It must be progress when the final whistle goes and a draw feels like a defeat. 3 points would have been superb, a lifeline, but a draw gives us hope.
The first half was a scary, dangerous and at times lucky affair for us. We were on the receiving end of a team in Southampton who were out of form and on the back of a humiliating drubbing to Liverpool.
Whilst we rode our luck, protected ourselves poorly and benefitted from some atrocious finishing, we remained level. We deserved to be behind, but we weren’t. We haven’t enjoyed much in the way of good fortune, but we got some here.
When the chance presented to take the advantage, uncharacteristically, Villa did. From a dangerous inswinging corner, Lescott bundled the ball into the net. On the stroke of halftime, against the run of play and seizing the advantage. It was a pleasant change of mood.
The second half saw Villa play far more expansively, Ayew was more effective as an out ball & Sanchez/Gueye broke up Saints’ play repeatedly. Yes, the same mistakes were there, particularly gifting possession away, but there was evidence of improvement.
Veretout stood out particularly again. So often we have seen glimpses of his composure on the ball this season, but there are the makings of a very handy footballer in the quiet Frenchman.
Villa weathered most of what Southampton threw at them but came unstuck in similar fashion to the games opener. Sanchez was beaten to the ball from a corner, which was despatched past a stranded Guzan.
It took the wind out of our sails and with the players looking leggy, scary moments ensued. However, Villa had moments to steal the points. Westwood, brought on to defend the point, wastefully blazed over from 8 yards. Villa held on, wisely shut up shop when defeat loomed and settled for the point.
A solitary point might not feel like nearly enough given our position at the foot of the table & particularly after results went firmly against us elsewhere. Life at the bottom is grim, but we must keep our chins up.
If we do manage to get out of this, it will be by pulling off surprises…Arsenal being the next opponents at Villa Park this Sunday would be a good start.
Garde faces arguably his sternest test yet as Arsenal arrive in very decent form. Further, given a return of just 2 points from 12, the honeymoon period is officially over.
A negative outlook would be to take the view of damage limitation. Accept that over 90 minutes Arsenal will have too much for us and seek only to park the bus to protect our precarious goal difference.
The optimist in me says that Arsenal come into the game after midweek Champions League exertions and are carrying injuries throughout their squad. There is never a good time to play teams of this ilk, but factors like fatigue and injuries can only help us.
For me this type of fixture is all about mentality. I’d rather go out fighting than in a meek, resigned fashion. The form book tells us that we stand little hope of pulling this off, but if we are too turn things around then the wins have to materialise somewhere.
Jack Grealish finds himself recalled and owes the club and himself a performance. Gabby, certainly not my preferred choice for recall is back in the mix. And the phantom figure Libor Kozak is rumoured to be on the bench. We are at the stage where until January at least, all options merit consideration.
If Villa can adopt a similar game plan to that seen at Southampton, can iron out the defensive errors and make better use of Ayew, then you just never know. This winless streak cannot last forever, surely?