Optimism is leaking fast as cold, hard facts start to sink in regarding Villa’s survival chances. What did Aston Villa fans learn from the dismal performance at Everton?
‘Potentially good – even potentially great – players are not going to help right now.’
TRAORE OR NOT?
“He is only 19 years of age and there has been a lot of things thrust on him. I have tried doing my best to manage him in the right way, that gives him a really good career. He is a talent, there is no two ways about it, a big talent.”
No – that’s not Garde talking about Traore – it was Lambert talking about Grealish. But the current situation with the talented winger seems all too familiar.
Adama Traore cost £7m when he joined from Barcelona, although with the clauses in place it sounds like it’s more of a loan deal. That £7m has so far provided a deflected own goal against Palace and a goal against Notts County. No great shakes.
Yes, he had lumps kicked out of him in that League Cup tie and was out for a while and now Garde has said he’s close, but not ready for the first team yet, fans might well be asking – what are you waiting for?
Frankly Garde’s comments smack of Lambert’s reluctance to put Grealish into the first team in the midst of a run of games when he would have been the most creative player on the field by far.
And yet on Saturday, Jordan Ayew was the only Villa player with an average position in the Everton half of the field and the team created just three shots on target. Clearly Garde set up the team to defend primarily and while fans might want to gung-ho attack a way out of trouble, even if his plan had worked it wasn’t going to be pretty. But it didn’t work and it still wasn’t pretty and the team is still dead last in the league.
Workmanlike performances might have to be the way to go, but unless Traore is in the team soon, he can added to the increasing list of players the club has wasted money on in the past decade.
BOTTOM OF THE CLASS
Some fans will tell you that this player or that player in the current Villa team is “class”. Sadly, that list is getting shorter, but there’s still hope that the players in the 25-man squad have enough quality to get Villa up the table.
However if that is the case, how is it that the team is creating just 2.3 shots on target per game and scoring 0.8 league goals a game? You can blame the tactics if you want, but how can a team generating so little ever hope to win a game especially with the defense and goalkeeping situation in such a state?
Let’s look at some facts about some of Villa’s BETTER players:
Gestede is our top scorer in the league with three goals in 747 minutes
Only five players have any league goals at all: Gestede, Sinclair (2), Ayew (2), Gil (1) and Grealish (1). Bournemouth have seven different league scorers.
Only four players have an assist in the league: Agbonlahor (2), Amavi (2), Hutton (1) and Westwood (1) – meaning the players most often regarded as “class” like Gil, Grealish, Veretout, Gueye, Sinclair – and even the next tier of fringe players like Bacuna and Sanchez haven’t managed one after the first quarter of the season.
In this column’s opinion the board’s failure to invest now would mean they have quit.
Key passes that directly create goal-scoring opportunities? Nobody in the squad has an average of more than one per game – Westwood has the most (1.7), followed by Agbonlahor (1.4), Veretout (1.1), Grealish (1.1), Gil (1). There are 12 players who contribute an average of less than one key pass a game.
So when fans consider someone like Veretout as a class player, who are you comparing them too? Mahrez at Leicester? (2.4 key passes a game, six assists, seven goals)?
And if you don’t like facts and figures and claim, as do some top TV pundits that say you can’t break football down to just numbers like American sports to, there’s one more fact to consider – no team has done as badly as Villa have at this point in the season and escaped relegation. Potentially good – even potentially great – players are not going to help right now.
SO… WHAT NOW?
The only way Villa will survive relegation – and even this will need the planets to align and the team will need to pick up points every weekend while three other teams drop them – is to spend, spend, spend.
The board must see this and act on it. Garde should have a shopping list of at least three or four established, ready-to-play-in-England players to buy before the Christmas decorations are down. And frankly, it might not matter which position they play. Two midfielders and two defenders? A striker, a midfielder, a defender and a goalkeeper? If they are good enough, their influence might be enough to fire up the rest of the team and get them ready to push for points week after week.
In this column’s opinion the board’s failure to invest now would mean they have quit. They have literally given up and accepted relegation as unavoidable if they cannot find the funds to fight for survival.
Surely only a side story to the defeat at Goodison, but talk of Gabby leaving would fail to cheer up even the harshest of his critics. Frankly, how much would you expect to get for him? And sadly it would mean another Villa born-and-bred player (like Collymore) has disappointed fans on the field and had to move on because he couldn’t do it in a claret and blue shirt. And that certainly isn’t anything to celebrate.
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