By Molly Jennens
Away games are the best games. There is nothing like a good old coach journey, quick sing song outside the pub and stroll to the turnstiles before embracing yet another 90 minutes of standing on my tiptoes because the guy in front is 6ft 7.
For me, the best part of an away game is chanting all game long, whether we are winning, drawing or losing and Saturday was no different.
However, the worst part is getting back on the coach. It’s not just the odd tipsy man, it’s that dejected feeling you have because you know that you’ve given your all in trying to cheer on the players, but they haven’t given the same effort back.
The Swans game was yet another dose of that; it’s an all too familiar feeling this season.
Starting XI Verdict:
As half 4 rolled by, I didn’t rush to check the line up as I was more than convinced that it would be the same team that was fielded against Tottenham Hotspur.
The only change made by Garde was in the centre of defence and to my annoyance it wasn’t Joleon Lescott missing. Jores Okore was replaced by Ciaran Clark, following the Irishman’s call up to his national squad for the upcoming friendlies. The thought of two left-footed centre halves genuinely scared me, as the vision of Gomis scoring a hat-trick ran through my mind to heap more misery to an already woeful season.
Once again Rudy Gestede lead the line for Aston Villa, with Libor Kozak still out with injury. Despite going for the spectacular overhead kick, the striker failed to get on the scoresheet, highlighting – not for the first or last time this season – that our attacking prowess is more like a timid cat than a predatory lion. When you’re getting beat by a team who only mustered one shot on target, you know you’ve got problems.
As Mark Bunn watched on from the bench, his goalkeeping counterpart showed his lack of judgement and naivety to condemn Aston Villa to their 21st loss of this season. Once more, it was evident that Villa desperately need a new goalkeeper going into next season, as the defeat was a result of another individual mistake by the American. However, fingers would also need to be pointed towards Alan Hutton as he stood motionless, allowing Fernandez to score his first Swansea goal.
Garde’s Game Management:
There continues to be rumours flying around that as a result of the defeat to Swansea this will be the manager’s last game. If so, it would coincidently result in the Welsh side being both Garde and Sherwood’s last game of their Aston Villa careers for us this season. Maybe it’s something in the Welsh water?
For the first 25 minutes, I was in disbelief as it seemed as if Garde had told his team to press high, which was successful as it unnerved both the opposition’s players and fans. The Frenchman actually sat in his seat without sighing.
However, as fatigue set in (unbelievable, I know) or a change in tactics, Villa began to sit back and regain a defensive shape. Thankfully, the referee blew for half-time, just as Swansea had begun to gain impetus in the game.
The difference between the two managers tactical ability became apparent as Swansea made the first change of the game. Francesco Guidolin brought Leon Britton on for Ki Sung-Yueng at the break and the direction he gave Swansea’s play, made the difference. In the opposite camp, Remi Garde walked back to watch Villa surrender another goal without even turning round to see who he had on the bench to conjure up a response.
When the manager eventually turned to his substitutes he placed his faith in Andre Green and Gabby Agbonlahor; one a promising young talent, the other an aging centre forward who prefers to please the haters, than influence the game. Unfortunately, neither paid off, with Villa continuing to search for answers both on and off the field.
I’m not a fan of Mike Dean to be honest, so it’s hard for me to not be bias. However, had Dean seen Ashley Williams’ ‘slap’ on Gestede, would the referee have shown red? Hypothetically speaking, if Williams had been shown the way out, it would have ultimately turned the game on his head as he had been physically beating Gestede on the majority of occasions.
However, we do have Mike Dean to thank as Villa also finished the game with 11 men, despite Aly Cissokho being lucky to remain on the pitch after two tackles on Barrow. One was deemed to be a yellow card, yet he was let off for his challenge in the second half on the winger. Swansea did in fact get some justice, as they scored from the following free kick.
It shouldn’t be this difficult should it?
For me, in a struggling team that continually gets beaten each week, Idrissa Gana doesn’t stop. A lot of fans are on the fence with the Senegalese midfielder; however I admire his attitude and commitment. He may not be the most talented, but he does the dirty work in the middle of the park whether we are 4-0 down or 1-0 up.
Yes, he loses the ball, yes, he misplaces passes here and there, but overall he has been one of the most consistent players for Villa over the course of the season. It also makes him more noticeable when he is playing alongside Ashley ‘Backwards’ Westwood as I like to call him, but sideways can also be applied in the same way.
If I was Aston Villa’s manager, I would be trying to purchase Ashley Williams, as not just on Saturday but throughout the year, he has been a rock for Swansea. Unlike our leaky defence. As a captain he leads by example (take note Richards) and makes sure to get in the way of everything, staying in position to defend against the opposition’s strikers (yes, again, I’m still talking to you Richards).
Williams didn’t have a lot to do all game, yet when Villa were heaping on the pressure in the first half of the game, the centre back was there to protect his goal, helping Swansea to keep a clean sheet.
Follow Molly on Twitter at @m0llyfaith
And make sure you follow MOMS on Twitter too – @oldmansaid