It suddenly seems a lifetime ago from when we saw John McGinn net on the opening day of a new, exciting and hopefully compelling campaign. Spurs were there for the taking on day one and we missed the opportunity to come back with a bang. Annoyingly, that story now seems all too familiar as we grow used to agonising defeats such as the now infamous Palace away match as well as welcoming Spurs in the reverse fixture. That is only naming two of many micro-decisions that may have gone against us or tactical errors of which have led to a malnurishment of points.
As I am sure many fans felt the emotions of excitement, heavy expectation and an opportunity to adapt our game further to better our form following the pandemic, it certainly was short lived. From the off, as a fan, I had flash backs to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on opening day, a day of missed opportunity and a day to show that Aston Villa belong in the Premier League, only back then it was not a matter of life or death in this seemingly cut-throat process. Villa took to the pitch looking refreshed and ready to perform and go toe to toe with what looked like a lethargic Sheffield United to say the least. The only performance was Orjan Nyland’s world class save from a cross and the game slipped through Dean Smith’s sides fingers leaving fans again beginning to feel the resoundingly familiar emotions of both misery, and missed opportunity. The only humour coming out of the fixture was one of ‘what if?’. If we were to survive by a mere point I for one will be thanking Keinan Davis and Nyland for their phenomenal camera blocking skills.
After footballs restart, we witnessed a full-on fixture list with winnable games being thrown at us left right and centre. Or as a incredibly positive fan, that is what I began to think before the Chelsea game. I slipped into the same regime where I believe that the big sides are beatable if you turn up with the correct tactics and intent. However, with the display at home to Chelsea, Villa fans had not witnessed a performance that gutless all season and despite John McGinn being present within the squad again, it made little to no difference towards structure and attacking knowledge. Although, a 1-0 lead at half time made things seem a little sweeter. Alas, we threw the lead away within two minutes with sloppy defending due to us inviting a ridiuculous amount of pressure by some of the leagues most efficient attackers. Suddenly, since lockdown, we were staring two horrible missed chances right in the eye.
Following this, a flash of hope by Ahmed Elmohamady concluded a non-starter game with yet again, the key words of this article: Missed Opportunities. However, it was the Wolves fixture which allowed us to perhaps see improvements, it provided another base to build on due to rivals poor results. But no, the gutless performance from Chelsea returned, no passion, no pride and no hunger. Why?
We look ahead now to a drunken Liverpool side who seemed to be a shadow of themselves in a fixture against Man City last night. It does seem that Liverpool will be wanting to quickly put those errors to bed and perform on Sunday evening against us as strong relegation candidates. I do, on the other hand, ask why is this result being written off? It appears that Twitter allows a platform for EXTREME negativity as well as a culture revolving around ‘We ARE going down’ not ‘we have a chance’. Times do look bleak, with six fixtures to go all I can think about is my positive outlook being crushed but are there three worse teams than us?
West Ham showed guts in their performance against a weak Chelsea side, something that we have been unable to do against the big guns this season. Nevertheless, is it not time for Dean Smith to drill into this squad that if we do not pick up points against United and/or Liverpool that it may be too late? Do the squad realise that we must perform, we must show attacking intent and we must go all out in this nothing to lose situation? I have seen countless tweets by fans asking for systems to change, formations to be adapted and players to be dropped but I show you my ideal lineup for the next fixture at Anfield: Nyland, Guilbert, Hause, Mings, Elmo, Douglas Luiz, McGinn, Grealish, Samatta, El Ghazi, Jota.
Why Jota? I had seen an article about him turning down loan moves to prove a point and to allow Dean Smith to see his true intentions about keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League. Play Him. Why Elmo? The man has lived and breathed AVFC for the last few seasons and when subbed off the bench he has been proven to whip in the extra cross and even score a goal to secure a point for the squad. Play Him. I am one of the few (it seems) fans to admire El Ghazi, I like the determination but his inconsistency ruins his reputation. For me, his ability in some games shines through and he may be our best opportunity from an out wide position of which we showed desperation for against Wolverhampton.
Finally, let’s talk about the bench. As we are reaching crunch time in the Premier League we need to introduce hungry players awaiting their opportunity for first team football. I do not have to mention the names of players that have impressed here, Dean will know, but my main feelings here are as we approach the ‘nothing to lose’ period of the season, playing the youth may be our way forward. So let us introduce the names we have been constantly hearing about through social medias. Play Them.
As the title suggests, I did not sit through Aston Villa’s 10 game win streak to watch us trip up so easily at the first hurdle in the top flight. But I did watch Aston Villa complete the impossible, promote themselves against all odds, turn a heavy, defeated and lathargic season into the greatest one in recent years. We saw History created in the Holte End last season and although we cannot be there to carry them over the final six to survival we can as always, get behind the boys in claret and blue. Aston Villa will never die and the club we love will return to the big time, but it has to be right, it has to be managed correctly and it has to be done with pride, passion and fight.
As always, Up The Villa and lets stay up, together.