In a season that has only really contained lows, the Villans managed to plummet to new levels of despair on Saturday. Losing to Sunderland, a poor side, is unacceptable at the best of times. To lose the way we did on Saturday, in the predicament the club is in, just beggars belief. The players really do find new ways to disappoint fans each week. Just when you think you can’t feel any worse about the Villans, another “must win” game rolls along and they as good as beat themselves.
The last few years will not be looked back on with any real fondness but this season is one that just needs putting to bed now. We are down – down and out. I just want May to come so I can prepare myself for the torture that will be the Championship.
There are many things wrong with our club. One article can not cover them all. One of those many, many problems is the lack of relationships present throughout it. It may seem an odd thing to say but it’s been something that has been bothering me.
The players on the pitch
When Aston Villa Football Club had its best run last season there were good relationships coming together on the pitch.
The midfield three of Cleverley,Westwood and Delph complemented each other. There was energy and synergy and we picked up some decent results under Sherwood. Grealish was linking up with them and he also had a good understanding with Benteke.
We looked at our best defensively at one stage last campaign when Okore and Clark were paired together. They built up a good central defensive partnership and we looked more astute than we have done for years at the back as a result.
Going further back, there have been good relationships on the pitch for Aston Villa. Bouma and Ashley Young complemented each other down the left hand side. Barry and Petrov and then Milner and Petrov enjoyed good partnerships in midfield. Even under Lambert at one stage Benteke, Weimann and Agbonlahor formed a feared three up top, causing the opposition problems. We had an identity.
Nowadays there is no identity at Aston Villa. Team selections and tactics have been muddled under two different managers. The players play like strangers: there are no positive partnerships or relationships to be seen. The closest we have come in recent weeks was seeing Okore and Lescott together in defence. Since that pairing got broken up to accommodate Richards, we have looked dire defensively again.
Fans call for Traoré to be given some game time. When you saw what he’s capable of on Saturday it’s no wonder. Traoré is a maverick; the trouble is that we don’t have a right back good enough to play behind him. We would get ripped to shreds even more often with Traoré in the side, despite his attacking edge. In fairness, we may as well give it a go now as we are down and things can’t get much worse.
Think Vardy and Mahrez. Think Ighalo and Deeney. The teams exceeding expectations have relationships in their sides. Aston Villa Football Club does not – and that’s one of the reasons we are bottom of the league.
Fans and players
Saturday’s ugly performance led to ugly scenes after the game when the Villa first team returned to the coach. The players were booed. The subsequent chants of “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” were not fair on some players but understandable in the current landscape and, if generalising, probably fair on most.
Over the years there have been many Holte End heroes. Do we have one now? With the exception of Ayew, there isn’t a single Villa player who is universally liked by the fans. How many chants do we have for the current bunch? Two of the few to have chants are Hutton and Guzan. They are two of our poorest performers. Although they both try their best, they are major contributors to the dire position we are in. They simply aren’t up to it. They’ve given good service – but they are shot.
Our players seem to fall into different categories.
There are those who work hard but aren’t good enough, those who hide, don’t work hard and aren’t good enough. Then there are those who are good enough but aren’t performing at their best either because they lack confidence or because of the way we are set up. Some haven’t been given a fair chance and, lastly, there’s Ayew.
We were poor for the majority of last season but, in general, most players were liked. Nowadays there isn’t really anyone to hang your hat on. Grealish was the darling of the fans last year but expectations have been too high and a young player has been offered neither the tactical consistency nor the run of games to allow him to make an impact. Aston Villa Football Club is not the place for developing youngsters.
The fanbase is at the end of its tether and the players probably have the hump with the supporters. Fans are sick of hearing talk from the players. They need the team to walk the walk.
Lots of people at Aston Villa are very good at talking but not enough back it up when it counts.
The players and the manager
I feel for Garde, although I still don’t understand why he took the job. I remain hopeful that he will be the answer long term but when he is yet to win a game it’s hard not to have doubts. He has inherited a mess, a group of players that in the main he will not want – and most of them will know it.
Garde is probably doing a lot of good work behind the scenes, where he is fighting a losing battle. It doesn’t look like the players have an affinity with the manager nor does it seem that he enjoys working with them. I got the feeling some of the players were playing for Sherwood, despite our failings.
The manager and the fans
The tide is already turning, rightly or wrongly. Fans are losing patience. Nobody can really blame them.
The board and the fans
I saw Lerner’s reign described as from going “from the sublime to the ridiculous”, which is a fair reflection. All the good years have been completely destroyed by what is happening now and what has been threatening to happen for the last few years. I used to have some affection for Lerner. That has all been lost. He can’t keep making critical mistakes at the top level and expect to get away with them all. You can only circle the drain for so long. His desire to sell the club doesn’t come into it: he is in charge at the current time and is letting us down.
Tom Fox impressed me when he first came in but I couldn’t care less whether we are doing better commercially. The fact that we are making more money from shirt sales does not matter to me. Our team is disastrous on the pitch – where it matters.
I defended the “moneyball” strategy in the summer and I maintain that it is not those signings at the root of our problems. However, fatal decisions like replacing Christian Benteke with a statue from the Championship and not reinvesting that money in a top striker were always going to hurt us. We were a struggling side with the goals of Benteke so without them we are impotent.
There have been too many boardroom decisions that have been downright wrong – and the fans are paying the price. I was foolish for thinking at the start of the season that things would come together. The rot stems from the top and I chose to ignore that. This was always on the cards.
Villan fans long to feel close to their club. Communication has improved slightly but in times of need we are still met with silence.
Even the club’s main channels of communication in the official website and AVTV are generally below-par and therefore missed opportunities to engage with supporters. Generic drivel is spouted week in, week out with the same stories rolled out under different players’ names. I know we are struggling but that has been the case for years.
Aston Villa Football Club has turned into an abhorrent mess. Relationships all over the club are broken and until at least some are repaired then things will not change. I long to be proud of my club again, I really do. I get no joy from writing negative pieces each week. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing positive to mention… apart from that we are doing well commercially, of course.