Four things we learnt as old boy Watkins grabs winner in bad-tempered Brentford battle
Ollie Watkins celebrates his winner against Brentford as Aston Villa beat Brentford by 2-1. | Photo Credit: Chloe Knott via Getty Images

A bad-tempered affair took place on this December afternoon at the Gtech Community Stadium, but that could not stop Unai Emery's in-form Aston Villa snatching three points, having conceded the game's first goal, and ending their afternoon in joint-second place in the Premier League table, as they continue to impress.

Sitting safely in a UEFA Champions League qualifying position heading into Christmas, Aston Villa have been this season's surprise package. They came into this game having achieved back-to-back wins against Manchester City and Arsenal, riding high on a wave of confidence.

Their opponents, Brentford, already missing last season's top goalscorer Ivan Toney, have also recently lost this season's main man Brian Mbeumo to injury.

Here's the four things we learnt from this match-up.

Victorious Villa

Aston Villa now sit between Liverpool and last season's Champions, Manchester City, having amassed a remarkable 38 points this season.

It was not pretty, but Villa fought back from a goal down, motivated by the sending off of Ben Mee, to claw their way to three points. With both the teams either side of them only coming away with draws this weekend, Emery's team have taken full advantage. 

Whether or not they are able to sustain the level of challenge that they have begun this season with remains to be seen, but securing European competition for another campaign, seems a certainty. 

Ben Mee receives a red card with Brentford 1-0 ahead. | Photo Credit:Chloe Knott via Getty Images
Ben Mee receives a red card with Brentford 1-0 ahead. | Photo Credit:Chloe Knott via Getty Images

Christmas Cards 

Twelve yellow cards and two reds meant that the referee David Coote had a busy afternoon, even dealing with a mass brawl in the closing minutes of the game. 

Two of those yellow cards went to either side's manager, Unai Emery and Thomas Frank, and all of them were handed out in 52 furious minutes.

Brentford's players alone notched up 19 fouls across the 98 minutes of the game, with the climax of the bad blood resulting in the sending off of Villa player Boubacar Kamara. But, it was the sending off of Ben Mee that really changed the game, with Villa taking inspiration from the dismissal early in the second-half, to spur on their comeback.

One that got away 

Former striker Ollie Watkins came back to haunt his old side, heading in the winner in the 85th minute to sink sorry Brentford.

Watkins has scored 22 goals since Emery took over from Steven Gerrard in the November of 2022, only Erling Haaland and Mohamed Salah have scored more Premier League goals during this time. 

Surely a shoe-in to be travelling with the England squad this summer, Watkins has emerged as the best understudy to Harry Kane as UEFA Euro 2024 approaches. Just like his team, Watkins is in the form of his life, and was exactly the kind of player missing for Brentford today. How they will be rueing the loss of their former frontman. 

Watkins was a torment to his former side, here occupying the attention of two Brentford players. | Photo Credit: Nigel French via Getty Images
Watkins was a torment to his former side, here occupying the attention of two Brentford players. | Photo Credit: Nigel French via Getty Images

Bad Brentford 

Brentford won't have another opportunity to clock up any points until 27 December, meaning there is little to smile about this Christmas for Frank, supporters and players.

Unfortunately for them, they have now dropped 17 points from winning positions in games, the worst record in the top flight, and their worst performance in a Premier League season to date.

They have also been unlucky in terms of the bans and injuries that have ravaged their forward threats, and whether or not Toney returns to the Brentford first eleven, with a transfer rumoured, they certainly miss him. 

Brentford manager Thomas Frank was sombre at the final whistle. | Photo Credit: Chloe Knott via Getty Images
Brentford manager Thomas Frank was sombre at the final whistle. | Photo Credit: Chloe Knott via Getty Images

Frank is the only manager that Brentford have had in the top league in English football and he is struggling with a current lack of reinforcements for those that he is unable to select. The January transfer window will likely offer some opportunities for Brentford to restock. 

With only one win in their last five league games, Brentford have slumped to 12th, and have amassed only 50% of the points of their opponents, with 19 points on the board. They are just 11 points off the bottom of the Premier League table, and will need a better second half of the season if they are to stay safe.

Frank will be hoping to be the man who can turn the tide, but he must be feeling the pressure piling up for the first time as the Brentford boss. 

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