It’s the morning after the night before, and I am still none the wiser how we lost that match.
First off, it was a great game to watch. Burnley actually played some decent football during their second half comeback, and in the cold light of day, they deserved the win; their efficiency in converting their limited chances got them over the line, while Villa were yet again left to rue missed opportunities and Nick Pope performing like prime Gordon Banks.
Villa’s first half performance (after an uncertain start and a little too many long balls for my liking) was the best I can recall for years. The pace, the movement, the flicks and the interplay was like watching vintage Brazil – a pure joy, football porn at its best. And as for Super Jack…
A first half masterclass from @JackGrealish. Superb. 👏🏻
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) January 27, 2021
We should have been well out of sight at half-time, Burnley simply couldn’t live with what we were serving up, chasing shadows, men against boys. But our failure to convert our chances and put clear daylight between us meant there was always a chance of coming unstuck. And so it proved.
We can argue until the cows come home about whether Tyrone Mings needed to concede the corner from which they equalised, but the more salient point is that were yet again undone by our zonal marking which left the relatively diminutive Douglas Luiz to contend, unsuccessfully, with the twin threat of Mee and Tarkowski.
Burnley’s second goal was a complete fluke, a speculative cross from the dangerous and talented Dwight McNeill which evaded everyone, most importantly Emi Martinez as it crept in at the far post. And the winner, a towering far post header from Chris Wood, was just a great finish. At least VAR was not required to compound our misery.
Reaction in the forum match thread was predictably polarised, but the fact remains is that we are a far, far better side than last season. There will be bumps in the road, no question, but we will play far worse than last night and win matches. That is progress in my eyes.
— Jack Grealish (@JackGrealish) January 27, 2021
In terms of individuals, it is bizarrely in vogue at the moment to throw pelters in the general direction of Tyrone Mings, but I’m not having that. Everyone has a mistake in them during a match and last season, mistakes were routinely punished. This season, not so much, and I would much rather Mings was showing for the ball and trying to play football than hacking it upfield or into the proverbial Row Z.
Ross Barkely has been underwhelming since his return from injury and really should have been taken off long before he actually was last night. On that note, I felt that, not for the first time, Dean Smith was too slow to change things up when it was clear we were getting overrun – the effects of the Covid outbreak?
Needs to be some perspective when we lose, it’s outrageous we lost, but a lesson in taking your chances when you’re on top. Burnley made the most of theirs.
It’s a tough one to take, but I don’t see how that loss can be pinned on any individual, it’s a team thing.#avfc
— Dan Bardell (@danbardell) January 27, 2021
And I completely fail to see the point of bringing Keinan Davis on with two minutes to go. Whatever your opinion of Davis, it was ridiculous to expect anything from him in such a short space of time.
Anyway, onwards and upwards. Southampton will present a stern test on Saturday night and we most certainly cannot allow them a four-goal start as we did in the meeting earlier in the season. I can’t see us making wholesale changes for this – it’s not Deano’s style – and nor do we need to. We just need to convert our chances when we’re on top and work harder to limit the chances we concede to our opponents. I would take a draw to be honest, but there’s no reason we can’t bring home all three points.