VILLA 0-2 WBA
A toxicity has returned to Aston Villa.
Questions are already being asked of the manager. Players are being booed from the pitch. Promotion hopes, now seem forlorn. It’s only February.
These are the trials and tribulations of following Villa in the ‘modern’ era unfortunately. A mere matter of weeks ago Smith looked to have cracked it; the destruction of Derby, defeating Middlesbrough and coming within a handball of winning at The Hawthorns.
Yet in our latest defeat, this time to West Brom at Villa Park, we looked a million miles away from having the players or philosophy to achieve promotion.
Smith suddenly has the murmurings of mutiny on his hands.
Conor Hourihane, who despite being the poster boy for assist statisticians, struggles to impose nor effect long passages of play. Whilst heckling a player from the pitch when substituted is the right of any fan, it does little to motivate nor rehabilitate a player who we really need to show his potential in a Villa shirt.
Abraham, whose goalscoring is impressive at Championship level, was again guilty of a glaring miss. The Chelsea loanee has all of the attributes to be a top striker, but his parent club and suitors will certainly be noting that key opportunities aren’t put away as they should be.
In truth, this was a comfortable win for the visitors, with Villa looking like a boxer limping along having taken a heavy hit.
Smith makes fair reference to the loss of key players in succession; Grealish, Tuanzebe and Chester. However, he has failed to adjust nor adapt our game-plan to accommodate incoming players with different, or more appropriately, lessor attributes.
This is perhaps the root-cause of the simmering discontent amongst a section of supporters. It’s less with what Smith is trying to do, but rather whether this is achieveable with such an unbalanced group of players, many of whom look ill-suited to the style of football Smith is striving for.
With it only being February, with plenty of the season to play for, this could stand to be a risky gamble for our new coach. Will he ‘hold the line’ on his faltering philosophy? Or will he consider formulating a ‘Plan B’ to account for a chronic loss of form which will likely see us fail to even compete for the Playoff spots this season?
Supporters, aside from the vortex of social media, are generally reasonable and balanced. Most will consider the up-heavel in summer 2018, the state of the inherited squad, change of manager, injuries etc. However, they will likely also reflect on our one-dimensional and increasingly predictable approach to football matches. It’s hard to overlook that there are many other teams in the division lessor-equipped in both finance and personnel who consistently out-perform or equal Aston Villa.
Therefore, this is another key juncture for many players and staff at Villa.
For the players, we simply need to see more. Too many are fairly labelled as ‘passengers’, with a core group also looking nothing short of disinterested. Against a back-drop of exorbitant fees and wages, it’s not just disheartening but alarming just how little quality we have in our ranks.
For the management, there has to be both a realism and pragmatism. Imposing a footballing philosophy on a football club that has been bereft of direction for countless campaigns doesn’t happen overnight; Aston Villa needs to learn to walk again before it can run.