Fool Me Once…
As the half-time whistle blew against Preston on Saturday the clouds over Villa Park finally seemed to be parting. Led by new signing Henri Lansbury, our team was playing the best football we’ve seen in McGrath knows how long. I dared to get excited, maybe our season was finally kicking off?
The inevitable happened. Lansbury faded and the second half was every bit as bad as the first was good. Villa left with a point instead of three.
Tuesday night seemed like a sure thing. A new team ready to fire Villa to victory against a team whose best player had just signed on the dotted line at Villa. I foolishly grew optimistic again.
Early in the game a pinpoint forward pass and some direct running from midfield humoured my initial enthusiasm. Then one trick Villa pulled their one trick, imploding at the first sign of struggle. What followed was as bad a performance as we’ve seen all season. I didn’t expect miracles but, I expected more than the trash Villa offered. How foolish of me. Therein lies part of the perpetual situation at Villa…
The Fans Never Learn
So eager are we to see our beloved team rise from the ashes that we tend to forego reality, patience, and inevitability in favour of desperate hype and expectations of positive results without logical thought as to how they should actually come about. The quicker our expectations grow the quicker the pressure grows and the more devastated we are each week.
We did it at the start of the season, we did it when the new gaffer arrived, and we did it the second new arrivals began to pop up. Being a Villa fan has been rough ride in recent years, so it’s hard to fault us too much for daring to dream, but there are other parties who could do with learning from the recent past more urgently than us…
The Management Never Learns
Our owners and managers so often seem incapable on learning lessons, even those that should be fresh in the mind. You can’t buy a team and expect it to click instantly. This was proved last night. It’s the obvious reason most teams don’t decide to buy a whole team halfway through the season. That’s called bad planning.
Any new team needs time to gel but if we have even the slightest hope of a play-off spot then time is not a luxury we have. We’ve once again began to rebuild and once again thrown cash at the problem. It was needed but if the gamble doesn’t pay off then the hole we’re in will just deeper and were back to square one again.
Having seen the team throw several points away as a result of mistakes from a young inexperienced goalkeeper ‘with potential’ the management team jumped to action immediately and replaced him with….another young inexperienced goalkeeper ‘with potential’. Nice one Villa.
Our managers never seem to learn either. The idea that a balanced line-up might be a good idea is alien around these parts. We’ve gone from fielding a team full of strikers, to selling most of our strikers. Realising we needed some more forward support from the middle we bought attack minded midfielders.
Sounds like a good idea until we realise that we’ve deployed them without a holding or defensive midfielder and again the team is horrible unbalanced, the defence exposed, and the striker isolated. Deja bloody vu.
There is an argument that the midfielders who played should be capable enough to go box-to-box and use the ball effectively. That sentiment went out the window the second Villa reverted to hoofing the ball up the pitch to nobody for most of the game. Why invest in a midfield and then choose to bypass it altogether?
Plan B: Go Route One may have made sense if we still had a target man at the club but A: we sold him, and B: there was no ‘plan’ just desperate punting of the ball upfield. Aston Villa never shake things up tactically to effect a game and as with our past five or six bosses substitutions are either pointless, too late, or are simply to replace an injured Nathan Baker.
Relying on one player, Second chances for Gabby, the list could go on forever but the point remains, Villa’s own biggest enemy, as usual, has been Villa.
Soft In The Middle
Like a certain recently departed (on loan, he’s not dead) striker of ours, Villa have been soft in the middle all season. The main requirement of this window was to improve the middle of the pitch, and as a result the way the whole team works.
Lansbury and Hourihane are good players and need time to gel. It’s not their fault that they’ve being desperately thrown into a fire fight. Bjarnason could also be a good asset but looked way off pace and this all points back to Villa’s bad planning. If the players are not fit/ready/settled don’t just throw them in and expect results.
State of Play
It’s been a decent window but the timing is not ideal as this team must now learn and gel on the move. Potentially the best thing about the window has been the players who have left, although some were only on loan. The more threads to the relegation squad that are severed, the better.
Steve Bruce has suggested that the signing of Scott Hogan will enable him to play two strikers and that may finally bring more structure to the team, but only if he can find the right combination in midfield.
Bruce needs to get the new recruits firing and this team winning now. The problems at Villa go far beyond mangers, but with a busy window and ‘his own’ players signed and more depth in the squad there are no more excuses for this team to keep floundering.
This club has repeatedly made the same mistakes in recent years, weeks, months, and days. The next step is to learn from them. Unfortunately all evidence suggests that’s just not something we’re able to do.
Make sure you’re following Finn on Twitter here – @FinnMongey
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