Mr Undependable

Dave Woodhall watches on as Villa lose again.

Another day, another mystifying line-up. The announcement of the teams rarely brings joy to many Villa Park hearts, unless they happen to be supporting the opposition or they’ve got a decent-sized bet on them. Carlos Sanchez has a bad game so he’s dropped. Christian Benteke has had a few bad games so he’s dropped as well. Tom Cleverley…

There’s been speculation that Cleverley’s loan deal from Manchester United means he has to play when fit. I don’t believe that, because what are they going to do if he’s dropped – ask for him back?

I assume you’ve heard the phrase ‘a seven out of ten player.’ It means someone who always puts in a decent level of performance, the sort the cliche writers dub ‘Mr Dependable’. He won’t win many Man of the Match awards but the players who do get them will always praise him. Think Ian Taylor, James Milner or, if you’re older, Des Bremner. Cleverley has developed this concept onto another level and can genuinely be described as a three out of ten player.

Actually, that’s a bit unfair because on Saturday Cleverley had one of his better games, in which he attained the dizzy heights of mediocrity. The rest of the team did much the same, which is an improvement on the pitiful shambles of last Sunday. They even shook off the blow of conceding an early goal that had raised fears of another thrashing and at times played some decent football.

Jores Okore’s goal sparked scenes of jubilation inside the ground and wild sarcasm in the press. There was even the vague chance that Villa might press on and get a winner but that moment soon passed. The decisive goal promptly came from Chelsea complete with a touch of good fortune, as usually happens when sides at the bottom are playing those at the top.

There were a couple of straws to clutch at in the performance. It was definitely better than recent ones and might even have been enough to beat a few teams. Carles Gil looks quality and the much-maligned Scott Sinclair showed in his brief appearance that he might, possibly, take this final chance to establish himself in the Premier League. However, two wins in twenty games isn’t just down to bad luck. Villa are amongst such sides as Hull, QPR and Burnley, whose squads aren’t a patch on ours. This should not be a bottom six team and at the risk of labouring the point the fault lies in one direction only.

The next seven days could be the most important in the club’s recent history. A win at Hull would not only give breathing space between Villa and the relegation places, it could also breath confidence into the team and kickstart a decent run that would banish fears of going down. Beat Leicester on Sunday and we’ll be ninety minutes from Wembley.

I don’t want to even think about two defeats.