'Alarm bells ringing' for Aston Villa Women after defeat to Tottenham Women
We’re delighted to welcome author Freya Taylor and former academy player Lyndsey Bissell as our exclusive Aston Villa Women experts. Each week they’ll be collaborating to give their views on the biggest talking points at the WSL club…
After losing in the final moments to a strong Arsenal side last weekend at the Emirates, the pressure was on for Carla Ward’s side to prove it wasn’t a fluke that they finished so high last season.
In the last couple of matches (apart from away to Liverpool), Aston Villa have showed a lot of quality and potential, but something just doesn’t seem to be clicking and a run of bad fixtures and seemingly bad luck isn’t helping.
We could attribute it to a variety of things, of course, such as the lack of Kirsty Hanson and Kenza Dali in the squad (hopefully both are back fit and raring to go after the international break), and the fact that it was a quick turnaround from the World Cup to the start of the season.
But the truth remains that Villa and Bristol City are the only teams yet to pick up a single point this season, and that could start the alarm bells ringing for some.
Spurs have turned out to be a completely new side from the team we saw last season, in particular breakout star Martha Thomas, who had potential at Manchester United but is now soaring in her new team.
Some may refer to her as this season’s Rachel Daly, and by the end of the match it became obvious why.
The whistle finally blew at the Bescot for the first time this season and both teams started strong. Villa knew they needed an early lead to settle the nerves, and this was gifted when Summanen brought Adriana Leon down in the box for an early Villa penalty.
Our Golden Boot winner stepped up, took a deep breath and after a short run up slotted it home into the bottom-left corner.
Villa’s luck seemed to be changing as it was the earliest they had taken the lead this season.
Although the camera positioning at the stadium wasn’t great and it appeared that a drainpipe was taking the Spurs corner kicks in the first half, it was clear Villa seemed to have brighter spirits and were much more attacking minded than we’d seen previously – exactly what they needed to get their first points of the season.
However, we knew the quality of this Spurs side and, by the amount of chances that then followed, it wasn’t going to stay 1-0 for long.
The visitors were proving to be a very physical side and tried hard to dominate and win back possession of the game.
Chances followed in quick succession from Ebony Salmon, Grace Clinton and Martha Thomas, while even Jordan Nobbs had a chance to send a volley home but it was knocked just wide.
This is the quality of football we’ve wanted from Villa – dominant and creative – but they were struggling again to find the back of the net.
It was a pleasure to see Ebony Salmon and Adriana Leon in the starting lineup. It looked the start of a very good relationship between the two as they switched sides throughout the first half to switch up play.
The Villa fans were once again out in full force, with nearly 3000 in attendance, and both sets of supporters knew their position as the ‘12th man’ could be the vital difference.
In a complete change from last week, Villa’s positioning looked to be much better and more organised, and again a chance from Lucy Parker went just wide.
Villa were getting closer, but unfortunately, so were Spurs. Martha Thomas looked very dangerous every time she got close to the ball, and as we mentioned in the blog last week, Villa have a tendency to push quite high and this was to be their undoing today.
Skipper Rachel Corsie tried to clear the ball but it ricocheted off the feet of Martha Thomas, who turned and sprinted for goal. As there was no one to stop the run, and Daphne van Domselaar was off her line to close an impending
attack down, Thomas lobbed the ball over the keeper’s head.
Just like that, it was 1-1. Again, Villa were being punished for their sloppiness on the ball, but at a stalemate, all was not lost.
Within minutes, Adriana Leon (who was having yet another strong performance) had a chance on goal with a pass to Laura Blindkilde Brown, whose shot went just high of the crossbar. Not being clinical in front of goal seems to be Villa’s Achilles heel at the moment.
In midfield, we are really feeling the difference of Jordan Nobbs starting, much more fluid and chances being created – even Dan Turner had a shot at one point!
Both teams really went for the three points and it had only passed the 30-minute mark. As the game ticked over into added time for the first half, Villa were showing lovely build-up play but ultimately it came to nothing.
At the 50th minute, calls for Spurs offside fell on deaf ears as a lovely ball from Jess Naz crossed into the box for Ashleigh Neville to header it home. It shouldn’t have been that easy for Spurs to score.
The half-time whistle finally blew and a strong team talk was needed if Villa were to come back and not repeat the events of last week.
Ideally, we would have liked to have seen Simone Magill, Maz Pacheco, Sarah Mayling, or even Liv McLoughlin come on to support and push forward, as the team overall have a tendency to pass backwards and get caught
out on the opponents’ counter.
It seemed as though without key players, there is a lot of miscommunication in the team which is inhibiting the
potential Villa are showing; they need someone vocal to take charge in those situations and show some initiative in how to move forward if their gameplan isn’t working.
As the action got underway again, we were happy to see the fire was back in both teams – Spurs not happy with a one-goal lead and Villa certainly not happy at the prospect of losing again.
Rachel Daly had another couple of chances, in the first 10 or so minutes, including just missing a lovely through-ball, but unfortunately, she didn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as the rest of the team.
To support this, it seems as though Jordan Nobbs is the one pressing the defence. Should we be seeing more
of Daly in this role to win the balls back if she’s not getting the service herself?
Overall, Villa seem to be showing the better quality but multiple blocked attempts in the 61st and 62nd minute was just adding to the frustration of the team.
However, Spurs had their chances and took them as Martha Thomas got her second of the match from an awful game of pinball in the box which Villa just couldn’t clear.
It was time for something new and the gaffer knew it. Sarah Mayling, Maz Pacheco and Simone Magill came on to replace Adriana Leon, Jordan Nobbs and Ebony Salmon. This change in personnel helped with tired legs; however, for a dominant Spurs side who had found their rhythm, it wasn’t long before Martha Thomas had her hat-trick from a lovely through-ball from Ahtinen.
For the last 15 or so minutes, it was mainly one way traffic and Villa were yet again defending for their lives as shot after shot made their way into the box. Opportunities from Lucy Staniforth and Lucy Parker in the dying
moments that were blocked showed again how the home side were fighting, right until the end of those nine extra minutes.
As Lucy Parker did last week, Rachel Corsie took a yellow card for the team and brought down Martha Thomas as she looked dangerously close to a fourth goal.
The fire that seemed to be burning bright for Villa had turned into a dull ember in a few players by the final moments and, even though Lucy Parker got one back from a close-range header to make it 4-2 in the 96th minute, it just seemed to fall flat.
If Villa’s hadn’t been so set on passing backwards and instead playing quick passes when driving forward, it would have cut Spurs wide open and the scoresheet would have been a lot different.
Moving forward, we’d love to see Daphne van Domselaar becoming more vocal and leading the backline which could be the answer to Villa’s communication issues.
From a positive start, Villa seem to be a shadow of their former selves and it’s not only frustrating and disappointing, but heartbreaking to see the players falling foul to a run of bad fixtures, bad luck, missing players, fatigue – the list could go on.
The manager and player interviews that usually are posted straight away took a long time to be published on Saturday and you can see the disbelief and heartbreak on both Carla Ward and Lucy Staniforth’s faces.
In the latter, Lucy commented that although they “started off they way we wanted to and had some positive spells and looked like the team we were at the end of last season,” it became a “difficult afternoon” and all she could do was offer an “apology to the fans and work harder for the next game.”
When asked about the upcoming international break, she’d much rather they had another match next week to try and “get over this”, but she promised the ones that would be there would “graft and work hard” to be ready for the Chelsea game.
On the other hand, in Carla Ward’s post-match interview, her first thoughts on the performance were “unacceptable” and took the full blame.
She didn’t understand the difference in turning up against Man United and Arsenal and putting in those performances, but not turning up for other games; commenting this wasn’t a performance “expected from an Aston Villa team”.
She supported Lucy Staniforth’s thoughts of wanting to rectify mistakes straight away rather than having the international break.
As football fans, you support your team through the good and the bad and we can’t wait to see how Villa come back against Chelsea after this international break, when hopefully the team is fully fit and ready to compete once more.
In other Aston Villa news, one player for the men’s team received huge acclaim for his performance last weekend.