It’s frustrating being a football fan, we obsess over details that we have no power to change, the line-up, the formation, the tactics, the choice of pass etc. Some feel the need to vent this inside the ground and others vent this on social media, often tagging players in tweets which range from paper thin analysis to straight up abusive. Villa have played two Premier League matches, 180 minutes of football and some “fans” think it is in their gift to write off players based on one mistake or spurned opportunity. Spurs were Champions League finalists a few days after Villa were Play-Off finalists and Bournemouth are an established Premier League side with a quality manager. Villa contained the CL finalists until a genuinely world class player was introduced and created enough chances to win the game against Bournemouth twice over. I’ve seen some shocking criticism of some players posted on social media and felt it only right that some nuance is added to the pot.
Tom Heaton is going to be a big player for Aston Villa. Brining bags of Premier League experience he will undoubtedly save Villa points in the coming season and prove a steal at £8m. He messed up. In what was a series of bad decisions he gave away a needless penalty 40 seconds into the game. This unsettled the defence, created a nervousness from which it took a good 25 minutes to recover. Tom Heaton is 33 years old and as mentioned, is highly experienced. He won’t let this phase him and indeed recovered well in game and kept Villa within touching distance of Bournemouth.
Douglas Luiz was the signing I was most excited by this summer. Guardiola speaking so highly of a player and with such frustration at the Work Permit situation is evident of his potential at this level. Manchester City insisting on a buy-back clause shows that there is a real player in there. Villa have been missing a mobile, aggressive defensive with a range of passing beyond that of a five yard shuffle for some time. Hourihane is capable CDM at Championship level but his best position has always been further forward and will provide a rotation option for Grealish and McGinn. I see parallels from Luiz’s full debut with that of Tanguy Ndombele against Villa on the opening day. Both players had a shaky first 45 minutes in the Premier League, grew into the game with their team chasing the match and scored good goals from distance. Douglas Luiz must have thought there was Villa player behind him, he may have got a fake call to leave the ball (I certainly do this when playing football) but he did not hide and began dictating play from deep brilliantly. He finished the game with 91% passing accuracy, worked hard for the team (his heat-map is impressive) and his goal is a thing of beauty, passed into the net from a long way out. Despite a difficult start to life in the Premier League, what I saw from Luiz on Saturday only serves to increase my sense of anticipation about this player. I look forward to seeing his development continue in the coming weeks.
Wesley Moraes is a “handful”. I’ve heard several Villa players say this about the striker in interviews. While training games won’t have the same pressure and intensity as a Premier League match, the fact he is described as such is very encouraging. He was feeding on scraps against Spurs, yet still managed to outmuscle Davison Sanchez for McGinn’s goal and held the ball up well on occasion. Against Bournemouth I saw more of him with the ball and what I saw was again encouraging. He is naïve for sure, but has the attributes to be a player. Football and the Premier League in particular is a game of fine margins. On another day, Ramsdale doesn’t react to the deflected shot, Trezeguet produces a better finish, the penalty is given and we are all talking about Wesley winning a penalty scoring a couple and creating another with a clever bit of skill. He is getting into good positions and it is only a matter of time before it clicks for him. He may not be a 20 goal a season player, but his all round game will create or score that many.
Jack Grealish is a player I have been excited about for years and am only more so now Villa have returned to the PL. To see some fans having a dig at him because he hasn’t yet pulled up trees is astounding. Against Spurs he was brilliant in difficult circumstances and ran himself into the ground, tired bodies and tired minds lead to mistakes. Sure he should have put his laces through it into row z, but that is easier said than done after such a sapping game. Against Bournemouth I’m not really sure where the criticism comes from. He probably should have scored a header, but was being challenged heavily in the process. Maybe he could have played a little closer to Luiz to make the out ball easier, but I am sure that the relationship between the midfield three will improve. Luiz, McGinn and Grealish, with Nakamba and Hourihane in rotation, has the potential to be a very strong element of this Villa side and I can see them bossing games in the near future. Despite all the criticism and the disingenuous ‘losing streak’ statistic, Grealish created more chances than any other player this weekend, got an assist and could have scored a couple. He dragged us out of the Championship and is a marked man in the Premier League already, yet he still does the hard yards and takes risks with the ball to make things happen. Have faith, it will come.
The team needs time and fulsome support from the stands for the whole season. It seems ridiculous to have to point this out but, the atmosphere inside Villa Park should make it an uncomfortable place to come for opposition players not our own. Abusive Social Media posts only work against the club’s interests. It is proven that SM abuse affects mental health which in turn affects performance. Go ahead and debate the game but the next time you feel the need to tag a player in a tweet telling them they are not good enough (putting it politely), perhaps think twice and consider the fact you are yelling abuse at a professional athlete while resting a beer on your belly and brushing pie crumbs off your phone screen.