Villa slipped to a timid & toothless 2-1 defeat against Stoke in a dour encounter at the Britannia.
In a game that was hard to watch, for more reasons than one, Villa came undone all too easily once again. It was another lifeless performance, too cautious, too pedestrian and simply bereft of any real quality.
The defeat is another hammer blow, largely self inflicted but ultimately fully deserved.
The first half saw us stifle and suppress Stoke. There were some bright phases, but nothing that culminated in Villa taking control.
We did though have two narrow escapes, with Bunn fashioning an acrobatic save from a deflected cross & Okore making a precision last ditch challenge in the area.
Despite these close calls, we went in at the break level and with a platform to hopefully build something from.
However, for all of the effort in keeping the game even, we offered absolutely no threat. In fact, there was never a suggestion that we might take on a Stoke side which only arrived after the break.
Be it lack of confidence, lack of creativity or lack of flair, we rarely ventured with any purpose. Some blame must lie with Garde’s tactics.
Presumably in his quest to make us “hard to beat” we have become virtual recluses across the half way line. The team orders seem like deja-vu and hark back to the Lambert era; keep the ball at all costs.
It means we ponder, dally, pass with no incisiveness in case we lose the ball. This is pointless for two reasons. One, we carry no danger. Two, we give the ball away cheaply anyway.
I appreciate that Garde is working with dross and was refused his transfer targets to add to the squad, but either his philosophy is being ignored or it is flawed. The football we played today will not win football matches at any level.
Villa continue to repeat old mistakes, but also make whole new ones. It leaves us staring at a group of players who look ill equipped for winning a single match, let alone entering into a competitive league like The Championship.
The second half saw us go behind promptly from the penalty spot. Westwood was the guilty party, clumsily bringing down Bardsley.
Westwood has a long contract at Villa but seems to be going backwards as much as any player at the club. I’d be astonished if he truly has a future of any note at the club.
Then came the comedy second to remove all doubt.
A tricky ball was floated to the back post where two Villa defenders permitted Arnautovic to get his head to the ball, nodding it above his own head. Bunn inexplicably became caught up in the net whilst neither Villa defender reacted as the Austrian international nodded home at the second attempt.
A farcical goal to concede.
Stoke then retired to the smoking room and permitted Villa a glimmer of hope, with the otherwise woeful Bacuna driving home to make it 2-1 with ten minutes remaining.
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