Villa lost 3-0 at Wigan on Saturday and Dave Woodhall is a bit bemused by it all.
Many a time over recent years there’s been a feeling of The Season Starts Here. Sometimes it’s after a good result, or a piece of good news, but there comes a definite belief that things are going to get better from now on. The same feeling surrounded the match up at Wigan, after Tammy Abraham’s decision to stay and the arrival of Kortney Hause on loan.
The trouble is that most of these hailings of a new dawn tend to end in immediate and bitter disappointment, and this was another one. The team selection seemed fine, the support that had travelled en masse yet again was in good voice and optimistic. Even the opposition, sliding towards the bottom four, couldn’t have been better chosen. This was to be the start of the Aston Villa renaissance.
It wasn’t. In fact, it turned out to be the latest contender for another old Villa tradition, the Worst Performance for Twenty/Thirty/Forty Years. It was up there with recent debacles such as Liverpool 2016, Barnsley 2017, the trio of incompetence witnessed in December 2012 and for the older ones amongst us, excursions to Charlton and Southampton in 1987.
There’s not much point in describing the match as it progressed – Wigan scored once in the first half and twice in the second. At 1-0 Dean Smith decided for some unfathomable reason to bring on Hause and Glenn Whelan. Maybe it was to give the travelling support a couple more objects of scorn, but Hause in particular did nothing to show that he might be the man to help reverse the slide.
3-0 it was, and the final score was if anything flattering to a Villa side without shape, creativity or idea. Dean Smith called it his lowest point in football, and while it’s good to have a manager who can recognise an appalling display when he sees one and offer up no excuses for it, he can only be judged on how quickly he can turn this embarrassment round.
It’s incredible to think that only a few weeks ago Villa were hammering Derby and Middlesbrough, brushing aside the Blues while barely getting out of second gear and outplaying the Albion. I know Jack Grealish is good, but surely his absence hasn’t made THAT much difference?
As usual on such afternoons, other results would have been favourable in different circumstances and Villa are still only five points from the play-off spots. But, and this is the worrying thing, games are starting to run out and we’re now into the supposedly easier run where the gap was going to be made up. Even the most pessimistic supporter would have predicted more than two points from the past three matches but now the optimists amongst us are starting to wonder where the next win will come from.
Hull come to Villa Park on Saturday and are currently on a run that’s taken them from the relegation zone to play-off contenders. This shows that there’s still plenty of time for Villa to sort themselves out and be in the top six before too long. It also shows that there’ll have to be one almighty improvement if the current dismal run is to end.