, but be sure to check out Andrew's new column, in which he will use our input to sim a season of Aston Villa on Football Manager 13. It looks like it's going to be a great series, and I can't wait to read more of it.

Match Notes

Aston Villa 2-3 Manchester United (EPL)
Andreas Weimann (45+', 50'), Javier Hernandez (58', 87'), Ron Vlaar (OG, 63')

  • To give you an idea of how great this match was, you could argue that amongst Villa players Andreas Weimann, Christian Benteke, and Ron Vlaar all deserved Man of the Match honors. And Gabriel Agbonlahor and the rest of the defense weren't too bad, either.
  • Let's get to what you came here for: moving pictures. Here's Weimann's first goal:

    Weimann_overhead_medium

    Weimann_pitch_medium

    It was a gorgeous strike, but even more impressive was the build-up play from Christian Benteke. We've talked a lot that he's a player who can muscle his way around, but we actually haven't seen too much of that. We've seen Benteke's fine finishing touch instead. Here's a moment where the Belgian's muscle really made the difference in a play.
  • And here's Weimann's second, with the stunningly perfect pass from Gabriel Agbonlahor. On the first gif, the hitch is the result of a freeze-frame in the broadcast. I was kind of upset about that at first, but I like it now. It let's you see just how perfect the pass had to be:

    Weimann2nd1st_medium

    Weimann2nd2nd_medium
  • Now, me pointing out Gabby and Christian shouldn't take anything at all away from Weimann. We've all seen those shots missed (I can just imagine Emile Heskey skying the second one, for instance), but Weimann handled them cooly. Like I said above, I'm dubious about Darren Bent being injured. More and more I get the feeling that he's not long for this squad. But more and more I'm okay with that. Gabby looks to be competent again, Benteke is showing that he's got the skill to play at this level, and Weimann has oodles of talent, just waiting to be harnessed.
  • Worth noting: the lineup that Aston Villa put out on Saturday, with three strikers up front, was a ton of fun to watch. I hope we see more of that.
  • Enda Stevens made his first EPL start and was - overall - quite good. It'd certainly be interesting if he ended up being the solution at left back.
  • He tired as the match went on, but I thought Stephen Ireland in the first half played the best 45 minutes we've seen from him at Aston Villa. Considering the majority of Villa's offense came from the counter, there was going to need to be a link between the back four and the front three. Ireland played that role admirably, getting off quick passes that were surprisingly accurate. He wasn't a world-beater, but that was a Stephen Ireland with which we could all be happy.
  • The defense was, for the most part, exceptionally good. Ron Vlaar in particular looked amazing. Yes, he conceded an own goal, but it was really a matter of his being a post off of which the ball could bounce. There wasn't too much he could do about it. Oddly, that was the one goal where I would absolutely fault the defense for disappearing. So, in a way, I guess it is on Vlaar.
  • Finally, to leave us all happy, here's a celebrating Andi Weimann:

    Weimann_happy_medium
  • You can find Aaron's recap here.
  • The WhoScored recap is here.

Looking Ahead

  • Now that Aston Villa have gotten Manchester United, they've got an easier stretch on their schedule. Hahahaha, just kidding. It's off to Etihad in Manchester to face Manchester City this week. Check out SB Nation's City blog, Bitter and Blue, to see what our soon-to-be-vanquished-foes are talking about.
  • I mean, really, what are we so worried about? Remember when Villa beat City in the League Cup? You know, with those awesome goals? Oh yeah, that's right. In their past 35 EPL matches at home, Manchester City are unbeaten. And their win percentage in that stretch is incredible as well, they haven't just been racking up draws. In those 35 matches, they've won 32. Absurd.
  • We will, of course, have our regular Friday Feedback, but I've got a request: do you have any questions you'd like us to answer? It's oddly quite tough to come up with a new question each week and keep it interesting, so any input from you would be greatly appreciated.
  • Keep an eye on the international scene this week, as Andi Weimann has been called up for Austria. I hope his hot streak continues, but I hope even more that nothing terrible happens to him while playing in a meaningless friendly.
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