Dave Woodhall on a happier day at Villa Park.
One of the dafter theories that came from the media following Remi Garde’s appointment was that the arrival of a French-speaking manager might lead to factions in the dressing room given that Villa now have a large French-speaking contingent of players.
Why this might be more of an issue than when we had an English-speaking manager and a large contingent of English players wasn’t explained, but it was one more reason why we’re doomed, apparently. I don’t know how good Remi’s spoken English is, but his command of the language is clearly strong enough to be able to write Amavi, Gueye, Sanchez, Veretout on a teamsheet, which is more than the previous incumbent and his temp were capable of. It’s not often that a team selection can be described as by popular demand but supporters have been crying out for these four players to be starting and why they haven’t is as much a mystery as what caused Tim Sherwood to act so strangely in the last weeks of his reign.
It was the right team, and they went about the match in the right way. They were organised, well-disciplined and purposeful. It wasn’t a great performance, but we have to remember that this is the side who have been setting all sorts of unwanted records, where losing has become not so much a habit as a way of life, against the team who will win the league this season. We were never going to outplay them, we could only hope to match them for effort and hope that luck was on our side.
You could say it was lucky, as City wasted a couple of opportunities, but sometimes you have to create your own luck and Villa also had chances as the game wore on. The crowd certainly responded to the improved performance and were rewarded with twewee miniutes to go with the arrival onto the pitch of a real live pantomime villain to hurl abuse at while he was being outshone by his replacements.
What was particularly encouraging was the way in which Garde’s substitutions added something to the performance, with Charles N’Zogbia looking promising and Rudi Gestede putting himself around, as well as most of the team seeming to last the full course rather than running out of steam with twenty minutes to go as we’ve seen way far too often. It’s surely too early for returning fitness coach Robert Duverne to have made much of a difference so perhaps the players want to perform for this manager more than they did for his predeccessor.
The cheers that greeted the end of the game showed how much the result meant. Yes it was only a draw at home, on a weekend when the teams immediately above Villa had some decent results, but it ended an embarrassing run and it showed that this team are capable of matching the best. There’s still a long way to go, but if the mood of the club can improve this much in a week there’s no saying what else can happen between now and May.