By Molly Jennens
As kick off approached for Villa’s home game against Spurs, I felt no nerves, no excitement and no anticipation; it’s very unlike me. For the past six years of Villa’s miserable plight, I have looked forward to the matches, eagerly awaiting team news and I’ve always been the most optimistic out of what seems to be the whole of the upper North. However, following the Liverpool game, I have since been wishing away the 90 minutes.
For several seasons now, Villa Park is no longer a stadium opposition teams fear. It is a place for visiting teams in poor form to get back on track, for teams to get their first away wins of the season, and this season it’s become the place where almost every team that visits seems to send Villa spiralling closer towards the Championship.
For Spurs, like Liverpool and Everton in recent weeks, it was like an enjoyable kick around in the park.
This column was originally going to focus on the referee’s performances at Villa’s matches, but it’s obvious this season that most of the time referees will have little impact on the final result with this Villa team.
So, lets look at the other main influences instead…
Starting XI Verdict:
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to breathe a sigh of relief when I saw that Garde had ditched the five at the back and dropped Micah Richards after the horror show at the Etihad. There was a recall for Jores Okore in the centre of the defence alongside Joleon Lescott in the hope of shutting out Spurs, who were without a win in their last three games
Carles Gil came back into the squad following a return to the bench in recent weeks, looking to provide creativity in the final third, but despite his odd flourish in a Villa shirt, does he really have the presence to dictate a game?
The Spurs game suggested not and the defensive changes also seemed to have little impact, especially when you saw Alan Hutton jogging around out of position for Spur’s second goal.
The outcome of the game was predictable, with Villa losing for the 5th game in a row, their 20th defeat of the season.
Garde’s Game Management:
For me the question is: right man, wrong time? I was excited by his arrival as he was seemingly the most logical and ideal choice following our spending spree in Ligue 1 during the summer. However, with no management experience in the Premier League and only one managerial spell at Lyon, it almost looked impossible for the Frenchman to come in and turn the club around with little money available.
Garde’s career so far at Aston Villa has failed to spark a revival, with his players showing no signs of motivation or confidence in themselves or their manager.
Throughout the game, he looked like a man in disbelief with the stance of a broken man. You can’t blame him; it’s like in any job, if you see your staff not pulling their weight, then you ask yourself, why should I? But, as a fan you don’t want to see that. I would much prefer a manager to be up on his feet screaming at the players telling them to get their act together, rather than just a subdued point here and there.
One of the only influential things Garde did yesterday was bringing on 17-year-old Andre Green, who looked prepared to change the game. He showed promise in the wide areas, with neat touches and encouraging set pieces, offering a glimpse of hope in a season that has been filled with despair.
There has been many fans calling for the young players to be blooded in as they are hungry and want to succeed and Andre Green proved, in his 30 minute appearance, that it could work. Although, it’s obviously sensible not to field an entire team of Under-21’s, as there would be the concern of knocking their confidence. I am hoping to see Green’s name on the team sheet next week against Swansea City.
In any defeat it is easy to blame the referee for decisions that could have influenced the game’s outcome, but Anthony Taylor had little to do all game and on the whole got the majority of decisions right.
The only decision that could have been argued against was the foul in the lead up to Tottenham’s first goal. Gana initially lost the ball inside Spurs’ half and went in the search of retaining it when he tackled Dele Alli. He got the ball, however Taylor adjudged him to have took more of the man than the ball, blowing for a foul. With Gana the only man protesting and the rest of the Villa team out of position, Alli reacted quickly feeding the ball into Kane who stroked it home.
When everyone else fails, the fans rise to the challenge. For all too long, Villa Park has been silent. However, now the fans have united and created some noise. Even in the darkest of days, the Aston Villa fans have rose to the challenge and shown more fighting spirit than the players on the pitch.
It would be unfair and unrealistic of me to give anyone but the fans the ‘man of the match’ award when it seems as though we are the only people trying to save Aston Villa.
Harry Kane gave Villa Park a demonstration of his devastating finishing with his well-taken brace. Only the bar, earlier on in the game, denied him a possible hat-trick. Hopefully Mr Kane can continue his goal-scoring form in an England shirt during the EUROS in France this summer.
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