After being embarrassed – again – at home, what did Aston Villa fans learn from another gutless performance against Arsenal on and off the pitch?
The word is out. You can come to Villa Park, put in 75% effort and get three points no problem.
You can argue it was Arsenal, perennial winners since the Premier League was formed and the team that humbled us at Wembley last May, but were there any positives on the field? Any glimpses of hope the near-impossible escape may be a little more possible? When you consider the goals we conceded they could have come from any team that’s had a coherent, sensible squad-building process with stable coaching over more than one season.
The penalty… where to start. Arsenal didn’t need any gifts and Alan Hutton was already being subjected to boos every time he touched the ball as a former Spurs player. But what was he thinking? After that wrestling move he was lucky not to be booed by Remi Garde himself. And for the second goal, Lescott was caught out chasing back with multiple attackers steaming at goal. The attitude from the other defenders was a resigned shrug as they stood watching from 30 yards away.
Aston Villa are a soft touch. Opposing teams don’t need to plan for anything special. Just keep at it and the points will come. That’s the on-field state of the team.
It looked like kids playing football in the park and giving the ball to the “good” kid to go and score.
TRAORE OF DUTY
Fans will say “what about Adama Traore?” Well, what about him?
He was sensational for a few minutes off the bench – again – but as long as Garde doesn’t trust him in the starting eleven, what use is he? And when his effort, skill, power and pace make him stand out so much it just exposes the rest of the team as lacking in all those areas. When Traore came on against Watford, he scared the life out of them. But the rest of the Villa team almost stood and watched as he went off on a tear. It looked like kids playing football in the park and giving the ball to the “good” kid to go and score.
You could argue Garde is still looking for his best line-up, but you could have 11 Traore’s out there and still not win without leaders and a coach who didn’t seem to be able to motivate his team against his former team led by his mentor. Garde admitted relegation had been discussed at his hiring and it was somewhat agreed he would stay if the team went down. That’s great – seriously: Some sensible advance planning and a coach familiar with the players who can rebuild and plan on Villa coming back to the top flight and be better suited to meet fan expectations on their return.
But that doesn’t mean the team accepts relegation on the field now, rolls over and waits for opposing teams to tickle its belly. Certainly plan for the more than 85% chance (apparently) of going down, but don’t plan by failing to see the point of trying.
Put Traore in from the start, tell the players their places in the team are at stake (there’s no harm at all in blooding kids if the senior squad are just going to watch – they can buy a bloody ticket like the fans if they want to be spectators and get a pie and a pint out of it) and remember watching live sports is supposed to be entertainment. The Villa performance in the Arsenal game was the equivalent of watching Riverdance with the cast horribly hungover and sensitive to repetitive tapping noises.
MCLEISH SUCCESS: LONG TERM FAILURE
It’s been argued that if Villa had been relegated under Alex McLeish, by now they would be back in the Premier League and enjoying similar success to Watford and maybe even Leicester.
Certainly it would have been a tough blow to take back then but there would have been many positives to come out of it for the 2015-16 season, even if Villa had been 16th rather than 7th by Christmas instead of dead last with just one win.
Think about it: As a former Blues manager, he was already disliked. Fans could have blamed his Blues ties to deliberately getting Villa relegated and spun a conspiracy theory that would have dismissed the drop as an “inside job”. And it would have meant the top earners all jumping ship (N’Zogbia top of the list) or at least taking a contractual pay cut while attendances stayed relatively stable (that remains to be seen but it might dip a little).
And it wouldn’t have led to years of hanging on with wins few and far between while signing players who were Championship standard – it would have meant mid-table or better finishes, signing appropriate level players, winning more than than losing and building some stability and some on-field relationships that would have added to team performances over time. Certainly it would have meant a financial hit short-term, but what price deep roots and sustainable success?
WHAT WE LERNED
Still no word from Randy Lerner. Nothing. The recent Q&A with CEO Tom Fox answered a few fans questions, but not a sighting, not an apology, not a heart-felt statement about the club being in a crapper. For all the talk of a lack of leadership on the field, where’s the field marshall of the whole operation when we need… something from him? Just turn up with your scarf on and prove you still exist, even if it means being booed for 90 minutes. There’s more chance of seeing Tom Hanks.
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