Villa lose three-nil at Fulham with Dave Woodhall on the edge.
In case you’re old enough to be wondering what sounds familiar about the heading of this report, Fulham Fallout was the title of the Lurkers’ debut album. It was once cruelly, but accurately, said that they defined the term “second division punk band” and that’s all I’m going to say about the second division.
Villa went to Craven Cottage on the back of a much-improved show against Chelsea that even if it won no points did at least give some cause for optimism. Then came news of the team, and it appeared that after going through the ‘Pick a fight with the local press’ and ‘Got the backing of the board’ stages of a beleaguered managerial reign, Steven Gerrard has now entered his ‘Bewildering line-up’ period. Ezri Konsa at right back, Leon Bailey, who Gerrard had admitted was only fit for an hour at best last Sunday, was starting, as were the tried and failed duo of Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins.
Fulham must have looked at that lot and wondered if they were the victims of some elaborate joke aimied at lulling them into a false sense of security, but no. Three central defenders, a half-fit winger and a 37 year old converted full-back playing his second game in five days were lining up against them. The result might not have been inevitable, but it was hardly surprising.
Villa rode their luck for over half an hour, until Emiliano Martinez punched out a corner to a Fulham player who was standing criminally unmarked and had enough time to control the ball and hammer it back past the keeper. Fulham could easily have had two or three more by then, with Martinez making a string of good saves and Tyrone Mings doing particularly well to keep out one goalbound header.
Gerrard saw the error of his ways at half-time and brought on Matty Cash, only for any potential improvement to be undone when Douglas Luiz stupidly got sent off after 62 minutes. It might have been harsh, but if he’d walked away the question would never have arisen.
By then Emiliano Buendia had been brought on for the struggling Bailey, and six minutes later Villa’s lack of midfield was punished when Cash’s handball inside the box led to a penalty and a two goal advantage for the home side. Again, it was questionable and again the Villa player was at best naive.
With Villa two down, Leander Dendoncker came on in a belated attempt to add solidity in midfield but had little effect, as did another belated arrival, that of Cameron Archer for the final ten minutes. Neither player could be blamed for Fulham’s third, when Tyrone Mings diverted a cross beyond Martinez to give the scoreline a look that, sadly, it deserved. And talking of looks, this Villa team looked abject, shorn of belief and admitting defeat long before that Fulham third, which apparently gave them their biggest league win for nine years. If that wasn’t bad enough, last time we came here the score was also three-nil. That performance, and that team, seem like they came from another age.
Gerrard has now moved onto the next stage- ‘Losing the away support’. “You’re getting sacked in the morning” was inevitable; “You’ll never work again,” was by far the most original idea we saw all evening. This was the sort of performance that does indeed cost a manager his job; Villa could be joint bottom on goal difference by the time the weekend’s fixtures are completed and that fact alone may harden the heart of even the most supportive CEO.
The best-known Lurkers song (it got to no. 45 in the hit parade) was Ain’t Got a Clue. Add your own punchline.
UPDATE: You spend ages writing a match report then it’s out of date within minutes. Ain’t Got a Clue, indeed.