Many, me included, felt that Dean Smith’s progressive Brentford would take Villa to task today - and for the most part, they did. However, lapses in their style allowed an exhausted Villa side to equalise not once, but twice through some Jonathan Kodjia smarts in the penalty area.
Villa looked both good, and bad. They faded, and fought back. As Matt said, it was a game defined by contradictions. Our truths, your truths - for 90 minutes they were flipped upon their head as Villa fought back for a point against a better style of play, that probably hasn’t looked as dilapidated as it was tonight. It was weird. Well weird.
In the spirit of things, let’s take a look at a few talking points as Villa draw 2-2 at home against Brentford.
Brentford do a Villa
You can quite honestly tell that Dean Smith loves Villa, because his side looked more Villa than Villa when Brentford did a Villa by collapsing and showing their frustration. In truth, Brentford didn’t look particularly awful - and at times, ran the show - but they were far too happy allowing Villa to gain momentum and counter. Villa would eventually cock the counter up and run out of steam, but you don’t often see Brentford fall short in the final-third without taking a shot. Romaine Sawyers looked lost, and despite some killer passes, failed to find his man when it truly countered. A good Brentford side wins this match with ease.
Villa don’t stop running
Villa don’t seem particularly well-drilled. This shows, as the basic plan at home is to press and press and press and press and press and press. This is great, but it’s not smart nor intelligent despite the fact that we all love to see it. Teams need to pick their moments and Villa, via John McGinn and Jack Grealish chased down Brentford for almost the entire match. You can’t get to your destination on an empty tank though, and thankfully, Villa were able to salvage something out of the night - but the time will come when running won’t be enough.
Villa should consider substitutes
It might be a good idea to make an earlier change when your two central midfielders are clearly running on empty. What do I know?
There are plenty of issues with Villa’s back four. For about 50 minutes, Mile Jedinak looked like a centre-back. Until he didn’t. Everything seems to be reactive and instinctive with James Chester who, despite my deep love for him, seems unable to marshal Villa at set-pieces and crosses. Axel Tuanzebe is a class above at right back, but he’d unleash James Chester at centre-back if played in his correct position. Alan Hutton, for the most part, is serviceable, but he’s also untamed and wild. Villa are so good when they want to be, but when it falls apart, the defence just isn’t there to act as a foundation. There’s no surgical precision to it, just a bunch of sledgehammers trying to caress Ørjan Nyland in goal. They can come good, they just need to settle - or be moved around.
Nyland steps up
There’s not much that Villa’s goalkeeper could do to prevent Brentford taking the lead, twice. He pretty much had the ball kicked past him wildly hard from point-blank range on both occasions. When he was needed, he cut down a few clear-cut chances, and arguably he keeps Villa right in the mix for a point. While many will rightly look to Kodjia as the saviour, Nyland should come away from this with his head held slightly higher than it has been.
It’d be good if Villa had a few more plans
Steve Bruce is always going on about how he needs more, and sometimes he is right - Villa do need help on the wings. However, he seems unable to plan - for almost anything. Villa have one plan and one goal and that’s it. It’s kind of worrying. Credit where it’s due, because AVFC played some good football today - and he’s allowed that to happen in some way. However, when the team is flagging, it’s on him to direct, inspire and switch it up. The big flaw last season was sticking to a failed plan and a lack of rotation, We’re seeing that again, despite an improved performance.
Brentford and Villa probably could have seen a red card each in the first half. Jonathan Kodjia has hit a good run of form at a critical time. Villa are still chucking on as many attacking players as possible when the chips are down. Square pegs are still being forced into round holes. Yannick Bolasie and Anwar El-Ghazi fix a lot of Villa’s main issues. It’s on Bruce to do the rest. An earned point? Maybe. It doesn’t feel that way - but it also does? Ugh.