Bournemouth, the FA Cup, using AI to pick the England side and match facts from the BBC

Not going to spend time on what happened this week but what a week it was and what a time to be an Aston Villa fan. Nobody could have predicted this, but maybe we should have known. I don't know or care, it's just a fantastic time. 

And I'm looking forward to next season already. But there are other things I want to touch on today before Bournemouth at Villa Park on Sunday.

First, the changes to the FA Cup and this just stinks of money ruining the game even further and I write that because the game isn't just about teams in the top flight, it's about the 700 or so teams that get a chance and it's about all the Clubs hoping one day for it. It's about so much more.

And it should be the biggest match of the season after everything else has finished, not something that happens on a Sunday with Premier League matches happening at the same time or just before, which is where it's heading. 

And maybe this is all about money and if the lower league sides got more, maybe they'd be happy. But I quite miss FA Cup final weekend, with everything that used to be associated with it. But if it's about the number of matches in the season for the Premier League sides, then I have a solution.

AI for England

Scrap all the international friendlies and change how we pick the England side. I don't know how many friendlies we play each season, but scrap them all. Let AI pick the team based on all the data we have of all the sides that have won tournaments, their leagues and every single match played by every player. 

Look at formation, look at how much they ran and where, at who they were playing and what their league position was, the form of both sides. Look at data that only the Clubs have access to - look at everything. 

Let the AI be trained and tell us who we should pick for the squad and then create some parameters so a very high level plan for each match is created. Then give it to someone that we know can communicate this to the players. If we've learnt anything from having Gareth Southgate as manager, it's that there must be better ways.

And the training data is there - it's just about putting it in and fine tuning it. Literally looking at why Italy beat us, with the data and every other match that a team ever won and let it figure out why and then pick the best teams for every match.

Honestly, do we really care about the England team, other than at tournaments and why is this such a bad idea. Or let me put it another way, would you rather Aston Villa win the League Cup or England won a tournament? Me, I'd pick Aston Villa every single time. 

Bournemouth at Villa Park

Anyway, I've written it now and I firmly believe you could create your own AI with all the football data we have now to pick a better side than Southgate can. And it's not just about the Premier League, we can look at the sides that have won the last four or five tournaments and figure out why they won, based on players picked. It's not rocket science.

But, this post should be about Sunday. We play twice before Spurs play again and it starts this weekend. Win on Sunday and that's six points. Win the next and it's nine points with Spurs needing to win all just to get to the same points. It's a massive couple of games.

The biggest thing that will impact us this weekend is going to be fitness. We have started to look a little leggy the last few weeks and it's what I'm using as the excuse for this. But as we saw against Arsenal, we can switch it up when necessary and I really like it when I see our players control and pass. It might be just me, but it felt as if the players in the second half against Arsenal, we put our foot on the ball a little more than we did in the first.

And every time we did it, it was like we were saying to the opposing side, we're controlling this now. And it happened. Sunday will be tough, but we are so close now, it's okay to start believing. And enjoying it, just a little.

Win on Sunday and I'll believe. But until then, I'm going to be nervous as hell. And yes, up early again, no idea what's going on.

Match facts from the BBC


  • Aston Villa have won just two of their seven Premier League clashes with Bournemouth, drawing one and losing four.
  • The Cherries won 2-1 in both of their first two Premier League visits to Villa Park in 2015-16 and 2019-20 but suffered a 3-0 defeat in this fixture last season.

Aston Villa

  • Aston Villa are unbeaten in four home games in all competitions, with three wins and a draw since a 4-0 defeat by Spurs in March.
  • Unai Emery's side have lost only one of their 18 top-flight fixtures this season against sides that started the day in the bottom half of the table (W12, D5), a 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest in November.
  • The Villans are vying to win 20 Premier League games in a season for just the second time, following the 21 victories they registered in 1992-93.
  • Villa have scored 40 home league goals this term, their most in a top-flight season since they found the net 47 times at Villa Park in 1982-83.
  • Ollie Watkins is vying to become the first Villa player to score 20 goals in a top-flight season since Peter Withe in 1980-81.
  • Watkins is also one goal shy of equalling Dwight Yorke as Aston Villa's second-highest Premier League goalscorer on 60. Gabriel Agbonlahor leads the way with 76 goals.


  • Bournemouth have lost just one of their previous seven Premier League fixtures, winning four and drawing two.
  • They require five more points to set a club record total of 47 in the Premier League.
  • Andoni Iraola's side have taken just one point from eight Premier League clashes against sides currently in the top five and that was in a 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa in December.
  • The Cherries have scored in 14 of their 15 top flight away games this season, only failing to find the net in a 3-0 defeat at Everton in October.
  • Dominic Solanke's total of 17 Premier League goals is a club record for a top-flight season, surpassing Josh King's previous highest total of 16 in 2016-17.