Dave Woodhall watches Villa wave farewell to the season.
We can finally say something positive about 2015-16 – it’s finished. And it finished in the same way it had gone on throughout. There was an uninspiring team selection, defeatist tactics, half-hearted performances and defensive catastrophe.
The irony of Sunday’s opposition in what will, please God, be the last match of Randy Lerner’s ownership has been mentioned many times. Depending on how you want to look at it, Arsenal were either Doug Ellis’s last opponents or Lerner’s first. It’s a frightening thought that almost ten years have passed since that August afternoon in 2006 when a 1-1 draw opened both the Emirates and a new chapter in the history of both clubs. Back then we dreamt of emulating their achievements while Arsenal would have expected to develop even further into one of the European giants.
It hasn’t exactly worked out that way. Villa flirted with the top four before falling back while Arsenal haven’t really punched their weight. The phenomenal revenue generated by the Emirates has brought them nothing more than a couple of cups and regular Champions League qualification; we might wonder what they’ve got to complain about, but even though they finished second in the league they seem as far from winning the title as ever and with West Ham handed the Olympic Stadium on a plate while Spurs are aiming to increase their capacity, Arsenal’s record of top four finishes might come under threat. Truly, my heart bleeds for such turmoil.
The team were dreadful on Sunday. The support, as ever, was magnificent. And to repeat what I said last week, let that be the last time such a thing is mentioned. No matter how good we’ve been, self-proclaimed Best Supporters in the World are invariably an insufferable lot. We are not Newcastle.
On more serious matters, next season has to start on Monday morning. Admittedly, the waters are muddied until such a time as the ownership question is solved. Until then we can’t appoint a manager and without one we can’t do much about the players. This is, of course, doubly important when wholesale changes are badly needed to get rid of the most negative atmosphere Villa Park has ever known. In fact, I wouldn’t be particuarly upset if the team that kicks off at the start of August shows eleven changes from the one that left the field in abject misery against Arsenal, and the seven on the bench needn’t bother turning up either.
On reflection, that’s a bit unfair on those players who have at least shown a modicum of effort in recent weeks. The young players belatedly given a chance by Eric Black show promise. For all their Premier League limitations a couple of the senior players might do well in the Championship – Rudy Gestede and Alan Hutton come to mind. And realistically, that’s about it because I’ll be very surprised if the big money signings from last summer aren’t the smaller money departures of the coming one.
Given the current situation it’s impossible to tell what the next twelve months will bring. New owners might arrive with significant money, business acumen and the sort of footballing nouse that has been missing for years. We have to hope that developments move quickly because right this minute, hope is the only thing we have.