Here’s the talking points after Villa’s 1-0 loss at Wolves with full focus now on beating Tottenham next week
Aston Villa’s wretched run against near-neighbours Wolves continued on Saturday as Toti’s ninth-minute header – after getting the better of Jacob Ramsey – extended Villa’s record to just one win across their eight previous meetings (D2 L5).
Head coach Unai Emery explained afterwards how he was pleased with the majority of Villa’s performance at Molineux and labelled it better than their previous away games at Manchester United and Brentford.
Here’s the main takeaways from Villa’s latest setback with Emery outlining how next week will be a “cup final” against Tottenham if they’re to keep their European dreams alive…
“In the second half the rhythm was going down,” Emery confessed. “They were trying to waste time and we didn’t get our best performances trying to play like the first half. It was more difficult.”
Now it was always going to be an uphill task to come from behind after such an early setback – especially against a side that hadn’t conceded a single goal across their previous three home fixtures.
Villa lacked that little bit of quality, though, with Bertrand Traore struggling on his big start while Ollie Watkins missed a great chance as he planted his unmarked header straight at Jose Sa. Craig Dawson won a series of blocks to deny Emi Buendia in the first half as well, while Tyrone Mings spurned the best chance of the lot, side-footing over from all of five yards out with 72 minutes on the clock.
Emery, meanwhile, spoke of his pleasure at what he witnessed in the first 45, telling the players in the dressing room at the break how “I like to watch our team playing like that” given Villa’s control as they attempted to open Wolves up. It didn’t happen, though, with captain John McGinn ruing what might have been.
“We played pretty well and controlled much of the match but Wolves are strong at home and a threat from set pieces,” he said. “They made it difficult for us but we had our chances and on another day we could be going home with a point.”
It felt like a case of c’est la vie at Molineux and, as Emery also stated, Villa have won games previously having played a lot worse than they did at Wolves. As for the manager, his winless run against Wolves now stretches to five games (D3 L2) while Emery has won just one of his last seven meetings against his fellow Basque Lopetegui. Talk about a bogey game.
Now despite dominating for large parts, Villa made opposition goalkeeper Sa pull off just one decent save across their 16 attempts at goal as the Portuguese denied Emi Buendia’s well-struck half-volley just five minutes after Toti’s opener.
Emery stressed how Villa maintained what was asked of them in terms of their game plan but, at the vital moments in the final third, quality was lacking. The manner of the defeat at Wolves will, of course, strengthen Emery’s case as he looks to add some real pedigree in attack this summer. Villa have dropped eight points across their last four games – and have looked toothless in each of them, while Douglas Luiz and Mings have been the only two scorers across Villa’s last 360+ minutes of action since hammering Newcastle last month.
Incoming transfer guru Mateu Alemany, meanwhile, will be the man to bring much-needed firepower to Villa Park next season to make sure Villa come to places like Molineux and get their rewards. Villa will look to add difference-makers next term with Traore, Leon Bailey, Emi Buendia and others struggling for consistency this season. Villa have, of course, already been heavily linked with the likes of Nico Williams, Pedro Goncalves, Ferran Torres and Juventus striker Dusan Vlahovic.
CARLOS GOING TO BE HUGE AT VILLA
What a moment it was for Diego Carlos who made his long awaited playing return – nine months after his Achilles injury. Posting afterwards, Carlos said: “After a long period away from the pitch, I’m back, stronger than ever. Thanks to everyone who supported me during this journey, it wasn’t easy but I won!”
The centre-back was impressive in his 30-minute cameo, winning three of his aerial duels while showcasing a fantastic range of passing as he picked out Watkins from inside his own half for a headed chance late in the game.
As for Emery, he was chuffed to have Villa’s £26m man back involved, and said: “Diego Carlos also coming back is good news after a long injury. It’s fantastic for the team and for him.”
Carlos slotted in alongside Mings seamlessly in the second half as Ezri Konsa shuffled over to right back. You wouldn’t bet against that from happening from the start next week against Tottenham given Carlos’ assuredness on his return.
Elsewhere, Boubacar Kamara made his return as a late substitute with the Frenchman alongside Matty Cash and Philippe Coutinho on the Molineux pitch post-match being put through their paces ahead of Villa’s three-game run-in. Emery will now have options as Villa look to go for broke against Spurs next week knowing a big win at Villa Park will keep them in the mix for a European place.
ALL ON SPURS NEXT WEEK NOW
And lastly, regardless of what happens across the next three weeks Emery, his staff and Villa’s players should be applauded for their remarkable turnaround. After the draw at West Ham on March 12, Villa – in 11th – were two points adrift of Chelsea above them. Fulham were four points ahead, Brentford six and Brighton seven.
Villa now somehow remain in the hunt for Europe with Emery lighting the touchpaper ahead of Spurs next week, labelling that fixture as “our final”.
“We are three points behind Tottenham but we play them at home next week and, in front of our supporters, we will try again and keep the European chance still open,” he said. “We have to play three matches but the next match against Tottenham is our final.”
What an atmosphere it should be next week now. Spurs, for the record, are winless in their last eight away games (D2 L8) and, in that time, have shipped 21 goals at a rate of 2.6 per game. Villa will now look for a repeat of their performance against Newcastle in order to get the European party back underway.