The unbeaten home record was the last shred of pride in what’s become a miserable season at Villa Park. Defeat to Ipswich and then Barnsley (who had sold two of their biggest names to Villa in January) has almost assuredly ended any chance of promotion back to the Promised Land for 2017-18. What else did Villa learn from two of the worst losses this season, which summed up the winless year of 2017 so far?
For all the promise of the first half against Ipswich, Villa trotted in at half-time with nothing to show for their good work. Bjarnason and Hourihane could and should have scored on their home debuts but it took one defensive lapse to see Ipswich end a run of defeats and start the home fans misery for the week.
Those fans are seeing a downturn in fortune and results. It used to be that Villa would create no chances and lose to a defensive error. In this game Villa had 22 shots with nine on target. The Town goal was Ipswich’s first shot on goal – in the 83rd minute. That makes it more sickening in some ways.
For all the hype of the home fan’s first glance at the players signed to propel the team into the play-offs, the winning goal was a bubble-burster and the first realisation from even the most blinkered fans that for all the money spent and the injection of new blood, Villa Park will likely be staying in the Championship for a little longer.
TYKES SPOIL PARTY
Yet another defeat for big-spending Villa followed just days later when the Barnsley team supposedly missing their best two players (who were in Villa shirts) showed how you win games in this division.
At 0-2 before half time, Kodjia – despite the frustration of fans with his lack of chemistry with new strike partner, Scott Hogan – gave a glimmer of a comeback… but 22 shots, six on target and Villa couldn’t match their first half-hour performance and slumped to another defeat.
Any self-belief that THIS will be the game when the goals go in seems to evaporate by half-time every game. Villa were beaten by a team performance from Barnsley and realists will want time for the new signings to gel, but with the play-offs seemingly gone, this was a game to forget.
Steve Bruce isn’t hiding at least, taking responsibility for the poor results, lack of composure in front of goal and league position. But that’s why he’s being paid the big bucks to achieve something that has eluded every manager since Houllier quit with his poor health: restore respectability to Aston Villa.
Is team bonding the answer? A more intense attitude? A less intense one? Is it something that only time will mend?
If his rolling contract really is up at the end of the season and Villa aren’t in the play-off hunt, fans may not be any closer to knowing the answer come next August.
BYE BYE LIBOR
Libor Kozak didn’t have much a Villa career to speak of, but after four years at the club – one where he didn’t play at all after a broken leg that left him crocked for 15 months – he’s as good as done after a new ankle injury which will take him to the end of his contract.
How different it could have been if he had worked out for Villa. He could have been an old school target man but he was injured or unfancied by the gaffer and will vanish into Villa obscurity over time.
While wishing him well, it’s too bad most fans will just give a shrug such was his limited impact. At just 27-years-old maybe his career is not over, but his days at Villa Park will end this summer.
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