Last Game of the Season
On the last away day of the season five years ago, Aston Villa ran away 2-1 winners thanks to a Darren Bent brace. Villa looked energetic, quick and purposeful having come away with three points against a lethargic Arsenal, who trudged to the finish line. The result helped Villa finished in ninth place in a season regarded as not good enough.
Fast forward to 2016, as the sun lit up the Emirates and a few Power Rangers started the conga in the away end, the Aston Villa fans looked more energetic than the players on the pitch. How we would have preferred that season from five years ago.
In hindsight, the last six years feel slightly more bearable compared to this one. Even Alex ‘I love a draw’ McLeish managed to keep us in the Premier League. It is hard to express how devastated I am that Villa didn’t get themselves out of this mess.
We have one man to point the finger at, but Randy Lerner shouldn’t be the only one to take the blame. There has been a list longer than me – I’m 5ft 3 – full of mistakes made from the bottom to the top by this club and I can only hope that over the summer we have something to cheer about.
As the season drew to a close, Villa finished the season in typical Villa fashion.
Starting XI Verdict:
Guess what? Eric Black played 5-3-flipping-2 again. And to top it all off Leandro Bacuna was still in the back five. Words fail me.
In the absence of the injured Alan Hutton and Ciaran Clark, in came 19-year-old Jordan Lyden for his second Premier League start and Aly Cissokho, for what could potentially be the left back’s last game for the club.
I don’t think I’m the one to be hoping that this is not only Cissokho’s last game for Aston Villa. Yes I am looking at you Bacuna, Lescott, and Guzan. I really wish we could simply sack the lot of them; the bigger the clear out, the better. This club has been rotten for too long and now is the time to do it. Get rid of the deadwood, bring in players for the long-term, introduce some of the U21s into the first team; but most importantly bring in the right people for both on and off the field matters. If we don’t, we’ll be stuck in the Championship, or worse.
Black’s Game Management:
I’m sick of saying this, but this man gets me so angry. I really don’t understand how he ever convinced Hollis that he would be the right man to be caretaker boss, because to me he is seriously lacking in tactics.
To be fair to Joleon Lescott and the rest of the back five, other than Giroud’s headed goal – which was a catalogue of errors – they had been containing Arsenal’s attackers well. However, when Lescott went off injured on 65 minutes, Micah Richards came on. At first all was well and good, as Villa continued to keep out Arsenal and the score remained 1-0 to the home side. Wait for it…
On 75 minutes, Black made one of his most bizarre substitutions, almost as bad as his decision to move Bacuna into the centre of defence against Watford.
The fourth official held up the board, signalling for number 38 to be replaced by number 40. Jordan Lyden ran off the pitch to a round of applause from the travelling faithful, high-fived Jack Grealish before taking his place on the bench. Instead of thinking to myself how well Lyden had played, all things considered, I could not believe why that substitution had just taken place. And I was even more traumatized to see Carlos Sanchez moving back into the back five as Kevin Toner moved to right back. Randy Lerner’s nagging sense of inevitability kicked in, and rightly so. Giroud struck again, only for the flood gates to open and the game to end 4-0.
Since writing this column, it has made me realise how easy it is to blame referees for the various injustices visited upon Aston Villa over the course of the campaign. Refs often have bad days at the office and get things horribly wrong; but in a high-speed game where they are forced to make split-second decisions without the benefit of TV replays, it seems churlish to criticise match officials for making mistakes in an environment where the players they are attempting to police are constantly making their life difficult.
In yesterday’s game, recently appointed Champions League final referee Mark Clattenburg didn’t have a particularly strenuous game. Something he and Arsenal both shared. The only decision his assistant failed to make was to flag for a goal kick in the build up to Giroud’s first goal. The ball did go over the line, but would it have really made a difference? Probably not.
Even though I’ll probably continue to sing “You’re not fit to referee” when a penalty isn’t rewarded, or a player isn’t red carded which ultimately affects us not winning the Championship (call me optimistic); I’ll spare a thought for the difficult job referees have.
This week, instead of man of the match, I’ve decided it will be renamed ‘fans of the match’.
If there was an award for party of the year, Villa’s party in the away end certainly blew Jamie Vardy’s party out of the water. From the Honey Monster to a few giant penises embellished with Lescott, Bacuna and Richards’ faces on them, it was just your standard Villa away day to be honest.
The theme of male parts continued inside the stadium as an even bigger penis crowd surfed, and no I don’t mean that Gabby Agbonlahor was actually in the crowd. Only his picture made an appearance to add to Villa’s comical mocking of our beloved club who have failed to even match the fans’ performance on match days this season.
The Villa players also dressed up for the occasion as a load of muppets. Oh wait, they’ve been doing that all season.
Santi Cazorla, the same player who graced the Emirates pitch on Tuesday night in the U-21s play off final against Aston Villa, once again turned on the style to overturn Villa in his return to Premier League action.
The returning Arsenal playmaker made more passes than any other Arsenal player (81) and made more in the opposition half than anyone else (70), showing exactly what Arsenal have been missing whilst he has been away.
If Arsenal fans think they’ve had it bad this season, I would happily swap places with them. How I would love to have finished 2nd. Maybe next year ay.
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