Dave Woodhall wonders how long the Villa Park situation will continue.
I noticed that for the weekend fixtures Villa were the same odds to win at Chelsea as Bournemouth were at Manchester City. Given that City are clearly a much better team at the moment than Chelsea then the bookies, or rather their customers, were saying that the gap between the two sides is the same as the gap between Bournemouth and Villa.
Think about that for a second.
We’ve seen clubs that are traditionally our equals head off onto another level. We’ve started hoping against hope that we might one day catch up with Crystal Palace and Stoke. And now neutral punters think we’re worse than Bournemouth. No disrespect to them; they’ve done incredibly well to get to where they are but how in God’s name has such a state of affairs has been allowed to evolve?
Chelsea have started the season badly but they managed to win on Saturday without too much difficulty. Tim Sherwood put out another team that raised eyebrows in its composition rather than its performance and they gave a reasonable account of themselves before the usual defensive cock-ups threw the game away. So far, so typical. There’s not much you can say about the match that hasn’t been said many times before, in fact it’s now said any time after ten to five most Saturdays. Unless, of course, we’re on TV at another time.
If the result was predictable then at least off the field there’s a bit of excitment, with a distinct feeling of events coming to a head. Sherwood followed his claims that the players he signed weren’t the players he wanted by saying that he’d felt let down when Christian Benteke was sold (and he didn’t know all along that that was likely?) and he’d been told that his target for the season was to avoid relegation. After the match he made some strange statement about dying on his sword and wanting to emulate Alan Pardew, who has in all probability never been hailed as a role model before. It all seems like the sort of thing that happens to other clubs, and never ends well.
If reports and rumours are to be believed Sherwood’s recent outbursts have isolated him from the Villa Park hierarchy, and in particular Tom Fox, who made it quite obvious in February that the shortlist to succeed Paul Lambert consisted of one name. I’ve never been high enough up the corporate ladder for such things to matter, but I do know that when the pressure’s on, it’s not a good idea to annoy anyone who’s above you and who’s always been on your side.
However, in the midst of this maelstrom of poor results and internal wranglings, there is one area where I do have sympathy for the manager. For some time, probably since the departure of Gerard Houllier in 2011, Villa have often been said to have no ambition other than finishing in the top seventeen every season. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. The club would deny it, but the feeling still persists that as long as their Premier League status is saved they’re happy. That might be success for Bournemouth, but the Villa should be aiming quite a bit higher.
But all that is an argument for the future. In the meantime, Villa are at home to Swansea next week. Losing to Chelsea was one thing, but another pointless Saturday might see Sherwood’s sword getting bloodier than he would like.