When I recorded the Holtecast on Sunday with Dani, I caught myself feeling very positive about Aston Villa. Usually, a draw isn’t something to celebrate, but hell - that point against Leeds was massive. The match was a foregone conclusion, but Villa kept making chances and it paid off for them via a Henri Lansbury strike.
Seriously, what’s NOT to love about Aston Villa on the pitch right now?
What to know about Aston Villa
They are a fun side to watch at times, they have mettle to iron out results and change a game - but the less said about set pieces, the better. Villa gave up 2 goals (one disallowed) to a Leeds team with an anaemic xG tally on the day. That’s an incredible weakness, and it will allow the tables to be flipped on them by physical and intelligent teams. Ideally work will have been done to correct that in midweek, Villa will seriously regret ignoring this seemingly glaring issue.
Villa went to sleep at times against Leeds, and at points were played off the park. They can’t simply start the same 11 lads over and over - because fatigue shows - especially in players like Josh Onomah and Alan Hutton. The former gets lost in games when not at 100% and the latter simply gets wound up far too easily. They fought back well to grab that point against Leeds, but rotation is the key and there is no better match for trying new things than this one.
Jack Grealish and Henri Lansbury have earned the start, and their heroics against Leeds should be repaid; but don’t expect both to be plunged in for Conor Hourihane and Josh Onomah. There might be slow and subtle changes to get Villa used to a new line-up.
There are still big injuries for Villa. Jonathan Kodjia looks done for the season, Mile Jedinak is sore and Scott Hogan has been suffering from a serious health issue, but at least the latter pair are on their way back and could be involved in the near future. There are others close to return, like Andre Green, Gabby Agbonlahor and Rushian-Hepburn Murphy, but it might be better to inject someone like Callum O’Hare or Birkir Bjarnason into the matchday squad to add some fresh legs. If Villa gamble too much and lose Albert Adomah, Robert Snodgrass or anyone else to injury, they have big issues.
What to know about Millwall
For many reasons, Millwall are an infamous club. From casual culture, to screen representations, to the news - this club, no matter their league position, are engraved into the footballing zeitgeist. They are also champions of that whole #AGAINSTMODERNFOOTBALL thing due to dodgy circumstances in regards to their stadium - the club could end up being moved MILES away to Kent, which would be no good for anyone.
Their reputation in the Championship? Well - they are the team that should get relegated, but won’t. The team that should drop points but don’t. They are no Sheffield United, but London’s own lions are making waves of their own by avoiding the drop. It’s early days - still - but Millwall are matching Championship mainstays like Barnsley and QPR pound-for-pound. That means they need to be taken seriously by teams like Aston Villa. It’s Millwall that are the visitors, and their job will to deliver that knockout blow to Villa at home; the pressure isn’t on them to perform. It’s on Aston Villa.
A physical and smart team, Millwall will rely on Saville through the middle for energy and creativity, but in a scramble - anyone can score.
2-1 to the Villa. Like the Ipswich game, there might be a few scares, but this Villa team is just too good right now. There’s a lot of heart and skill on display, it’s time to simply turn up the style.