F is for…

Dave Woodhall on another defeat for Villa.

There was a time when a 3-2 defeat at Anfield would have been seen as a minor triumph. Back in the days of Liverpool dominating football they could go most of a season and only concede two goals. Villa managed that many in five minutes last Saturday, both of them scored by Rudy Gestede who is somehow managing to combine looking completely out of his depth in the Premier League with hitting the back of the net regularly.

It would have been a successful afternoon at one of Villa’s favourite grounds of recent years had it not been for the small fact that the team conceded three.

It wasn’t the scoreline that rankled so much as the manner of the defeat and what came after it. Tim Sherwood, with a reputation for attacking football and a stated desire to rid Villa of the losing mentality that has permeated the club for too long, sent out a team with the clear intention of defending, even after they went a goal down inside two minutes. He compounded this error by stating after the game that survival is the chief aim this season, with the promise of signs of improvement to come in 2016-17.

In between there was a strange line-up, with players who had done well on Tuesday night dropped and a reluctance to change the gameplan until Villa went 2-0 down. Liverpool might not be the force they once were but you still can’t give them a two goal start at Anfield and expect anything but defeat. Villa did threaten in the closing stages, and Gestede’s second goal was one of the finest headers you could wish to see, so why Sherwood left it so late to resort to his usual style is hard to fathom.

Equally frustrating is why he set the team out as he did in the first place. Liverpool are struggling, the natives even more revolting than usual and had Villa started the game with intent they could quite easily have gained a win. Instead they sunk into the bottom three, which was what did for Paul Lambert in February.

Talk of sacking Tim Sherwood is, I feel, premature. It’s still September and no matter what bizarre quotes and mystifying team selections a manager comes up with this is not the time to be looking for a replacement, particularly after such an extensive turnover in playing staff during the summer. I’ve said all along that putting together a radically new team will take time, but the worrying aspect to this rebuilding is that the past week has seen some of the worst football since the manager took over. What should be getting better is showing few signs of improvement.

Which leads to the other frustration. Sherwood has put together the best Villa squad since Martin O’Neill walked out, and they should be capable of far more than we’re currently witnessing. They’ve proved in brief flashes that they can do it, so how about going out next Saturday against Stoke and proving that you’re better than another season of struggle?