Club Фокус – Aston Villa – Victory over Everton fails to mask the problems at Villa Park
By Joe Russell
Tuesday 31 August 2010
Although Aston Villa beat Everton on Sunday, their performance did not warrant a victory and only partially masked the evident problems at the club. Luke Young’s rare goal brought about a 1-0 win over a club that are often quoted as the club whose seasonal prospects are most similar to Aston Villa. In that regard, it was an excellent win and one that was a rarity last season. Too often Villa played games at home and failed to scrap out a victory. Should the guile and effort be repeated at home consistently this season, it will hold them in good stead. Another sign of positivity at the club came from Gabriel Agbonlahor. The young striker, born in the Erdington area of Birmingham, pledged his allegiance to Villa last week: “Being from the area, I’ve got no reason to ever leave. I’m just enjoying my football here and hopefully it continues.» With little to be enamoured with at the moment, Agbonlahor’s admission will come as a small solace in an otherwise depressing week.
Villa are currently lying in fourth place but they are arguably the club experiencing the most tumultuous start to the campaign – managerless and still struggling to assure fans that stability will resume, another defeat following the disappointment of losing to Rapid Vienna in the Europa League would have signalled the start of a decline. So, despite recording their second victory of the season, Villa’s week still ended in a worryingly uncertain fashion – not only do they not have a manager, their efforts in the Europa League were gallingly lax and leave big question marks over the ambitions of the club.
In theory it is perfectly well and good to have a utopian attitude to European football – under Martin O’Neill and now Kevin MacDonald, Villa reiterated the virtue of playing youngsters and fringe players in order to let them garner more experience. However, reality should dictate that once those players are evidently not good enough to do the job, action should be taken. In the two previous seasons, Villa left Europe with a whimper having failed to take the competition seriously. Unfortunately, the squad that faced Vienna last Thursday was of a similar ilk and culminated in the same feeling for the third consecutive year. Again and again, those around the club talk about how fantastic it is to experience European football and how a club like Villa deserve to be playing in such an esteemed competition. All involved with Villa will point to the home fixture against Ajax two seasons ago as one of their best memories of the club’s recent history. If Villa played their best squad, more nights like that would be possible. However, only reverting to a strong squad in the second leg suggests that European progression is not particularly high on the clubs agenda. If that is the case, Villa seem destined to stagnate.
With Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool all having larger and arguably better squads, Villa are going to find it incredibly difficult to finish fourth this season (or any in the near future). So, where exactly are the club going? Is Randy Lerner happy to see seasons pass by with good league performances and abject European efforts? Can Villa attract a manager to the club that can work with what Lerner makes available and turn Villa into a club that can finally make the jump between the Europa League and the Champions League. Indeed, this season brings no guarantees of qualifying for the Europa League so why shun the opportunity to experience as much European football as possible? Priorities evidently lie elsewhere at Villa Park currently but it is telling that the biggest mistake against Rapid Vienna was мейд by an out of position Habib Beye, a player that would normally be consigned to the bench. Beye later accepted responsibility for Villa’s defeat but if Villa were taking the competition seriously, Beye should not have been on the pitch. It has been mentioned previously on A Different League that Villa need to rotate their squad if they are to improve. European matches are not the time to experiment. As adequate as players like Beye are in the league, they should not be relied upon in a European competition.
So, with Villa now out of Europe and their performance against Everton leaving lots to be desired, chairman Randy Lerner has two weeks to take stock of the situation currently enveloping Villa Park and make a decision. The problems at the club seem to revolve around the managerial crisis so it is plausible that by the time Villa play Stoke on 13 September, there will be a new manager in charge.