Welcome Rémi Garde! Now do something to save us. What will the Aston Villa fans – and the new Villa manager himself – have learned from a predictable cup exit and an unearned tighter-than-expected finish to another predictable defeat in London?
ALL SAINTS DAY
The loss at Southampton wasn’t really a shock. Nor was the nature of it. Elsewhere on MOMS, it’s been said a cup run could lift the fans and with so many big names out of the hunt it might provide a distraction from the inevitable struggle to stay up this season. But: all that speculation was irrelevant. Villa held on surprisingly, given the defensive line-up chosen by our caretaker manager, but succumbed when Southampton raised their game and they advanced to the next round.
There is no doubt a cup run might have been fun (see: last season) but fans would have been happy to trade a place in the next round for three points given that there’s no end in sight (yet) to the wretched form we are in. When those three points will come though, is anyone’s guess.
Make no mistake – a cup run this year may or may not have helped league form, but it’s a luxury we could not afford. We are dead last in the league, falling further adrift with every passing weekend, and a decent cup run would have been nothing short of denial that we are in a desperate position.
The loss at Spurs was limp. When Villa showed signs of life it might have lifted the fans, particularly after Ayew pulled us back to 2-1, but Tottenham were always in control with a deeper bench, more flair, a more composed defense, and some belief that they could score again if they had to… which they did.
Harry Kane’s first league goals for Spurs were against Villa but until his goal at the end, he hadn’t exactly stood out. The difference between him and… oh, let’s pick a Villa striker at random… Gabby Agbonlahor… was that Kane was in the right place at the right time and took his chance. Agbonlahor had a poor game even by his recent standards and his incredulous looks at his teammates when they fluff chances do nothing at all to lift spirits especially while he’s been failing to lead by example for quite some time.
Far be it from me to tell Monsieur Garde how to do his job, but if he comes in with an open mind and still considers Gabby in his current form to be anything other than a potential late substitute, he’s doing it wrong.
Equally, if Remi cannot see the nucleus of any survival effort MUST be Sinclair, Gil and Ayew, he’s not as qualified as three-quarters of the Holte End. Those three alone, with eight other players booting the ball up front to them for 90 minutes might be enough to get half of the eight wins and eight draws we need to survive by themselves.
Why? They instill fear in opponents. And they may be the only ones (there’s a case for Gestede, but if he’s double-teamed his threat level is dialed down significantly). Does a rampant Bacuna or Grealish – who was pretty poor at Spurs – scare opposing teams the same way?
Why else? Sinclair, Ayew and Gil are more than one-trick ponies and despite everything they still have some belief that if they keep doing what they are being paid to do, good things will happen.
Then, it’s a case of who you drop… Richardson was so predictable and surely another of Garde’s first decisions is to reappoint one of very few legitimate contenders for players of a shocking season in Amavi. Sanchez had one of those loose games that have become his trademark. Hutton was all action, but what came of it?
Other than that, there’s one more saving grace which will be more likely to lead Villa to survival than any player currently at the club.
Firstly, let’s not even talk about the Frenchman bringing out the best in N’Zogbia – he’s not even worth a conversation. In fact, if he can shift Charlie for nothing and even agree to subsidize his wages to get shot of him he will have done something than neither of his predecessors could manage.
But on the incoming side of the January transfer window, this is going to be a big one. If the players we have at the club aren’t going to perform for us, we need new ones. And we aren’t talking “moneyball” potential for the future. We are talking the second coming of Darren Bent along with an Andy Townsend, a Nigel Spink and an Olof Melberg.
And if Garde doesn’t get a war chest to combine with his much lauded coaching ability, the fingers of blame that have wavered from time to time can only be pointed in one direction: the board room.
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