That’s how it’s been all season – hanging on, crossing our fingers, and scraping points with unconvincing, flair-free defensive football.
The season is over and Villa failed at their first attempt to get back to the promised land by a country mile. Few Villa supporters would have guessed at the start of the season that we would have finished in the lower half of the division in 13th place.
If we have have learned we are not all that at the moment, what else did Villa fans learn from a pretty miserable last week of the 2016-17 season?
ASTON VILLA ARE A MID-TABLE CHAMPIONSHIP SIDE
The table doesn’t lie. Forget the European Cup, the title, the cup wins of the past, not to mention the slew of star names that have passed through Villa Park – today, Aston Villa are good enough to finish thirteenth in the second tier of English football.
And next season won’t be a picnic either. Villa will start the season without Kodjia and Baker (and perhaps Hogan… pending an injury update) which means a flying start and a statement will be hindered.
The performance at Blackburn was probably the low point of a drab season. Even the wins the team accumulated were ugly and reeked of good fortune, desperate defending, and could easily have been losses more ofter than not. With an equal number of league wins and losses (16) it illustrates how many games were a coin toss.
Today’s game against Brighton should have been another loss but for Stockdale’s blunder to gift Villa a point and hand Newcastle the league title. That’s how it’s been all season – hanging on, crossing our fingers, and scraping points with unconvincing, flair-free defensive football. Those who can’t see it are still on stage one of the five stages of grief: denial – once you get through anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance you can begin to be more optimistic about the future even if change is hard to take.
GREALISH IS A GAME CHANGER
With that said, Villa’s equaliser against Brighton needed some flair along with good luck – so it was upon Jack Grealish’s shoulders to dig out the shot that led to the last goal of the season. With no Kodjia and with Lansbury, Adoma and Hourihaine only showing spurts of the reasons they were brought to Villa Park, it took Grealish (and to an exciting extent, Keinan Davis who put in a good, if understated showing) to get anything from a game that was going nowhere.
We’ve seen what the players still keeping their place after playing their part in relegation have taken us: 13th place in the second tier of English football. And as for the under achieving newer signings?
Maybe Bruce should give serious thought to blending a bit of youth into the team next season.
WHAT ARE VILLA DOING TO THEIR PLAYERS?
Questions have to be asked about what’s going on with the players brought in on their reputation – which quickly becomes worthless when they look like they are only slightly better than the players they replace (this column will admit at this point that there may still be some residual “anger” linger in the grief stages).
Were the players like Lansbury, Hourihaine, Hogan and to a lesser extent McCormack and Tshibola truly big fish in a small pond? Did they find the weight of expectation too much when coming to Villa? Were they just poor fits? Was enough research done on the player as a person?
McCormack aside, who had his own problems, why have the bigger signings failed to shine as brightly as Villa or the fans will have hoped? Or is it down to a season of management trying to punch above their weight? Or were they signed just to paper over the cracks and avoid a double-relegation that few fans believed could happen – until the awful start to this season?
Identity, stablility, positivity, confidence, goals. All these things would help. Here’s to the next season and promotion. Somehow.
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