Last weekend brought with it a ‘emotional holiday’, free from the heartbreak and stress of being a modern day Aston Villa fan. Saturday was back to business, and another loss made sure any ‘holiday’ vibes were well and truly banished.
Heading into the game Remi Garde was pulling no punches in his honest admission that there were players in the senior squad who simply were not trying their hardest.
Most of the senior players have been phoning it in for weeks now (or accidentally texting it in their pockets.)
With that in mind it was very surprising to see the starting eleven had very few changes from the humiliation against Liverpool, other than the omission of Micah Richards who took up a place on the bench. This decision from Garde has both further highlighted facts about Villas squad, and raised questions about why Garde selected the team he did.
The squad list more than anything today again showed the alarming lack of depth at the club. An argument can be made that Garde doesn’t have many options with his starting eleven. Every week between now and the end of the season the lack of transfer activity will be rubbed in the faces of Villa fans and the manager as the limited squad retain their places in the matchday squad by necessity more than merit.
Perhaps Garde’s statement was mind games. He may have been calling the players desire into question in a bid to get a reaction from them. If this was the case then any gains were short lived. While Villa started the game resiliently, with a series of excellent passes and interceptions from Gana and Okore the team’s bad habits slowly but surely made their way into the game.
The Same Old Mistakes
Errant passes, silly fouls, and the seeming inability to deal comfortably with any sort of forward pass made this an all too familiar game for Villa. Every cross, run, long ball, or even goal kick made Villa look shaky. While Stoke created chances with relative ease our sorry bunch still lacked any real verve or creativity up front. Gabby was too isolated, too wide, and showed his usual poor decision making.
Veretout and Gil failed to get in the right positions to support the striker and the team as usual displayed it’s unwillingness to go near the opposition penalty area or get on the end of crosses. Somehow despite (I assume) training together all the bloody time, there seems to be no understanding between Villa’s forwards and the midfield and that is exactly why the team never creates anything.
The truth is that Villa completely surrendered after the first Stoke goal. The second was a typical comedy of errors that has defined this year’s embarrassing campaign. Even when Bacuna fired home it felt like it was out of the blue and not due to any sustained pressure.
The lack of urgency following this goal made sure it was to be three points for the home team. The Villa team seemed to want an equaliser but this desire never exceeded simply wishing they had a second goal, instead of actually driving forward and making things happen.
Another Missed Opportunity
I think most of us have accepted that Villa will be in the Championship next year and that the squad needs a major overhaul. Villa’s youngsters will play a big part in the rebuild and simply getting them in the matchday squad is not enough. Villa literally had nothing to lose at the end of the game and there was a good chance to get some playing time under the belts of the likes of Andre Green, and give the away crowd something to cheer.
These young players deserve a chance to prove what they can do more than most of the senior players who have been phoning it in for weeks now (or accidentally texting it in their pockets.)
European Nights to Relegation Fights
Once again the Villa fans were praised by the opposition for their character and humour, the only thing keeping us all going in these dark times. Tuesday night brings Everton to Villa Park and then we’ll see how fans make their point to the board in the form of protests and displays.
MOMS has laid out some handy guidelines for how we can all make our thoughts known in a productive, constructive, manner and others have called for an out the door on 74 walkout. I look forward to seeing fans making their voices heard on Tuesday, and hopefully for the rest of the season. I must say I love the new chant about Villa’s plummet from ‘European nights to relegation fights’, I think all of our thoughts about Lerner are clear by now.
At the end of the day it was the same old story for Aston Villa who disgracefully have now lost more games than they have gained points. The team had some serious questions to answer after stepping aside and allowing Liverpool to thump them, but instead this game simply brought more questions that need to be answered.
Is Garde going to ring in the changes or simply keep saying ‘the right things’? When will we see the youngsters starting to get a chance? Are any of the senior players going to start taking responsibility in games? How badly will the next few games go without any backbone in the team? Are we willing to stand up and send a message?
Only time will tell,
Don’t forget to follow Finn on Twitter – @FinnMongey
And make sure you’re following MOMS on Twitter – @oldmansaid