You’ll forgive me for my absence over the past day or so – I got home late after the Tottenham game and wanted to sleep after. I know some may suggest that was because the result was awful, but it was more to do with being tired from a long day on Tuesday.
Against Tottenham Hotspur, the 4-0 result flatters the opposition quite a lot, but it also exposes issues in our team. From our side of the fence, the issue is that we are still light on numbers – look at our bench’s options for further evidence of the fact.
Some can argue that Paul Lambert could have spent better, that he could have spent the money from three or four of his captures to pay for one bigger signing, but recent injuries illustrate how dangerous that could make things.
Minus Christian Benteke, the team did seem to be a little light. That Libor Kozak was taken off at half time probably suggests Lambert valuing the league fixture on Saturday higher than a league cup game – something I would certainly agree with.
We were also without Jores Okore. Whether he would have been included if he had have been fit is a moot point, but his loss has been significant, illustrating again the need for depth in the squad.
Again, some will say that there is no point in filling up the squad with filler rather than good players, but I’ve yet to see a truly awful player signed by Lambert yet. Joe Bennett – a player often on the wrong end of criticism – played very well on Tuesday night, keeping and distibuting the ball tidily.
On the topic of filler, we are where we are at present because of a long and relevant history. Mistakes have been made by managers, by the owner, and by other staff. However, all that matters is the following – understanding where we are, and working out how we can move forwards from that.
A lot of anger will, invariably, be thrown at the feet of Randy Lerner. Regardless of each individual’s view of if he should recoup the money from his splurges when Martin O’Neill was in charge, the fact remains that the business – Aston Villa Football Club – have to balance the books anyway.
Sure, Lerner could, if he wanted to, decide to sell Villa but, if we’re honest, the club are not exactly a polished diamond at present – what we are is the early stages of something that may flourish.
The situation isn’t much different to gardening. When you plant a seed, you can never know exactly how it will develop. Sure, you can give it the best chance at survivng by feeding it correctly, but there is never a certainty to things.
Keeping with the gardening analogy, patience is key to seeing any crop grow to its full potential. Just as a gardener would be largely foolish to stomp on his flowers for growing slowly, so there’s little sense to stomping on players who have literally just turned up.
Which is, if we’re being brutally honest, something that has occured. Whether it is the work of emotionally charge reaction or not, to write off the likes of Leandro Bacuna or Alexsandr Tonev before they have even played ten competitive games isn’t just foolish, it is laughable – even Benteke took time to slip into top gear.
I can remember, vividly, people who said that Benteke was “the next Emile Heskey” and he is now worth £25m at least. Who is to say that these other players won’t develop too?
Sure, they may not have the same value of Benteke, but they can develop into solid Premier League players, and at far cheaper rates than the £40k on Alan Hutton, or even the same for Richard Dunne. Is Joe Bennett really a quarter of the player Stephen Warnock was? His wages would say so, at least.
Which takes me back to the Spurs game. After the second goal went in, the team slowed up. Considering the thin nature of the squad, and the fact we have Manchester City at the weekend, I can’t really argue with that mentality. In the cup, once you’re out, you’re out – so goal difference counts for nothing but to frame a newspaper report.
Yes, in basic terms, Villa suffered a 4-0 rout to Spurs, but the honest fact is that once defeat was likely, I find it hard to damn the team for having focus on the league – a series of game key to our survival – than a cup we may well not have won. In fact, even if we did win, one could strongly argue that the teams with weak squad who succeed in cups go down – Birmingham City being one example, Wigan Athletic being another.
With that in mind, things can appear differently if only they are framed as such. Am I happy with losing 4-0? No, but I didn’t see us getting dominated, I saw a second half where enforced changes made the game less likely to be won.
You could argue that Lambert could have kept Kozak on for longer to offer more impact – as Villa were missing a real leader up front in the second half – but is that inclusion, in a game we could still have lost, worth it?
If Kozak had got injured, or Lambert had pulled up to save him being risked from injury, then the Saturday game could well have been a challenge in terms of who to field if no other player had recuperated in time.
At that point, there comes a balance of damage limitation. That isn’t really what people want to hear but, as I stated above, we are where we are. The important thing isn’t liking where we are at present, rather that we understand where we are.
If we don’t, rage will burn eternally with no likely change in the management.
If we do, and the team can develop, we have a fighting chance of competing for a mid-table slot – remember the league is poised to be as tight in points terms as it has been for the past few years, if not tighter.
Things may not be pretty, we may not be happy, but we are in a situation that has a long multi-year narrative behind it – fail to accept that and, sadly, what transpires in reality will become increasingly detached from expectation.