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Is it June yet?

Aston Villa 2 - 1 Tottenham: An exhausted Lilywhite's take on the game at Villa Park.

By Matthew CurtisPublished about a year ago 4 min read
Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

Unai Emery and Aston Villa are chasing a historic return to European football. In particular, a competition that is something of a proficiency of their Spanish gaffer. After today's action, is there any doubt left that Emery and Co in Birmingham will offer more to the Europa League than managerless Tottenham Hotspur will? Today, our motivation was nothing more than to stave off the threat of Europa Conference League condemnation next season. To the eye, it appeared our players in reality concluded today to be little more than the negotiation of another arduous day in class before the Summer holidays. I can hardly blame them. I too had my eyes glued to the clock.

Villa are organised. They are decent. The bar has been set at a jumpable height, but our reality is this; Emery's Villa are operating at a level simply too high for us clear and at Villa park we were demonstrably out of our depth. Consider how hard we found it to play out from the back. Lenglet's countless passes into the left-hand void. Hojbjerg's vacant inventiveness on the ball. Royal's many hoofs up to nobody. Now consider how easily Kane, Son and Richarlison were bypassed. The ball was continuously carried past them at a walking pace. Villa hardly had to break a sweat to get up the pitch, whereas Tottenham were run ragged with the ball at their own feet.

I'll be a little forgiving on the front three. They were making runs. Yes, every single one of them seemed to result in the hoisting of the offside flag, but maybe the ball kept coming too late? When you take a moment to contemplate the source of our creativity; a hapless and overwhelmed back 5 and a nullified midfield two, then you begin to sympathise with Son and Richarlison. They offered options and were routinely fed the ball at just the wrong moment. They kept running, I'll give them that. Truly though, Richy could have little complaints with his removal this time. I'm struggling to recall an involvement of his from an onside position.

Deki and Bissouma injected life and energy into a dying party. They are the only positives. Bissouma introduced a temporary zip and gusto to our play. Some of our best passages in possession came with his arrival. Kulusevski in particular did well, using his muscle to win corners, getting in behind the defence more times than any other and putting a curling effort narrowly wide of the far-post. Yet he too got sucked into the event horizon of Villa's unimpeachable offside trap, which was by the way the most successful trap I've seen employed since Kevin McCallister beckoned the Sticky Bandits to chase him to his base in New York. But even their influence could do nothing to out-punch the killer goal. If Lloris had let that one in, he'd be having to delete his social media tonight. Just saying.

We have long known we cannot defend. It has been a season-long problem that we cannot start games strong, nor can we see out a win. A slightly newer issue is that the goals are starting to severely dry up. More so than they already had, I might add. Kane's miss was simply unbelievable and if he will only get one sight at goal per game, we really need him to be as clinical as possible. His penalty was barely even a consolation. Counter attacks, once our forte, are dead - killed by the deadly revolving door of managers and players coming in and out, in and out. Possession based attacks died years ago - those symptoms showed late into the Poch era and were blatanly diagnosable under Jose. Our only consistent source of goals recently have been set pieces, which begs the following question; If we're going to concede goals anyway and if dead-balls are out best shot at outscoring an opponent, why is Perisic not on the pitch?

Well, Ryan Mason's latest idea in defence is to play Royal more centrally, with Porro his partner to the right. This was something cooked up for last week's win and clean sheet versus Palace. It plays to the pair's strengths, Royal's defending and Porro's instincts to attack, and attempts to recreate the two players in one that was once Kyle Walker. We sold Walker for £50 million and spent a combined £65 million (ish) on Royal and Porro. Even for the player Walker is now, I would rather the first deal than the one we've ended up with.

Its all just square-pegs and round-holes. I am gratefully immune to the effects of Daniel Levy's manager hunts. This isn't my first and we know it won't be the last. I fear there is little any manager can realistically do to elevate the club to the levels we witnessed during those great Poch days. Now, as we crawl on all fours over broken glass at the sight of June over the horizon, we will have to endure no more than another two embarrassments like today. I dare not imagine what Big Sam and Leeds will do to us on final day if their need is dire and our defence is its namesake.

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About the Creator

Matthew Curtis

Queen Margaret University graduate (Theatre and Film studies).

Currently trying to write a book.

Lilywhite, Pokemon master, time-lord, vampire with a soul, Virgo.

Likes space and dinosaurs. And Binturongs. I'm very cool.

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    Matthew CurtisWritten by Matthew Curtis

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