Although Aston Villa are firmly in a relegation scrap, over the last few weeks we’ve experienced euphoric moments. After a thrilling League Cup semi-final sent Villa to Wembley, and the side took crucial points against relegation rivals Watford and Brighton, most supporters are fairly excited to see what the rest of the season brings.
But a sobering result on the southern coast reminded the club and supporters that the rest of the season is going to be a fight to the bitter end. The fight for 17th will be a grueling battle against time and other enemies, a low-budget long-running war movie rather than the decadent blockbusters that top six teams are spoiled with.
It’s Awards Season!
In the spirit of the Oscars being handed out this weekend, we’re looking back on Aston Villa’s loss at Bournemouth by likening the performances to classic movies. The players will be awarded 1–5 stars rather than being ranked on a 1–10 scale, and the man of the match winning the Best Actor award.
(For those who have forgotten . . . or blocked this match out)
Cast and Crew: GK: Pepe Reina; LWB: Matt Targett, CB: Kourtney Hause, CB: Tyrone Mings, CB: Ezri Konsa RWB: Frédéric Guilbert; CM: Marvelous Nakamba, CM: Douglas Luiz; LW: Jack Grealish, ST: Mbwana Samatta, RW: Anwar El Ghaz
Lights. Camera. Action.
The story line of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood centers around aging actors who still have what it takes, but can see the world moving to a new and different era, one they’ll be left out of. Reina may as well be the main character of this film. The veteran goalkeeper cuts a good figure in front of goal, but cannot rely on a defense similar to those in front of him in the eight seasons he spent at Liverpool, collecting 134 clean sheets. Reina, despite the sub par performances put in by the players in front of him, is still aiming for recognition, for awards. That’s likely why he made four saves and had a nearly 70% passing percentage (we’ll ignore the two balls that went in). Football keeps changing, but Reina continues to prove he is not done quite yet. Rating: 4 Stars
Targett plays the game like he’s moving a million miles an hour, never stopping his bombing runs or attempting a risky or flamboyant. The wingback’s performance is like a race at Le Mans, fast and hectic despite the pitfalls that abound. Targett’s attitude toward the game leads to actions like the key pass he made against Bournemouth, but also often sees him caught out of position. Defensively, playing fast and loose in that game wasn’t ideal, as Targett failed to make a tackle and left Kourtney Hause open to attack. While this performance was similar to Ford v Ferrari, a film that nails the action on screen, Targett’s fundamentals remain a bit lacking. Rating: 3.5 Stars
Kourtney Hause has been fairly consistent, but he had a bit of a struggle on the southern coast. The center half couldn’t complete a long pass to save his life during what felt like excruciatingly long periods, and ultimately completed only 3 of his attempted 19 balls. This is particularly odd as these passes are normally a strength of his, part of the rationale behind his inclusion in the squad. Defensively, Hause made four fouls during the game and earned a yellow card for his efforts. Villa fans shouldn’t be worried about upcoming games, however—Kourtney’s game could be likened to a talented director whose vision misfires in one flick, only to see that director come roaring back with a respectable, critically acclaimed movie the next time around. Hause should be able to put his muddled, Last Jedi-like performance against Bournemouth behind him and respond with a masterclass like Knives Out. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
This fixture had a bit of extra significance for Tyrone Mings as it was his first return to the southern coast since his transfer over the summer. Villa fans had expected scenes similar to those in Pretty Woman: Mings had been told, “You’re obviously in the wrong place—please leave.” What his response should have been was a collection of balls driven out of the defense, each effectively saying, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.” Perhaps he should’ve behaved like Vivian when the squirrelly Jason Alexander character harasses her, digging in his heels and fighting with all he’s got. Instead, his play was more along the lines of the beginning of the movie’s shopping scene, where Vivian slips out of the shop, ashamed, believing she had no right to be there. Mings didn’t make a tackle all match and gave away nasty fouls for little to no reason. The defense, in general, was in a state of disarray, yet Mings proved to be an uncharacteristically ineffective leader on the day. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Ezri Konsa (Subbed 45’)
Reports stated Konsa was subbed during the half due to a hamstring problem, but his performance warranted an exit stage left. Konsa went for the classics in this match; unfortunately, that classic was the 1933 adaptation of H.G. Welles’ novel The Invisible Man. His only significant statistical contribution was a single interception. If this horror show of a performance is due to his hamstring, then Konsa must rest. If not, the team must determine whether his play will continue reflect the new and supposedly terrifying remake of the classic; if it will, he must be pulled. During a relegation battle, Villa can’t afford to have people simply go missing while on the pitch. Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Guilbert looked every bit as dangerous as his fellow wingback on the left . . . and was as defensively suspect too. There’s really no movie his performance can be likened to. Offensively, Guilbert was able to make a break when called upon on the right wing and managed a key pass into the box. While tracking back he gave up too much ground to his Bournemouth counterparts and opted for a foul rather than the execution of a tackle. The Frenchman may have made a splash at Cannes (ahem, Caen) but many such films make a tepid impression at the box office. He might be ready for a Golden Globe, but nothing close to an Oscar statue. Based on this performance alone, Guilbert is not fit for the biggest stage . . . but the show must go on. We can only hope he remembers his lines. Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Marvelous Nakamba (Subbed 79’)
In a game crying out for action-packed offensive displays, Marvelous was miscast. Nakamba was a defensive midfielder trying his best to run the play forward and was caught in offensive positions of consequence far too often. Several times Marvelous found himself in a shooting position that Douglas Luiz or Conor Hourihane would have killed for, but the Zimbabwean couldn’t convert. The midfielder was arguably at fault for the first goal, not tracking Philip Billing as the midfielder charged towards a loose ball. Basically, we’re talking Bend it Like Beckham here, where Bournemouth are Jess and Nakamba is the group of boys she smacks down while playing football in the park. Had Marvelous had his role in the game edited out a bit earlier by Director Dean Smith, the judges may not have looked upon him so harshly. Instead, they were also allowed to view his blooper reel. Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Stars
The Brazilian put forth a nearly above average performance only to see it marred by a very poor mistake. On the lead up to the second goal, Konsa was fouled while fighting for a header on what became a Bournemouth counterattack. When Luiz fouled Jefferson Lerma at the end of this break, he earned a yellow card, thus eliminating the possibility of using VAR to determine if Konsa had been fouled in the buildup. The free kick stood and led to the Cherries’ second goal. Yet otherwise, Luiz was effective — the midfielder had an 85% passing accuracy and two key passes. That’s why his performance felt reminiscent of Joker, in which Joaquin Phoenix’s tremendous performance is overshadowed by questionable messaging on the whole. Unfortunately, like Joker, for this game Luiz will be remembered for his negative contributions rather than the positives. Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Jack Grealish is Aston Villa’s superstar, their Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio. (We’d love to make an allusion to Joker and its award nominations here, but we already wrecked that with Douglas Luiz.) As the game went on, Super Jack began to shine and was the only source of offense during the 11 v 11 portion of the game. Grealish was also responsible for the red card due to his good gamesmanship, letting the referee know every time Lerma fouled him. The ref gave a final warning at the end of the first 45’, so on the next foul Grealish reminded him and Lerma was sent off. Grealish also peppered the goal with wonderful curling efforts and dribbling showcases, and on a better day he would’ve scored any one of these efforts. Jack was once again the shining star of the Aston Villa show . . . but we knew that already. We can only hope his winnings accumulate faster than Leo’s Oscar statues. Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars, Best Actor Winner
On his Premier League debut, Samatta got off the mark and the away fans immediately responded with their best Samagoal chant. The musical score was beautiful; it was Star Wars, it was E.T., it was Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter . . . anything but Home Alone. Perhaps it was Saving Private Ryan, as Samatta demonstrated his loyalty to his squad not by celebrating the impressive header, but by picking his debut goal up out of the net and immediately running to the center spot, anxious to get the match going once more. The Tanzanian showed in that one moment that while he cares about scoring, it’s all about helping the team as a whole. Samatta understands his role in the squad: score early and often so the team wins (alas, neither occurred, but give it time). Should that moment be replicated in a win at home, the Holte End will ring out in Samagoal chants that would make John Williams jealous. Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars, Best Supporting Actor
Anwar El Ghazi (Subbed 57’)
Critics have praised Uncut Gems for its tense understanding of action and noted the lack of time it had to make an impact on audiences and judges alike. Anwar El Ghazi’s performance against Bournemouth evokes the film so clearly and distinctly it gives one chills. El Ghazi managed to influence the match despite being on the pitch for less than two-thirds of it. The winger had twenty touches, two key passes, and constantly won aerial duels. If Smith had substituted Nakamba at this point rather than El Ghazi, the offensive potential of the side would have exploded, and El Ghazi would have been able to have a run at the Best Actor award. Alas, like his Uncut Gems counterpart, Adam Sandler, he was snubbed because of a lack of time onstage. Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Cameos: CB: Björn Engels (45’), ST/LW: Kienan Davis (57’), RW: Trézéguet (79’)
Björn Engels (Subbed in 45’)
After Ezri Konsa came off injured, Dean Smith couldn’t exactly pull the curtain down, so instead he brought in Björn Engels, who’d reportedly fallen out of his favor. The Belgian hit the ground running; he didn’t skip a beat. Similar to John Wick, Engles put in a quick no-nonsense performance that got the job done. Although the 6’4” Belgian assassin was deadly in the air, he gave up no fouls and generally looked like he’d never left the starting lineup. Engles will have definitely given Smith something to think about when the next fixture comes along. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait until May 21 to see Björn’s fourth chapter. Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Kienan Davis (Subbed in 57’)
Returning from another injury, Davis was desperate to make an impact against Bournemouth. The young striker cast aside any notions that he’d already made the big time and instead put in serious work to make heads turn. Not only did he outwork the Bournemouth players, but he provided the assist for Samatta’s goal. If Dean Smith was trying to cast the role of Target Man (a as-yet unreleased indie film about a young English striker who overcomes his injury-proneness to go on to score 30 goals), Davis proved he has the potential to be his guy — just as long as he can stay fit. Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Trézéguet (Subbed in 79’)
Trézéguet gave best his Stan Lee impression, touching the ball three times . . . and then the match ended. Rating: N/A