When I realised the Twitter tag for the game would be #AVLCRY I was praying that it wasn’t an omen of another game ending with Villa fans shedding a tear. Thankfully Villa showed some resolve for once and the only tears shed by the home support were tears of joy at our first win since opening day, and the slightest of chances at a turn around in fortunes. At the very least it gives us the chance to look at some positives for once.
Va va voom
Ok, so this performance wasn’t exactly that of a Bayern Munich or Barcelona but it showed a huge improvement in terms of ball retention, shape, and most importantly desire. The players selected really seemed up for the game and were committed throughout. More of a cutting edge will need to be added but this was a good start, and marks a genuine chance to build going forward, as opposed to the false dawns brought about by some draws in December.
Whether or not Villa can string together results remains to be seen but credit to today’s team, who after and early wobble got stuck in and got the job done. Gana and Veretout were full of industry. Westwood was always an outlet for others and wasn’t afraid to stick in a tackle either. Jordan Ayew yet again showed his flair and determination to win, not hesitating to tell his team mates exactly what he expected from them.
After the bollocking the team got following the Wycombe game, it is important for fans to acknowledge the improvement in commitment tonight, and judging by the roar at the final whistle they did. On top of a three points and our second win of the season we also got a clean sheet (our first since November) and Guzan man have to get used to a place spitting gum on the bench.
Libor Kozak may not be the demi god many have made him out to be in our desperation for a saviour, but on the evidence of this game one thing is certain, he contributes a lot more than Rudy Gestede has in recent weeks. As well as being a physical presence Kozak was tireless in his efforts to track back and contribute to the team’s defensive efforts.
Even without full match sharpness, the big Czech bested Gested in terms or goal threat and all round play and had it not been for some close offsides he may even have snatched a goal for himself. He also provides more support for Ayew as he seems much more capable with the ball at his feet as opposed to big Rudy who looks awkward when dealing with balls that aren’t in the air. Kozak must start next week and be allowed to form a partnership with Ayew, and hopefully find his eye for goal in the Premier League.
I like Remi Garde. He is in the unenviable position of trying to steer a car that has been repeatedly crashed into a tree, but he still maintains a level of coolness, honesty, and backbone. I said last weekend that all he was missing was something to prove he could rally this team and this win should be that thing.
Garde has not bullshi**ed fans, he realised the gravity of the task he has, but he has also not taken any sh*t. Grealish got a much needed bringing down to earth when it was required and the Frenchman has proven that he isn’t afraid to drop players simply because of their reputations, take Guzan as just one example.
Garde also lacks an ego and blind stubbornness that some of his predecessors have embodied. He had all but written off Kozak, but seemingly realised that we had nothing to lose by taking a punt and that he deserved as much a chance as any.
Previous managers would no doubt have refused to go against their own prejudices and give a chance to a deserving player. (One needs only to mention Carles Gil, Darren Bent, or certain members of the ‘Bomb Squad’ to understand what I mean.)
In addition to all this Garde even publicly stated that the clubs owners needed to communicate with the fans, and such an attitude from the manager can only be a good thing. It may be pointing out the obvious, but it’s clear that Garde has little interest in being a ‘yes man’ for Villa’s calamity boardroom.
Home Sweet Home
One of the best things about this win is the fact that it came at home. Villa Park aka ‘The Factory of Sadness’ has been a tough place to go for the home fans of late and home form must improve if Villa are to claw up the table. This was a good start. Hopefully it continues.
The odds against Aston Villa being a Championship team next season are still very low but at least this result gives some glimmer of hope. The goal may not have been a beauty, but we’ll take wins any way we can get them. I don’t care if it came from a header, bicycle kick, handball, penalty or if it was bloody farted into the goal, the fact is we scored a winning goal and took home three priceless points.
An eight-point gap to escape the bottom three is no small distance but it definitely feels a lot better than an 11-point divide. More performances like this and at minimum we’ll make the battle interesting instead of limping out of the league without a fight as it has appeared we would over recent months.