Bjorn Engels battered Villa Park, emotionally anyway, but the repairs needed should be minuscule after a strong showing from Aston Villa.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Rather than Storm Dennis making the headlines in Aston Villa’s return to Premier League football post-Winter break, despite attempting to by causing a number of issues for supporters travelling to Villa Park, it was a different storm that rocked B6 this evening.
Storm Bjorn was more of an emotional storm than anything else, with the Belgian defender appearing in his first full 90 minutes in a number of months and knocking the Aston Villa supporters from pillar to post whilst doing so.
Engels started the game well, marshalling his defensive compatriots as Tyrone Mings would in the central position of the back three, before his strong performance was dampened with the Video Assistant Referee awarding a penalty for a challenge on Steven Bergwijn.
The centre-back made up for giving Tottenham Hotspur the lead by putting Aston Villa level with a towering header – his first goal in claret and blue – and the Belgian’s relief was clear to see as he pointed to the sky, eyes closed, post-celebration.
It wouldn’t be his goal that provided the headlines in the press though, with Engels haphazardly trying to trap the ball and allowing Son Heung-Min through on goal to gift Tottenham Hotspur all three points with just 20 seconds of the game remaining.
Despite the emotional battering at Villa Park for supporters, the repair work needed does not seem to be too heavy as Aston Villa face Southampton next weekend.
Should Aston Villa perform as they did against Spurs in periods of the game against next weeks opponents, they will likely come away with something to show for their troubles – there were no glaring issues or insecurities to pick out from as there were in more recent games like the claret and blue visit to the Vitality Stadium – but in the final run in to the season’s conclusion, the mistakes, and the late ones at that, need to be cut out.
For Engels, the week will provide a period of reflection after a game that has truly shown the Belgian the highs and lows of the Premier League – and the repairs on his confidence may be a little larger than those needed tactically by the team as a whole.
With Tyrone Mings likely to return from his bout of tonsillitis for the Southampton game, it’s unclear as to whether Bjorn Engels will keep his place in the starting eleven following his costly mistake.
There is an argument that Bjorn’s performance, despite the penalty and mistake, was strong and that with the best passing accuracy across all options in the back three, that he offers something different compared to, for example, Kortney Hause.
It’s important that Aston Villa learn from the positives of this game with games against “stronger” opponents coming up in the form of Manchester United and Chelsea. These games are not forgone conclusions, and if Aston Villa are able to play how they did against Jose Mourinho’s controlled chaos, they may be able to steal points that they were previously not expected to get.
For fans – there are bound to be mistakes in these final twelve games – but these final twelve games require vocal positivity rather than criticism. Get behind Bjorn following his mistake, get behind the team, and who knows what might happen.