What a week in the life of a football club and its beleaguered supporters. From the demolition of Liverpool, the humiliation of an 8-0 drubbing a Chelsea; the writing was on the wall ahead of a 4-0 home defeat to Spurs.
It’s easy to say that things cannot possibly get much worse. However, it is wise to reserve judgement until the conclusion of fixtures against Wigan and Bradford. Gulp.
Concerns and grumblings are easily aired on forums and websites in the modern age, but there was a very notable split last night. The emptying of the stadium, as the Gareth Bale show took hold, was a visible show of feeling. Contrasted against a vocal rally from those who remained it made for interesting reflection.
It feels like a relegation season, but likely will not be through fortune in the division being stocked with poor teams.
However we are not merely looking at a downgrading of expectations. More so a complete realignment that our once great club is now so uncompetitive with the leagues top sides, that our efforts are widely considered embarrassing. The club needs to take stock quickly, and put down the Sheffield Wednesday authored guide to managing a big club.
It’s also a unique situation for many supporters. Villa are a seasoned Premier side, but for far too long have traded on our history and the promise of rekindling such success. Despite huge investment, recent tightening aside, it was all in vain or arguably wasted. What’s resulted is a wholly inadequate reliance upon young men, who are expected to achieve the impossible. Even Alex Fergusons infamous ‘kids’ were blended with senior players, and perhaps more crucially ‘winners’. Looking across the Villa side in recent matches its easy to get lost in a sea of ‘potential’; what’s telling is a blatant lack of visible and consistent quality across the board. That statement should not be taken as criticism of the academy, rather that the youngsters it’s produced were unlikely to have been expected to deliver so soon and so alone. Surely?
Villa must therefore look to the injured faces to put right the glaring wrongs. Agbonlahor can no longer trade on pace and being the local lad; goals define a striker. N’Zogbia should be shown videos to remind him he was once a dangerous terror amongst defences and Ron Vlaar will be required to resurrect the leagues worst back four. And then we need to think about why we cannot accommodate a 20 goal striker like Bent. Work rate aside, only the Villa could contrive such a farcical situation where a proven goal scorer is frozen out.
January represents an opportunity, but given our position and lack of weight to attract top stars in recent years, it could present a real challenge to make a success. It’s not unreasonable to expect more chances to be taken on inexperienced promise from the lower tiers. This saves money but looks to be a predictably dangerous gamble.
And so it has been the worst Aston Villa Christmas results in history, not just living memory. So bad that the club is the butt of all jokes. This must be rectified to preserve our status on a number of levels.
To do it we will need to be braver, more intelligent and largely make use of what we have. This starts with Wigan, there can be only one result.