Aston Villa’s brief five-match unbeaten run – halcyon days in the wider context of the season – came to an end in ignominious fashion at Upton Park on Tuesday night as Jordan Ayew’s elbow condemned Remi Garde’s side to a 2-0 defeat to West Ham after a positive start.
Here’s a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of Villa’s 15th defeat in 24 Premier League matches this season, and where it leaves our once-great club.
Things were looking fairly bright for the first quarter of an hour, with Villa moving the ball around in midfield nicely and even threatening to get in behind the defence, although a couple of corners were about all that we had to show for a promising opening period.
Even after Ayew’s red card after only 17 minutes for an assault on Aaron Cresswell, Villa defended admirably for the remainder of the first half, most notably when Micah Richards made a superb last-ditch intervention just yards from his own goalline despite the close attentions of four Hammers players. Though the resistance crumbled in the second half – understandably, given the numerical deficit – Garde’s men did at least show spirit in the face of adversity.
The biggest credit, however, must go to the fans who made the Tuesday night journey down to London, only to see their efforts met with Ayew effectively throwing the chance of a positive result away with barely a sixth of the match gone. Even in the face of inevitable defeat, the away contingent were loud and they were proud, and even the West Ham official Twitter account praised them.
90+3: Fair play to the @AVFCOfficial fans, who have kept singing all night long. That’s proper support [2-0] #WHUAVL
— West Ham United FC (@whufc_official) February 2, 2016
I have written before in this column that when it comes to the fanbase that this club has, Randy Lerner and the boardroom really don’t know how lucky they are. To have over 30,000 people still turning up to home matches, and to have away sections still being filled (despite club not taking full allocation) on a regular basis despite everything that the supporters have had to endure on and off the pitch in recent years is nothing short of a marvel, and long may it continue.
There is a myriad of reasons for the club’s devastating decline, but one of them which is coming back to bite us in recent weeks is poor recruitment last summer. Back then, Villa were a club likely to be facing another battle against relegation this season, but we were also FA Cup finalists with some serious money to spend after the sales of Christian Benteke and Fabian Delph.
Benteke, of course, was never replaced, but it is more than that. There is a startling dearth of quality throughout the squad, and even some of the more technically gifted players brought to the club in the summer – the likes of Ayew and Jordan Veretout – have taken so much time to adapt to life in English football that by the time we have started to see their true qualities it has been too late.
The policy of recruiting from foreign leagues such as the French top flight is not inherently a bad one – every so often in unearths a gem such as Benteke, who arrived from Belgium – but in order to succeed for a struggling club like Villa it has to be part of a balance which also sees a number of signings boasting Premier League experience. That simply was not the case.
Of Villa’s 11 senior summer signings, just two – Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott – had regular game time over a number of seasons in the English top flight under their belt, although even Richards had not racked up a double-figures appearance total in the Premier League since 2011-12. Consequently, rather than building a side prepared to fight a relegation battle, Villa brought in the kind of player who could potentially thrive in a lower-pressure, mid-table environment and threw them into a desperate relegation battle at a club increasingly embroiled in off-field turmoil.
All that meant that this was always likely to be the season in which a club which had flirted with relegation for four years finally surrendered to the drop, although I will admit that it nobody foresaw it being this bad.
It has got to the painful stage where gallows humour reigns supreme – when Villa won a late corner on Tuesday night, the camera panned to a 30-second shot of the travelling fans’ tongue-in-cheek celebrations of winning a set-piece. The resultant corner was dreadful (of course), and West Ham immediately broke downfield and scored a second to end the match. I’m sorry, but I had to laugh.
Click through to the next page for the Ugly
So Villa are going to get relegated…. You’d think that would be depressing enough. I get an extra kick in the guts. Next season I will struggle to watch or listen to any of the games. I may not be a great villa fan, ive never been to a game…. I know some of the history but im pretty limited 20 years of support…… But I have stayed up late/got up early, taken days off work, got in shit with the Mrs a few thousand times. Ive spent a lot of money on villa merchandise to help support club at great cost in shipping I might add. I barracked, ive cheered, ive been raving screaming running down the hallway happy and ive several occasions ive woken the wife and 3 kids up at 3am in the morning. I digress, my point is …. I love this club and i don’t why I just do and so do thousands upon thousands of other people. We give you, our club everything we have whether that be going to every single game or watching thousands of miles away. I don’t know who or whom have completely stuffed this great football club up i don’t know enough to lay blame ….. But it really hurts to see what I see now it really makes me feel like crap everytime I think about. Whoever you are you have taken one of the few joys in a lot a peoples lives, this was our thing to look forward to….. Well you have taken this thing of ours, your fans…. You have taken this happy thing, and you’ve destroyed it, taken to it with a metaphoric sledgehammer and shattered it into a million pieces, and then you have taken your foot and rubbed the pieces in the dirt. Thanks whoever you are, for taking our club and destroying it…. Thanks a lot..
I will really struggle to watch or listen to any games next season …. Thanks for that too
My personal thoughts are that villa are in deeper trouble than that which are on the surface when accountants are brought into companies its not because they want somebody who is a villa fan on the board all they have to do is get out and about on the stand they will find out all they need to know alongside paying villa fans no in my mind accountants are there for one reason and one reason only cut costs and if that fails help!
You’re absolutely right. Staff cuts and a growing conservative thinking to come.
The truly awful: Now we have the one of the guys who presided over the worst financial crisis in living memory on the board.
If he was any good a) he would have stayed on thru the actual anemic recovery, not left in 2013, b) got a job at a bank, hedge fund, private equity firm, or even a cushy gov’t advisory position after leaving the Central Bank. Bernanke, Dr. Frenkel, and even the ancient Greenspan managed that much.
How many jobs could be funded at Villa Park from the new chairman’s and board members wages we wonder? Normally I am not so communist but am quite appalled to the same as David Cameron, Mervyn King, Tom Hanks, and Randy Lerner as they say they are all Villa fans. Well except DC sometimes confuses us with West Ham.
Leicester had similar points to Villa after the same games last season and stayed up and then pushed on this season to top of the league . They didn’t throw the towel in as Lerner ,Fox and the undertaker ( our new accountant chairman) have done . Shame on you Learner and Fox ,you have been the custodians of a great club and have through inept management and disinterest put Aston Villa in this precarious position . The sooner Lerner bales out and sells the club ,which I would think will be after he gets the relegation payout -the better .
They had more points…
So you don’t think Charlie Austin a snip at four million would not have given us hope this season and benefited us next season? The White Flag was waved. Disgraceful.
If Austin was going to happen, it would have been the Summer. I’d guess Sherwood was after him, but £££ wasn’t right for board. In the January window, Austin was never going to move here with club looking like they were going down. Southampton, unfortunately is a better bet and he could stay further south too (although ultimately it’s about £ and which league he’d be in).
Somehow I think his £100k a week wage demands would have proved a sticking point with chief accountant Hollis
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