Dave Woodhall on Villa’s loss at Southampton and next week’s attractions.
Last week I said that Villa can always mnage to do enough to lose to any opponents. A good performance against Spurs was undone by a last-second error and playing anywhere near that level would have seen the team get something against a Southampton team whose home record compares to Villa away.
So of course, Villa were nowhere near that level. The team was pretty much the one supporters would have chosen, with Drinkwater and Engels dropped, while Tyrone Mings made his return after illness. The performance, though, was something to behold.
It was one of those days that makes you wonder whether you took the right path in life. I could have chosen some other way of spending my time and money, something less stressful and less heartbreakingly frustrating. Drug addiction perhaps, or maybe alligator wrestling. As I saw on Twitter on Saturday night, supporting your local team might be the right thing to do, but why couldn’t I have been born in Barcelona? The weather’s better there as well.
Once again, from the first minute to the last Villa were outplayed, which we’re getting used to and is perhaps understandable, but more than that we were also outfought, which is unforgiveable. Southampton got an early goal thanks to our defence and Shane Long, a bit of a bogeyman where we’re concerned. Our bogeys used to be the likes of Robbie Fowler and Robbie Keane. Now it’s Shane Long.
And as is inevitably the case, one goal proved enough although Villa managed to hand over another when Pepe Reina went up for a stoppage time corner that was cleared and he didn’t exactly break sweat to get back in time to defend the counter.
There really isn’t much more to be said. Dean Smith was slow to go to the three at the back formation that worked so well initally, and he’s not reacting to the current situation quickly enough. Jack Grealish need to be in the centre where he always does his best work and I’m starting to wonder how long before Louie Barry gets at least a place on the bench.
Barry might only be sixteen, but deperate times call for desperate measures and while the situation isn’t yet completely desperate, it’s certainly reaching a critical point. Over the other side of the city Jude Bellingham’s even younger and putting him into their team, albeit at a lower level, has coincided with a revival.
At the end of the game Villa were still out of the bottoom three, although that might have changed over the course of the following 24 hours and almost certainly will by this time next week, when the team have Saturday off ready for the most unlikely cup final apperarance in 146 years. On paper we’ve got no chance and there’s not much more of a chance on grass, but what the hell. It’s the Villa, in a Wembley final, and the day I don’t get childishly excited about that is the day I really do take up another hobby.