By Chad Wrenn
A home tie against Manchester City was hardly the first game you’d choose for new Aston Villa boss Rémi Garde, as he tried to prevent a club record eight Premier League defeats on the trot. The atmosphere was also set to be a hostile one with the return of Fabian ‘Snake’ Delph being eagerly awaited since the start of the season.
Prematch Fan Thoughts
The feeling in the air was one of optimism, it almost felt as if it was the start of a brand new season as many felt our new boss could really kick-start us into action with intelligent line-ups and thoughtful tactics.
At 12.30, when the team was announced, whilst I was on the train travelling to the game, the supporters around me seemed excited by the strong midfield and the defence that Garde had gone with, and even more so by the fact that Jordan Ayew (a strong performer of late) had been given a start up front. However, a few mumbles and whispers were questioning the absence of both Jores Okore and Adama Traore, as well as the dropping of Jack Grealish to the bench.
Overall, the general consensus was a positive one as fans were given optimism by the selection of players like Jordan Amavi, Idrissa Gana and Carles Gil. It seemed like Rémi Garde knew the root to our team line-up problems instantly. It was refreshing to know that he had done his homework and knew exactly which players had quality, without questioning how much ‘Premier League experience’ they had under their belts.
The game may have been considered a boring one to witness for a neutral but as a Villa fan it was a promising performance that also brought a big point along with it as well.
Manchester City had the rub of the green in terms of possession, as you’d expect, but I felt Villa held their own against the top of the table side with crisp passing that created a few openings in the first half with Gil shining until his substitution around the 65th minute mark. He completed 34 of his 35 attempted passes, gaining him the best ball retention of any player on both sides, which is an impressive stat and shows the technical ability of a player who previous managers have overlooked.
City fired shots at our goal and there were particularly nervy moments when the likes of Kolarov fizzed in a free-kick, which resulted in a panicked clearance from Ciaran Clark after Guzan fumbled the slippery ball into the six-yard box. Other notable nail-biting moments arose when Kevin De Bruyne miskicked a golden opportunity, Raheem Sterling tried to be too clever and Fernando hit the crossbar with a header, but somehow we hung on and stayed resilient for a massive point and clean sheet that has hopefully stopped the rot and will see us start to progress in a positive direction under our new French manager.
Solid performances from Jordan Amavi, Micah Richards, Alan Hutton and Jordan Ayew must all be mentioned too, as they played a big part in getting this result.
The atmosphere was electric at times, with Fabian Delph’s arrival from the bench creating a cauldron of hostile tension in the ground as inflatable snakes were held up and boos, hisses and whistles rung out around Villa Park.
Songs such as “Have you won the European Cup?”, “Fabian Delph, What a w*nker, what a w*nker” and “He sits on the bench, he sits on the bench, Fabian Delph he sits on the bench,” were the most repeated as the North Stand sung loudly for the majority of the game and the Holte End also played its part.
Rudy Gestede’s fair play throw-in also caused a stir, as the hostile atmosphere intensified when four or five Man City players including Vincent Kompany sprinted towards the big striker after Joe Hart was at fault and gave away a corner kick. Micah Richards soon ran over to settle things down, showing his captain’s passion, that he allowed to get out of hand against Swansea.
In terms of Police action, there were a few spills of aggravation between fans, which saw maybe one or two fans given a talking to but no real outbreaks took place. There was a bit of hostility in the air, but I didn’t witness anything, as the frustrating goalless draw for the Man City fans must have made some of them see red.
Post Match Fan Thoughts
The fans cried out a big, loud cheer at the end of the game, which signified a mix of their relief and appreciation after the players had fought well to gain a point off of the league leaders. I heard fans talking about how the performance we displayed would reap further rewards against opposition lower down the table and how important the result was as it finally stopped our losing streak; a streak that had it continued today would have seen a record broken for the number of losses in a row in our entire club history.
Furthermore, many fans were already discussing the next fixture, a challenging trip to Goodison Park, where with a performance like today’s many fans in the North Stand including myself, think we could go and grab three points.
Away Fans Score – 7/10
The Man City supporters filled both the upper and lower tiers, which some teams have failed to do this year and so they deserve some credit for that. They were loud in parts and fired up the Villa fans even more by defending their snake summer signing, but when we had the ball they were fairly quiet and our fans seemed to respond to their chanting with louder witty responses.
By the end of the game, they showed bursts of frustration because of being held to a goalless draw and so some aggravation spilled over, but nothing too overboard took place.
Overall, a ‘7’ is a conclusive score because they were less impressive than they have been in their previous visits to Villa Park, and our resilient defending on the pitch nullified not only their team but their fans as well.
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