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Villa struggled most with composure, not talent or tactics

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Aston Villa’s loss yesterday was disappointing and frustrating, especially because they played well enough to earn a point. That’s a better problem to have than a team that just isn’t good enough.

Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

There are two types of bad teams.

On one end, you simply have teams that don’t have the talent to compete. The ones that no matter how hard they work, how well they execute their game plan or how much luck they get, will remain a bad side. This was Aston Villa last year, and it’s been Aston Villa for the past handful of seasons.

But on the other, you have sides that routinely don’t get the points they deserve. You know, they’re the ones that shoot themselves in the foot every other match, the ones that manage to rack up numerous scoring chances, only to squander each one, the ones that walk away grumbling about how they “deserved a draw” when they lose or “deserved a win” when they draw.

Don’t get yourselves confused. That was the “bad” Aston Villa we saw yesterday; not the one that simply wasn’t good enough.

For the first 45 minutes at Sheffield Wednesday, Villa didn’t get much of a foothold in the match. But they limited the Owls to just one shot on target in the first half, a performance that wasn’t a complete calamity like in previous years. While Wednesday had the run of the play, it wasn’t as if Villa were “lucky” to hit halftime scoreless.

What ensued after the break was, quite frankly, the most enjoyable 35 minutes of Villa football I’ve seen in ages. The Claret and Blues bossed the second half — Wednesday were really only dangerous on the counter, a role reversal from the first half — and were it not for a great intervention from Tom Lees, Ross McCormack would’ve likely opened his Villa account with the goal that would’ve given Villa the lead.

If Villa proved anything Sunday, it’s that (especially with a few new, expected signings) the club are going to be able to compete with the top clubs in this division.

But of course, a nice bit of incompetence had to show up at exactly the wrong moment, and instead of getting the point the side should have gotten, Villa walked away with nothing. It was a sign reminiscent of past Villa sides — which, in addition to being untalented, often imploded at the wrong time — and something that needs to be shaken if promotion is going to be won.

At the end of the day though, I’d rather be dealing with that problem than one that’s sheerly rooted in talent. While the fix probably isn’t easy, well, perhaps it is? After the midweek match away to Luton Town in the EFL Cup, Villa host Rotherham United and Huddersfield Town back-to-back in Championship action. Win those two matches, which you should be able to do comfortably, and you can largely forget about yesterday’s misstep.

It’s the type of thing we talk about with kids all the time, but mistakes are going to be made. You’ll have times when clearance attempts go horribly wrong or when your defender heads into his own net despite being under no pressure. You know, it’s football.

But at the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker, you can’t keep your heads dropped going forward. When you lead Rotherham 1-0 next weekend, you can’t let yourself dwell on how you blew a point the week before at Hillsborough. Instead, you’ve gotta go out, see the match through and build some confidence.

Villa’s big issue yesterday wasn’t talent or tactics (though each could’ve been better), it was staying composed late in a tight match. And at the end of the day, I’ll live with that — because a winning mentality could well be the fix of that problem.