Caution Suffocates Survival Chance
I’m still fuming from having witnessed Aston Villa players take the ball down to Newcastle’s corner flag to kill time in the dying minutes of the match at St Jame’s Park. If it wasn’t frustrating enough to see Adama Traore sitting on his rear on the bench, rather than having a go on a slippery pitch against a tiring Newcastle backline, the team being content with a draw was frustrating.
‘A point is good for morale and confidence’, some people informed me on social media. Erm, not when it’s contributing to a 16-match run without a win it isn’t.
An away point is a decent result, except when you’re 10 points adrift of safety at the bottom of the league and without a home win all season. NO team has EVER got out of Villa’s current plight and when you’re playing the team that is 17th and you have a chance to claw back within three results of them, you should try everything to get it.
Villa were playing well in the second half and were on top for most of it and seeing plenty of the ball in Newcastle’s final third, yet why suddenly change an attacking philosophy to keep it in the corner and give up on one last go to get what would be a massive win?
Some fans have suggested, if Newcastle had scored on the counter, I would be bemoaning the team’s naivety for ‘going for it’. No such thing. Some supporters don’t seem to realise the trouble Villa are in.
Lets recap. Four points from the last available 48. Currently on a paltry seven points, and this season all the teams above the relegation zone are picking up points, which means the points tally to survive will increase this season and probably be over the 40 point mark.
With Villa’s points total so far, they will have to finish the second-half of the season with the results of a Top Six team to survive.
A win against Newcastle would have provided a massive confidence boost to kick-on with into the vital Christmas period too. Now is the time to risk all for the win and not demonstrate caution due to the fear of losing.
Yet from both his last-minute instructions to his team and the below interview, Garde was content by the point against the Toon.
He Who Dares Wins
One of the reason’s Sir Alex Ferguson built a legacy of great success was he believed you could win a game right up until the final whistle went. He didn’t mind a gamble. Aston Villa learnt about that the hard way, when chasing the first Premier League title against United back in 1992/93, when ‘Fergie Time’ was first christened.
Back then, Villa were trying to get back in the title hunt in the final stretch after a patch of wayward form. Despite a tense 1-0 win away at Forest in the first week of April, thanks to a Paul McGrath winner (a game I remember fondly for a trademark backheel volley clearance from McGrath), a week later, a 0-0 home draw against Coventry saw Villa stutter again, but news was coming in that Sheffield Wednesday were 2-1 up at Old Trafford with the 90 minute mark lapsed. Maybe Villa still did have a chance of pipping United to the title? The psychological implications of such a result to both teams would be huge.
Yet, despite flunking their title lines the season before, United this time were determined not to give in and Steve Bruce scored two headers in injury-time to give United the win against Wednesday and present the moment that all Villans knew their title dream was in ashes.
Late wins in the dying seconds and beyond became Manchester United’s trademark, they nailed Villa a few times that way, although the epitaph of ‘Fergie Time’ remains the astonishing 1999 European Cup win vs Bayern Munich, in which 1-0 down and into injury-time, they scored off two corners to snatch the cup.
In short, he who dares wins. But this was a mantra that Rémi Garde doesn’t seem to favour, judging by the sight of Villa players playing keep ball at the Newcastle corner flag in the closing minutes.
Draws are almost immaterial to Villa’s fate now. Cut adrift by 10 points a draw offers very little when you’re four results behind. Meaning Newcastle in 17th, would have to lose four games, while Villa won three and drew one. It’s a massive swing.
Journalists have compared Garde to his former manager Arsene Wenger (mainly because they are both French!), but it is Ferguson’s ‘for the win’ attitude he needs to replicate the most for Villa to have any chance of playing Premier League football next season.
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