Villa came a distant second to Manchester City at Villa Park, with Dave Woodhall looking on.
Just lately there’s been a nasty outbreak of half & half scarves down the match. Against Liverpool they were emblazoned with the legend “Smith vs Klopp”, at Leicester last Wednesday it was “Vardy vs Grealish”. On Sunday afternoon it may as well have been “Grealish vs the World”.
The team selection started off the day’s events – it was hardly a surprise to see Anwar El Ghazi up front in the absence of anyone else who could walk, but Ahmed Elmohamady recalled and Danny Drinkwater playing after being in semi-retirement for years didn’t so much raise eyebrows as lead to sharp intakes of breath and heads being shaken. Jack Grealish was, of course, taken away from the place where he can cause most damage and played further upfield where he was nowhere near as effective.
The end result was as predictable as it was devastating. There isn’t much point in talking at length about what went on – City on form are able to beat much better opposition than they faced at Villa Park without breaking sweat and we should be grateful that they didn’t treat the second half as an attempt to improve their goal difference. At least keeping the score after the break down to 2-1 was a moral victory and we got a late goal – it’s a straw; clutch at it.
Drinkwater had a debut that he’ll be trying to forget every bit as much as anyone who witnessed it will and the onlooking Pepe Reina must have been wondering whether it was too late to have a productivity bonus inserted into his contract. Apart from that, the Villa team were the regular mixture of the not good enough, the not trying hard enough, Tyrone Mings and Jack Grealish.
And so, with that debacle out of the way, what of the future? Teams have had heavier defeats this season and seem to have been galvanised by the experience – Southampton and Watford have got their acts together in recent weeks and are now getting out of trouble. Villa can either do the same, or they can surrender. Messrs Smith, Purslow, Pitarch et al, it’s up to you.