Season 2021/2022, Villa turn victory into a disaster!

Beware the local derby!  When our Villans scored their second goal in the 68th minute, they appeared to be cruising to a comfortable 2-0 victory against Wolves.  Villa’s close-to-capacity crowd was ecstatic though the Wolves faithful did their best to compete.

To their credit, our claret and blues did not go into a defensive shell as they continued to pursue a game guaranteeing third goal.  In what appeared a good response to Wolves bringing on more firepower in Daniel Podence and Fabio Silva, manager Dean Smith responded with the fresh legs of Jacob Ramsey and Ashley Young, having already subbed Nakamba for a travel-weary Douglas Luiz.

So, what happened?  How did a comfortable lead turn into a loss in the last minutes of the game?  Well, credit to Wolves for being a very gritty team and not quitting.  Credit their fans also for providing the energy to support their team.

Still, we have to chalk it up to a loss of composure that thrives in a derby game.  The noise can be deafening and, especially to young players, overwhelming.  Certainly, the swap of Ramsey for Buendia, in hindsight, worked to our disadvantage.  Our Argentinian off-season acquisition was playing well in one of his few recent starts and appeared to be growing into the game when he got the collar.  Young Jacob, in contrast, never settled into the game and was always nervously chasing.

Our captain, Tyrone Mings, who can be imperial, instead appeared uneasy throughout the game.  Perhaps the giveaway by Tuanzebe in the first few minutes of the game shook him up.  That resulted in a golden opportunity for Hwang Hee-chan to pick out the far corner of the net.  It was shades of Spurs’ first goal by Højbjerg until Mings slid over to block.  That error certainly seemed to fluster Tuanzebe for the rest of the game to the irritation of his skipper.  That showed itself in the 61st minute when Mings was booked for dithering in taking a freekick as he voiced irritation with his teammates.

Even when Wolves scored their first goal in the 80th minute in a well-worked play, the Villa should have been able to regain the initiative.  Playing from behind, Wolves had to take the game to the Villa.  All our Villans had to do was make sure that their opponents’ possession was limited.

Skill and composure were essential.  Without Grealish to induce fouls, we needed Buendia, Luiz, and McGinn to clog-up the middle, but two of them were on the bench.  We also needed two fullbacks protecting our flanks, but Cash was off and Targett was completing a very active game running the line from penalty area to penalty area.  It was Ings who was marking Podence on that first goal when it should have been Targett.  Would a backline adjustment to a back four (Cash, Konsa, Mings, and Targett) have changed the game?  Possibly yes, because it was Tuanzebe’s failure to cover and to clear that led to the Coady goal that tied the game.

It is easy to pontificate in hindsight, but Villa gave up too many unnecessary freekicks and that handed the momentum to the visitors.  That was three points squandered.  The acid test is whether they can pull it together by Friday when they face an Arsenal team also on a knife’s edge – winning their derby game against Spurs but following that with two disappointing ties.

The game at the Emirates is a toss-up.  A repeat of last year’s success is highly unlikely, but we could squeak a tie and that would be morale building for the following home game against West Ham.

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