Wolves Shocked Aston Villa With Their Skillful Tactics as Aston Villa begin business time with just enough to end wolves

Aston Villa were wobbling prior to a conveniently-timed international break but Unai Emery’s Champions League chasers began the run-in by rediscovering their resilience…

The international break came at a perfect time for Aston Villa. And a fortnight’s pause in their Champions League charge appears to have set Unai Emery’s men up perfectly for the period likely to define a potentially-historic season.

Villa were stumbling prior to Emery waving off many of his Villans for their national service. A chastening defeat to top-four rivals Tottenham was followed by a draw at West Ham as questions began to be asked of Villa’s staying power ahead of a pivotal run.

A seven-game stretch over 20 days kicked off against Wolves, and the omens were not good. Villa were winless in seven at home against their near-neighbours, while Emery had not beaten the Old Gold in six previous attempts. With no side having taken more points against the top five sides, Wolves had the formula to extend those woes.

So a 2-0 victory was blessed relief for the Villans. It wasn’t particularly pretty, and not entirely comfortable, but three points to signal the end of their mini wobble were deserved.

The efficiency with which Villa achieved victory was typical of their success so far this season. Wolves shaded the early period and ought to have gone ahead when Rayan Ait-Nouri shot tamely at Emi Martinez with only the Argentina star to beat from close range. The Villa keeper, despite this being only his seventh clean sheet of the season, once again highlighting his importance in Villa’s charge.

Martinez has not been well protected of late. Villa have conceded at a rate of two per game in their last six and, despite Diego Carlos’s return, they offered encouragement to a Wolves forward line featuring Leon Chiwome, an 18-year-old Premier League debutant.

So, as it so often is for Villa, scoring first was crucial. When Emery’s side establish leads, they tend not to give them away. No team has dropped fewer points having gone in front and an element of assuredness returned to Villa’s play after Moussa Diaby’s opener.

Again, typically, it was a consequence of a set-play. Douglas Luiz waited for Leon Bailey to sneak around the left side of Wolves’ defence before reversing a free-kick into the Jamaican’s path, with Morgan Rogers blocking any attempt by the visitors to belatedly track the winger. A first-time cross was initially stabbed away but only into Diaby’s path. His left-footed strike from the edge of the box flew through the massed bodies and beyond Jose Sa.

Villa had targeted Wolves’ left-flank, with Alex Moreno tasked with playing high in the hope of making use of the space behind Nelson Semedo. The plan worked to the point of Moreno receiving possession. The Spaniard has featured in every Premier League game since his season started in December upon return from a serious hamstring injury, but form remains elusive. All four crosses found Wolves players and his advanced positioning was helping, not hindering the visitors.

Emery hooked Moreno while remodelling his left flank just after the hour. Lucas Digne and Nicolo Zaniolo split the work of stopping Semedio and the latter made an immediate impression, evidently keen to impress the increasingly-sceptical Emery.

Zaniolo scored the equaliser at West Ham and the Italian offered Villa a spark after both sides laboured through the first third of the second half. Zaniolo had already tested Sa by the time he won possession high in the Wolves half, two minutes after coming on, before feeding Diaby. He waited for Ezri Konsa to overlap on the right and Villa’s latest England international scored his first goal since December 2021 with a mishit cross that Jhon Duran need not have touched.

Villa don’t give relinquish slender leads so their two-goal advantage was never under threat. The Villans were able to ease through to the finish line in a manner far more comfortable than might have been expected following a shaky start.

One down, eight to go of the ‘finals’ Konsa labelled Villa’s remaining fixtures, half of which involve Big Six tests, including Manchester City and Arsenal among their next three opponents. The hamstring worry that prompted Ollie Watkins’ half-time withdrawal has the potential to give Emery a headache but Villa may have rediscovered their resilience just in time to finish a job so far well done.

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