Villa draw at Leicester and Dave Woodhall looks on.
As the saying, or if you prefer, the cliche, goes, Villa stopped the rot with a goalless draw against Leicester. On paper it was a good result against a side who have been annoyingly successful for a fraction of the money Villa have splashed out in order to, in all probability, finish in the bottom half again. Given that we’d lost our previous four, and with the possibility of a fifth straight defeat causing a bit of pre-match comment, the point gained here would also have quietened any nagging doubts of a late entry into the relegation fight.
Steven Gerrard clearly sent the team out with orders not to lose, and in such aims they succeeded. Well done to them on that, but it’s really all he, and they, can be congratulated for. This was a tedious ninety minutes that would have tested the ability of whoever was responsible for putting together the highlights for Match of the Day. Talking of thankless tasks, it was also apparently Villa’s 300th Premier League clean sheet. I don’t know who and how is responsible for coming up with such statistics but I’m confident that his anorak will be sponsored. The League are hardly known for their ability to let a marketing opportunity go begging.
Leicester had the best of the first half, Villa improved after the break and almost sneaked the points when a curling shot from Emiliano Buendia beat Schmeichel before clearing the wrong side of the post. That apart, the game was the sort of nothing on it, mid-table, end of season affair that we can still regard as a novelty.
To be positive, there were a few individual performances to take credit from. Ezri Konsa and John McGinn were much improved from their recent disappointing form. Tim Iroegbunam looked a useful prospect on his first real showing and by common consent did more in twenty minutes than Douglas Luiz has in the past three months. Equally, Buendia showed more when he came on than the disappointing Philippe Coutinho, who along with Leon Bailey seems to be adding more evidence to the adage that the better the debut, the more disappointing the subsequent Villa career.
I think Bailey is still worth persevering with after a proper pre-season, but – and this might be sacrilege – I have a nagging doubt about whether Coutinho is the player to build our team around, or even whether he’s not using us as a way of getting match fit ahead of a permanent summer move to a club already in the Champions League.
Six games to go and with nothing to play for except the small matter of a few million in prize money, Steven Gerrard will be able to use the time to look at what he already has at his disposal, and see where money needs to be spent in the summer. It would also be naive to think that a few supporters will be looking at Gerrard and wondering whether he should be the man to spend it.