Something For The Weekend (586)
Rock, paper, scissors, Villa?
Villa's exhilarating winning-streak came to an end on Saturday when they were out-classed by a technically superior Wolves team, parading a Portuguese contingent, of which, Atletico Madrid loanee Jota stood out like a tanner in a chimney-sweep's ear, as my granny used to say. From Villa's cautious start it seemed that Steve Bruce didn't expect to win this one and from the kick-off his team found themselves under pressure. With Villa getting themselves strung out, Wolves ran through Villa's midfield like a dose of salts and only an immaculate intervention from Alan Hutton prevented a shot on goal. But even then Villa dithered and Snodgrass earned a yellow card with an emergency intervention on Villa's byline. Hourihane was to earn himself a similar yellow, coming up to half-time, when Wolves had once again shredded Villa's midfield and were on the verge of creating an opportunity. Villa might have had a penalty when Snodgrass was blatantly shoved off the ball when he rose to meet an Adomah cross. But mostly it was Villa who were doing the chasing.
Villa were under the cosh from the kick-off in the second-half and it was only ten minutes in when the Wolves' main man was left unmarked on Villa's right and Jota's precise touch and neat feet gave himself the space to rifle the ball into the roof of Villa's net. It was Jota who created Wolves' second sixteen minutes later and despite there being a strong suggestion of handball, by Brazilian loanee Bonatini, he made it two-nil. Snodgrass hit the Wolves' bar from a free-kick and Wolves created two more chances which miraculously Johnson kept out. Villa's single shot on target didn't tell the whole story and they didn't compare too badly with the bookies' favourites to win the league, but Wolves were a whole lot prettier. It wasn't quite the result we were hoping for but we definitely don't need to be any more disappointed than the Wolves fans were when they lost two-nil away to Sheffield United at the end of September, on the night after Villa had beaten Burton 4-0.
Against Villa and on their own patch Wolves looked like a classy side and well worth the bookies favourable odds for promotion. The real question which concerns the Villa faithful is how the apparent gap between the Old Gold and our own team reflected upon their chances of getting promoted. Not a lot I would have thought, as the recurring description of the Championship contest is attrition. Periods of two or more games a week and games which seem more about in-your-face physical power and presence than technical ability. Players who look comfortable in the autumn look less so in January. Teams which look like the puppy's parts against one sort of opposition look less convincing against another sort. In season 1980-81 Villa played title rivals Ipswich three times and lost them all. But Villa did marginally better than Ipswich against the rest. So Wolves looked better but I am not sure we should make too much of it.
Having done such self-reassuring whistling in the dark all week by way of offering balm to my wounded pride, Villa definitely need to prove that last week's game was a one-off by taking on an in-form Fulham side this Saturday. Fulham are higher in the form-table than Villa and are better in both defence and attack over the season. Their current position two places below Villa in the Championship table was achieved through two away wins at Forest and QPR, which suggests that they are no slouches away from home. Villa definitely need to rediscover their edge and there would be no better time than Saturday to get back to winning ways. A win would probably move Villa into the top-six, which would a novel experience. Come on Villa, take us somewhere nice.
Keep the faith!