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Something For The Weekend (376)

Something For The Weekend (376)
Red-faced fans in end-of-season injury-crisis.

It was red faces all round for Villa fans this week, after their team produced one of the most humiliating and pusillanimous performances, seen in a very long time. Even in a season where Villa have set themselves particularly low standards, their performance against Arsenal represented a new low, as far as gutlessness and ineptitude are concerned.

Villa managed the grand total of two shots on target, over the ninety minutes, according to the BBC, and even they were rumoured to be goal-kicks.

The only statistics where Villa actually excelled were: yellow-cards (5) and fouls (13).

The far more disturbing statistic is the number of fans who have reported themselves as suffering from long-term personal injury, in the days following the game, and now look likely to be out for the rest of the season.

The performance was bad enough but worse was to follow as numerous football neutrals started pouring scorn on Villa's lamentable efforts, and some were even opining that if there was any justice, Villa should be relegated for being so gutless. Those who accuse Villa's McLeish-critics of not being able to see beyond his St Andrews' connection, need to listen to these neutrals, if they want to know what the rest of football thinks of their manager.

Television pundits kept their judgements brief and variously suggested Villa played like they were already on their holidays.

It was one of those, road to Domestos experiences, when you realise that your foreseeable future involves an endless amount of brown stuff.

In the days that followed there were a large number of fans reporting themselves as unfit to attend, as they seek some kind of rehabilitation from such loss of pride and heart, that CPR might actually be required.

Others seek treatment for a bad case of a seriously twisted melon, as they try to reconcile the difference between the empty promises of Villa Park's well-intentioned romancers, and the egregiously miserable reality.

As Jim Royle might put it: Europe? My arse!

No Villa fan in their right mind would have expected Villa to win at the Emirates; after all, Arsenal have a squad valued at more than twice that of Villa's and are playing well, but every fan has a right to expect their team not to embarrass them.

For those fans who remain and who are not fed-up to the back-teeth, broken-hearted, or feel their melon has been twisted, they still have to face the facts and find the moxie, to deal with the reality that Villa are expensive flops right now.

We can watch the likes of Barcelona (4x as rich as Villa) and Milan (2x as rich as Villa), and realise that Villa can never get near to these top European teams. But Villa are still in Europe's top 20 when it comes to financial clout, albeit at the very bottom (20th 2009/10).

We'll never understand why a metropolitan area like Milan, (population 4.3m) can sustain two of Europe's top clubs, while the West Midlands (population 5.2m) can't seem to sustain one. But we can see the likes of German side Hannover, with a squad (£67.5m) worth 58% of Villa's (£115m), give Atlético de Madrid (£150m) a real game, and conclude that Villa should be a lot better than they are these days. Any shortfall can only be the manager's fault.

Even taking into account the absence of Richard Dunne and Darren Bent, McLeish should be doing better than ten other clubs in the Premiership, and that is assuming that every one of those clubs enjoys 100% availability of their squad.

Randy Lerner might not have actually read Michael Lewis's book, Moneyball, but he must surely see that Villa are poor value for money, under McLeish.

A loyal fan told me this week, that Villa are so bad these days, if you want to miss the traffic, you have to stop right to the end of the match.

This weekend Villa have the delights of entertaining visitors Chelsea (squad valued at £335m) to look forward to. Its very much a case of take your pick, as Villa's home form over the last 6 games, puts them in the bottom-three, while Chelsea's away form puts them in the bottom five. Statistically, this puts Chelsea slightly ahead of Villa but a draw looks the best bet, if Villa are willing to come out of their own half occasionally.

Rumour has it that some Villa fans are planning to protest before the game, in another futile attempt to try and point out, what would be obvious to a blind man on a galloping horse - McLeish has under-achieved considering the resources at his disposal. No doubt, Lerner has his own plan and timetable, and isn't going to have it altered by a few hundred protesting Villa fans. But that is not the point. Its about making a strong public statement which cannot be spun or equivocated into meaning something else entirely.

Unfortunately the argument gets sidetracked into one about playing-style, but the only issue which counts for anything, is the fact that McLeish's team were at the bottom of the form table, long before they started playing teams which they might be excused for losing against.

The only question worth asking, is whether McLeish, with a squad worth £115m pounds, has failed. The evidence suggests that he has.

Three points against Chelsea on Saturday, would go some way to proving that conclusion wrong.

We can only wait and see.



Keep the faith!

Writer:Steve Wade
Date:Friday March 30 2012
Time: 5:38PM

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