Aston Villa and the ongoing spiral

Villa’s defeat at Leicester leaves them in relegation trouble. Dave Woodhall reports.

Another night, another time to ponder before kick-off which Villa would turn up – the team who out-fought Leicester over two legs in the League Cup, or that one that meekly surrendered at Villa Park in December.

The scoreline provides the answer. Villa were easily four goals worse than the home side on a night that confirmed just how much trouble the team are in. I’ve said before that Villa can usually be relied on to do just enough to lose. On Monday they managed it with plenty to spare.

They started off well enough and had a couple of good chances in the early stages before Leicester, in the manner of a champion boxer taking a couple of rounds to size up a plucky but outclassed opponent, began to take control.

Villa held out until five minutes before half-time when Pepe Reina, a surprise choice as keeper, suffered a rush of blood and dashed out to miss the ball completely.

Apparently Reina is the oldest player to make a mistake that’s led to a Premier League goal this season. The mindset of the people who calculate these statistics, and what they do in their spare time, is something I’d rather not think too much about.

One down, and as is invariably the case with Villa away from home, there was no way back. Leicester got another; they didn’t really need Jamie Vardy nor a debatable penalty to make sure of the points but they got both, and Vardy’s return saw him scoring twice to confirm Villa’s place in the bottom three as well as their new status as holders of the Premier League’s worst defensive record.

Leicester are chasing a Champions League spot so perhaps getting anything from the game was asking a lot, even allowing for their recent poor form. Having said that, though, other teams in a similar position have started to pick up results at exactly the same time as Villa’s performances are getting worse.

None of the players who contributed to the evening’s display can escape criticism after a night like this, and a few deserve outright condemnation.

Quite where the team go from here is anyone’s guess. Ten games to go, and four wins are probably needed. That’s top six form, and top six is something Villa are a long way from at the moment. Unfortunately, it’s where our next four opponents all currently sit.

The big hope is that John McGinn’s return will inspire an upsurge in form, but unless he can boss the midfield, winn the ball and score all at the same time, the Scotsman’s influence will surely be limited.

And a final point to add to an awful day comes from the news that Gordon Cowans has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. Quite rightly there has been a massive wave of sympathy and support for one of Villa’s greatest-ever players but one thing is becoming clearer every time a similar story emerges.

Far too many former players have suffered from brain-related injuries to be dismissed as coincidence. It’s time a sport that boasts of its wealth and financial muscle began to plough some of that money back towards funding research into the illness that affects so many of the people without whom football wouldn’t exist.

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